James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Another reason Romney will lose: Bad graphic design

Posted by James McPherson on April 18, 2012

As expected for some time, the presidential race is down to Mitt Romney(s) vs. Barack Obama. And unless something dramatic occurs–such as Republicans figuring out that they’re running in 2012 rather than 1952–Obama will win handily in November. Regardless of what the conservative activists on the Supreme Court have decided about health care.

I’m not saying Obama deserves to win; there are many reasons he shouldn’t. And obviously some think the Secret Service should be getting ready to retrofit the presidential limo with a rooftop doggie carrier. Even more predict a close election; polls might seem to bear that out. (Not that media have a vested interest in those predictions–otherwise, why would you keep watching?) Those folks are probably wrong, despite the fact that most Americans will pay almost no attention to presidential politics for months, after arguments about a “war on women” and the bitter Republican primary rhetoric have been forgotten.

Recently the students in my media criticism class joined me in figuring out another reason Romney won’t win: His team apparently knows little about graphic design. Check out his logo, in which (as students pointed out in class, and New York magazine noticed earlier), the “R” looks like a smear of toothpaste. One blogger compared it to a cruise line logo, while another compared it to a soft drink ad. (Coincidentally, as a colleague has noted, that smear precedes a set of five letters that if just slightly rearranged spell out an appropriate word for the candidate: money.)

Then comes the kerning, or the space between letters–the last two of which are crammed together, as if the designers ran out of room. Was this a product of some Gingrich-like child-employment scheme? Unlike Romney himself, it’s ugly. Like Romney, the design looks wimpy and indecisive.

My class critiques candidates’ graphic design choices every year, and generally notice things that professionals should have seen. Here is Rachel Maddow’s take on the Romney logo. The New York Times offered interesting logo perspectives in 2004 and 2008.

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8 Responses to “Another reason Romney will lose: Bad graphic design”

  1. Reuel said

    I do agree that yes the logo is important. Remember Pepsi changing the logo on the can around 2008, I think. It was a marketing “Change”. get it. It also was so similar to Obama’s. I still see Joe taking a dive and Hillary coming on board to enhance the team for the “War on Women”. She may not except it and may try to separate herself from all the current occupants. 2016 is where the attention will be in December this year. Joe is going to take a dive under that Armored bus this year. Nice write, I did enjoy it.

  2. James McPherson said

    “It also was so similar to Obama’s.”

    I’d forgotten that; thanks for the reminder (and the comment). I don’t think Joe’s going anywhere–he can draw fire and get middle-of-the-road folks in interested in a way that Obama can’t. I see that conservatives’ favorite choice for VP is Condi Rice, but I think that’s because they don’t know she’s pro-choice. And choosing her would bring up a bunch of Iraq War stuff that I don’t think Romney wants to deal with.

    I expect Marco Rubio will be the nominee, in a failed attempt to woo Hispanics and a perhaps-successful attempt to win Florida. He has four kids, attend Catholic AND Southern Baptist churches, and is married to a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader. Of course some birthers would be forced to swallow their tongues, since both of his parents were born outside of the U.S.

    I hope you and the family are well.

  3. Mike Ingram said

    I would be fine with Rubio I think – and I got the veep pick right last time…
    What is your take on Obama’s logo?

  4. James McPherson said

    Of course since you and I both thought Sarah would be a good choice, maybe no one should listen to us. I didn’t like Obama’s logo at first–I thought it looked like something from a health food store. But the students in my class that first semester did like it, and I have to admit they’re closer to his target audience at that time.

    Now I think the logo works–he doesn’t even need his name on promotional stuff for people to recognize that it’s about him. Like the star-spangled “W” for Bush, a political version of the Nike swoosh. I’m trying to imagine a similar piece for Romney. Maybe a catcher’s mitt holding a wad of money?

  5. Reuel said

    Maybe a kibbles & Mitt logo. Remember that commercial? Oh this ones is going to the dogs. You are right about Rubio, the birther sites are already fired up about that. Sorry I got to go to them once in awhile to amuse myself. I don’t think it will be Rubio, Maybe they will pick another female to fight the “War On Women”. Who knows, I sure wouldn’t want the job, because none of them have a chance with the debt we have accumulated.
    Families good. Daughter graduated then got engaged. No rest for the wallet. Also my son and daughter in law had my second grandson. What a joy they are. Have a good weekend.

  6. [...] conservative slogan of “Backward.” But now? It’s like the Obama folks know that victory will be so easy that they can save the really good slogans for Hillary in 2016. Maybe as a [...]

  7. [...] a relationship between the two, Romney (who no doubt knows some thoroughbred owners) has even more reason to [...]

  8. [...] of 2010 would likely help, and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, my reasons have included bad graphic design by the Romney folks and horse racing’s Triple Crown. Now I’ll offer some more serious [...]

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