Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of the city of South Bend, Indiana, and the latest Democrat to announce his candidacy for the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. A graduate of Harvard University and Oxford University, he is a young 37-year-old, but has had experience working in the corporate world at McKinsey and Company, served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve for 12 years, and is currently in his second term since 2012 as mayor of South Bend, helping the city evolve from various years of struggles. Buttigieg, married since 2017, is also the first openly gay Democratic candidate and municipal executive in Indiana — for non U.S. folks, this is like being a gummy bear in a tray of mashed potatoes. Yesterday, Buttigieg formally announced his nomination and introduced his campaign logo and identity designed by Brooklyn, NY-based Hyperakt.
The Jefferson Blvd Bridge is a concrete arch bridge built in 1906 over St. Joseph River in the heart of South Bend, Indiana. In 2015, in commemoration of the city’s 150th Anniversary, Mayor Pete led an effort to reimagine the bridge as a beacon of South Bend’s renaissance. He commissioned the South Bend River Lights, an interactive, public light sculpture that spectacularly lights up a small waterfall that stretches across the river. The bridge is a symbol of the innovative thinking Mayor Pete brings to leadership and the inspiration for our campaign’s logo.
Even though plenty has been written about the candidate logos so far, I have not written anything about them nor reviewed any of them, mostly because they have all been lackluster attempts at being the next Obama-logo-meets-Alexandria-Ocasio-Cortez-color-palette campaign identity of the year. Kamala Harris gets close to something but ultimately I keep seeing the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt titles and Beto O’Rourke’s logo is industrial-looking but perhaps to a fault. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing to see these candidates break the mold and put design front and center as part of their campaign but nothing so far has felt genuine or like an evident home run when it comes to campaign identities. Until now.
Buttigieg’s — well, Pete’s — logo is a strong, perfectly executed logo rooted in something meaningful and relevant to the candidate. The bridge may not be fully evident to everyone but it’s a very easy narrative to embed into the logo and once you see it, it makes the logo stronger. I like how the bridge bridges “20” and “20” — there is something nicely metaphorical about it for bringing two sides together. I normally cringe at gratuitous angle cuts in letters but the custom “E”s gain a lot of personality from the modification. The overall look of the logo is like something you would find rusted on an old piece of industrial equipment in someone’s barn in the Midwest. Yet slick enough to be printed on t-shirts and buttons and displayed on social media.
A wider range of logos complements the primary logo, all adding to the visual story in charming and evocative ways. The last-name logo easily translates into a campaign trail chant that many sports teams would kill to have.
Rather than adopt the default red, white and blue color palette of past presidential candidates, our color palette is deeply rooted in Pete’s home town - South Bend, Indiana. Born and raised in South Bend, Mayor Pete has led the rust-belt, midwestern city through a period of renaissance since he took office. The 9 colors in our pallette are an ode to Pete’s hometown and his life there.
The color palette — which has been the most talked about element of campaign identities this year — is excellent, avoiding the traditional red-white-and-blue in favor of a set of colors that manage to look both warm and fuzzy but also industrial.
Hillary Clinton’s state campaigns got close to Obama’s customization for different constituencies but they weren’t as memorable. Pete’s state-supporting logos are pretty close in being as bad-ass as Obama’s. With little nods to some states — like Pennsylvania’s bell or Texas’ horns — each custom lettering job gives remarkable ownership and pride to supporters there and it makes for a hell of a group image.
Without a doubt, this is the best Presidential candidate campaign this time around — pending a Paul-Rand-level identity miracle from Joe Biden if and when he announces his candidacy — and I would say possibly ranks among the best ever. Even though none of the design ingredients here are novel and we’ve seen in one way or another everything from the industrial curved typography in the logo to the coffee-shop lettering in the states logos, it all feels distinctly refreshing, bold, and forward in this context for this candidate. Design-wise, Pete gets my vote for 2020.