The field of candidates for Kentucky’s statewide races is set, and we’re off to the races.
In 2023, Kentuckians have seven executive branch seats up for grabs. Those include Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Auditor of Public Accounts, State Treasurer and Ag Commissioner.
Before the field of candidates is whittled down, this is a great opportunity to look at how candidates brand themselves for some of Kentucky’s biggest and most important races.
Before jumping in, it’s important to note a few things. You’ll see a lot of patriotic colors and imagery. This means reds, whites, and blues; stars and stripes; lastly, a lot of outlines of the state of Kentucky.
Most logos will also be primarily typographical. This is because the goal is to increase name ID going into the polls since ballots don’t include each candidate’s branding.
The goal is to create an idealized version of each candidate that inspires and informs. Each candidate is trying to persuade the maximum number of constituents to become their voters.
Importance of Brand Design in Politics
Good logo design and branding can help political candidates create a strong visual identity that can aid in recognition and memorability.
This is important because it can help to establish the candidate’s message and values and make it more likely that voters will remember the candidate when it comes time to cast their vote.
Additionally, it can help to create a sense of professionalism and credibility for the candidate, which can be important in convincing voters that the candidate is a serious and viable option.
When a political candidate doesn’t have good logo design and branding, it can make it more difficult for voters to remember the candidate and their message. This can make it less likely that the candidate will be successful in the election.
Additionally, poor logo design and branding can give the impression that the candidate is not professional or credible, which can be detrimental to their campaign.
This can lead to less effective communications, fewer donations, and ultimately, decreased voter turnout. In races separated by a few thousand votes, everything matters.
Furthermore, poor logo design and branding can be seen as a lack of attention to detail, and that can translate to a lack of attention to detail in other areas of the campaign, or as a lack of preparedness for the role they are running for.
How It Affects Campaigns
A logo is a visual representation of a brand and it’s often the first thing people see when they come into contact with the brand. For campaigns, the design choices that go into a campaign’s logo can have a significant impact on a brand’s overall communications efforts.
A well-designed branding package can help to convey the brand’s message and values in a clear and visually pleasing way.
Well-constructed brand identities help establish a candidate as professional and credible. This will, in turn, help convince people that the campaign is trustworthy and worth supporting.
Building a winning campaign brand isn’t just about designing a pretty logo. It’s entails creating yard signs, social media templates, a consistent color palette (with primary and secondary color choices), and the language the campaign uses (including voice and tone).
When it’s all used correctly, it can also help to create a sense of consistency and credibility across all of the brand’s communications. A person can interact with the campaign and immediately recognize who’s speaking to them. This makes it more likely that people will remember the brand, remember the candidate and know what their platform is.
On the other hand, a poorly designed logo and inconsistent branding usage will detract from the brand’s overall communications efforts. Social media posts may seem thrown together or inconsistent. This makes it more difficult for people to understand the brand’s message and values, and it can make the brand less memorable.
Additionally, it can give the impression that the brand is not professional or credible, which can be detrimental to building trust and engagement with the audience.
Examples of Well-Designed Brands
Out of the fifteen campaign logos that could be found, these six clearly stand above the rest.
There are some tried and true design choices, like including the state’s shape in the design. However, these used conventional choices in refreshing ways.
Andy Beshear is sticking with friendly and conversational blues. This is a slight update from his 2019 campaign logo that placed the text over the Commonwealth’s shape. His campaign is now incorporating Kentucky into his overall design.
Kelly Craft decided to go for a powerful visual. The two sides of her name also create symmetry and balance, yin and yang. The team she hired, Poolhouse, does great work on that side of the aisle.
Daniel Cameron’s branding is the weakest of the bunch while still clearly being above “The Bad” category. I’d like to see a different color palette used while also dropping the second line to the left and right of “Governor.” It decreases the overall design’s balance since only one line was used above his name.
Alan Keck went with a deep black and mustard color palette. His campaign literally highlighted his last name with a lighter color and the font’s heavier weight. This logo is the most futuristic-looking out of the group.
Ryan Quarles’ campaign went for a monochromatic earthy red that highlights his experience as Ag Commissioner. The design holds its own as is or could be placed inside a badge. This logo would look great on a hat or the front pocket of a shirt.
The one that stands out the most though is Col. Pam Stevenson’s logo. She opts for a blue and gold that highlights her 27-year career in the Air Force.
Also, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to hear her talk, you know everything she says is gold and her tone is electric.
These logos are a step down from the first category. They aren’t terrible, but they are either over-designed or lacking something.
Michael Adams’ logo is a good example of an over-designed logo. I love the central “A” with the flag draped over it, however, the star cutting out the “M” in his name is a distraction from the, literally, central element that should be the focus.
I’d opt for a different red than this Amaranth Red. It’s pretty and delicate rather than strong and leading.
I’m also not a big fan of slogans on logos that end in a period. If your goal is to be cute and trendy, it’s okay. If you’re running for Secretary of State, probably not.
Going back to the “A,” that could become a standalone icon like Obama’s designer created for his presidential run.
Derek Petteys’ campaign branding features better use of color but lacks a professional touch. The gradient placed over the state’s shape is unique but doesn’t provide much in terms of value or meaning. It’s also unclear why his team is highlighting “For” instead of “State Auditor.”
Eric Deters’ campaign opted for a bold and powerful look. I could imagine this design in sepia on a piece of paper nailed to an old saloon door. The most interesting choice is the R and TM icons next to his last name. I have so many questions about why he felt the need to include those that it’s distracting from the overall design of his logo.
Mike Harmon’s campaign chose to create a badge shaped like a sticker you would get at a professional conference. The top line with “Mike” and the three stars is neither centered nor right-aligned. “Elect” should bring balance to the design but throws everything off further.
The element with the most weight is the line below “Harmon.” It’s unnecessarily heavy without offering much. Like most event name tags, they can be thrown away without feeling like you missed anything.
I reluctantly put Russell Coleman’s logo in this group because it isn’t a terrible design. The problem is that it doesn’t fit his campaign.
His campaign opts for Roboto Bold Italic with bright red and blues. This logo design would be a better fit for a Leslie Knope-type candidate running for Attorney General rather than a guy branding himself as “Kentucky’s Top Cop.”
It’s also worth noting that AOC started this design trend that’s now being used by progressive candidates everywhere—not the typical design choice of your far-right conservative candidate.
One mistake to highlight is the incomplete motif of using the upward horizontal skew featured. The candidate’s name is skewed upwards while the designer simply rotated the bottom bar and the elements within. This pushes the design in the opposite direction instead of complimenting the other elements.