Celebrating design's impact on politics, "Designing Obama" was hosted by the Academy of Art University at its Morgan Auditorium recently. The Academy's President, Dr. Elisa Stephens, greeted designers Sol Sender and Scott Thomas, creators of the Obama logo and Obama 08 campaign, respectively. Over 800 people attended to hear about Sender and Thomas' experiences in developing a political brand unequalled in American history. The sold-out event was sponsored by Sappi Fine Paper and xpedx.
The conversation was moderated by design journalist, Alissa Walker. To set the stage - and put the groundbreaking work in perspective - she walked the audience through the identities of political campaigns over the last 50 years.
"Finally, good design is being considered important to a political campaign," she said.
As heads nodded in affirmation, she connected with the crowd's primary reason for showing up, "This was the election that affected my life."
Sender fascinated attendees by detailing the design process his firm went through to create the logo.
"We dove into numerous explorations to address the key challenges the campaign was facing before Obama announced his candidacy - experience and patriotism," said Sender.
He showcased several concepts that were presented, and why the campaign team selected the symbol that became the heart of Obama's historical presidential race.
Thomas took the identity created by Sender and helped build it into a political brand that embraced Obama's core beliefs. Using "we" in all messages rallied citizens to be part of the process to make change happen. He also discussed how they "pulled imagery from the past to communicate the historic atmosphere", and used design principals to "exemplify stability and experience."
As the design director of the Obama 08 campaign, Thomas sparked an unprecedented web-based political movement. He married elegant, impactful design with the latest Internet technologies to foster community, teamwork, activism and excitement among citizens.
Although innovative approaches proved to be instrumental in the outcome of the campaign, Thomas admits that they brought some risk in a charged political climate.
"The speed in which information needed to be conveyed didn't always allow us to test functionality as thoroughly as we would have liked," he said. "We were truly building an airplane while it was in flight."