Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Obama launches stimulus brand

President Obama yesterday unveiled two new logos for his stimulus program which address its brand deficit (see here and here). One is for projects completed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and the second for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery). Video of President Obama making the announcement.
It wouldn't be fair to expect the drama of a New Deal eagle in today's environment; nobody's going to name a football team after a government program, as they did in Depression-era Philadelphia (below). And one can only imagine the bureaucratic and political hoops these designs had to jump (or squeeze) through.

But I still can't help feeling disappointed. The Chicago-based studio that created them, Mode, also designed the evocative Obama sunrise logo. Given the magnitude of what the new marks represent and the bad feelings of the times we live in, I was hoping for something more inspiring. And one can only be struck by the low-profile launch--the new logos appear deep in as little more than set dressing. All in all, the Administration could have harnessed more of the emotional power that a strong symbol can generate.


  1. That's an interesting fact about the Philadelphia eagles. I agree with your assessment--the symbols don't lack the punch and power that had the potential to generate hope and inspiration for a beleaguered public, unlike the Obama "O"/rainbow image. Perhaps the message is, as Obama's been saying, this will take time, and there's no quick fix--so the images reflect that too. "Nothing quick (or powerful?) going on here..."

  2. I like the Tiger logo. The recovery logo..I don't hate. But I'm not crazy about it.

    A fair criticism I read was "This logo says: government, agriculture, industry, not: education, health care, energy."

    It also irritates me that the gears don't interlock...although I understand it as a design choice...

    Dr. Tantillo, who blogs from a branding perspective, published a post back in November about the difficulty--and importance--of Obama staying true to his brand.

    I feel like this logo is at least slightly off track...

  3. In defense of these new logos, it may go without saying, but they are still largely undefined and the eventual degree of success that these programs will achieve is unknown. If the recovery effort is a raging success we'll all like these logos, I promise.

    The two things we're comparing them against, by contrast, are fully vetted, developed, successful case studies. But if we were having this discussion back in the 30's, we might pick apart the NRA graphics just the same--what with it's cartoonish long-necked eagle holding lightning bolts with its gimpy leg and all.

    All that said, if I had to make a judgement, it would be along the lines of David's--that these are handsome, responsible graphics that don't make too much of a promise either way. At worst they are unimaginative.