Does graphic design make a difference? That’s a question The Atlantic’s Emily Chertoff examines in “How One Hard-to-Spot Visual Detail Could Shape Voter Perceptions.”
Logos may seem commonplace, but the best of them stick in our memories, partly because the graphic designers who create them understand their product deeply and use form, color, typography, graphics and composition to drive the image into our brains. The most effective logos use design elements so subtly that we react to them viscerally without any need to analyze them.
But sometimes, it’s both revealing and fun to look more closely at a logo. And that’s what Chertoff does in her article. She notes that the 2012 DNC Convention logo incorporates much of the now-iconic Obama ’08 logo. Chertoff sees the similarities as an indicator that the DNC closely identifies with its candidate—something that is, by contrast, not expressed in the very different logos used by the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee.
Most interesting, writes Chertoff, is the logo’s use of silhouettes. Chertoff examines individual sections of the silhouettes, speculates about who they’re supposed to be, and explores a bit of their history and significance as an art form.
Silhouette is, among other things, a way of suggesting features like age, sex, and race without having to definitively assign them. Why? Because, while we can correctly determine factors like gender and age from profiles in silhouette more often than not, our perceptions aren’t perfectly accurate. Have you ever had the feeling when looking at a silhouette that you might have a good idea what the figure looks like, but that you can’t be positive? The DNC logo evokes that feeling on purpose.
Chertoff then zooms in on this silhouette, and asks us to think about who we think it is, and what it means.
It’s an intriguing study, and even if you’ve already forgotten what was said at the DNC Convention, it’s worth a look-see.