Visual Culture

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Visually Speaking: The Obama Effect

Barack Obama’s historic rise to power has been an inspiring journey. What began as a grass roots campaign transformed into a movement that captured the hopes and dreams of Americans and engaged millions in countless aspects of the political process. The mantra, “Yes We Can,” was not empty rhetoric, but a call to all citizens of this country to unite and create the change they wish to see.

Without question, ‘Camp Obama’ ran a brilliant campaign, particularly in terms of its brand as a reflection of Barack Obama’s core message of progress. The interconnection between art, culture and politics during his historic run for presidency was brimming with sheer inspiration, and at times, unbridled creativity. The following study will take you through a journey, beginning with the brand identity developed by Sender/MODE, that galvanized people of this nation – and around the world – to use art & design as a visual response to Obama’s powerful message of unity, hope and positive change.

The Obama Brand by Chicago-based design firm Sender and interactive agency Mode:
For a more in depth look, check out our comprehensive visual retrospective of the Obama Brand which showcases the logo and its extension as an identifier throughout his campaign.

State Specific X50 (Various samples):

Party Specific:

Typography and Usage:

Sol Sender sheds light on the origin of the Obama identity:
Video 1:

Video 2:

In addition to the Obama Logo and Brand, another iconic image surfaced out of LA by graphic artist Shepard Fairey. His graphic portrait quickly became the symbol of “Hope” across the country and was adopted in the early days of the Obama campaign. Fairey discusses the famous image:

“I wanted to make an art piece of Barack Obama because I thought an iconic portrait of him could symbolize and amplify the importance of his mission. I believe Obama will guide this country to a future where everyone can thrive and I should support him vigorously for the sake of my two young daughters. I have made art opposing the Iraq war for several years, and making art of Obama, who opposed the war from the start, is like making art for peace. I know I have an audience of young art fans and I’m delighted if I can encourage them to see the merits of Barack Obama.”

“HOPE” Poster:

Obama Campaign Event Poster:

Vote Poster:

Victory and Yes We Did Posters:

Inauguration Poster:

Mixed Media Collage at National Portrait Gallery in D.C.:

Commemorative Plates:

Interview with Fairey on how the sh*t went down:

Throughout the Obama Campaign many organizations were involved in developing a forum for the creative culture to develop work to promote Obama’s message of Change and Hope. Initiatives include:


This concept was developed by Aaron Perry-Zucker, a senior studying graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design, and was built by Adam Meyer, a senior industrial design student at said school. This website was inspired and supported by Design Observer, a leading graphic design blog. We’ve highlighted three out of nearly 100 posters created during the campaign. To view the entire gallery, click here.

30 Reasons was a 30-day internet campaign to encourage people to vote for Barack Obama. The goal was simple: Use design to build a logical, multi-faceted, and coherent visual argument to elect Obama.

30 graphic designers were asked to create a poster for the campaign which started on October 5th and ended on Election Day. To view the entire gallery, click here.

Artists for Obama raised money by selling donated art and merchandise.

Progress by Scott Hansen:

“VOZ UNIDA” by Rafael López:

“Words of Change” by Gui Borchert:

“Obama 08″ by Lance Wyman:


Art plays a pivotal role in creating cultural momentum. The Manifest Hope Gallery celebrates that role and shines a spotlight on artists across the nation who use their voices to amplify and motivate the grass roots movement surrounding the Obama Campaign. The Manifest Hope Gallery highlights the central themes of the progressive grass-roots movement–Hope Change, Progress, Unity and Patriotism. We’ve highlighted the 6 contest winners of this initiative, to view the other finalists, click here.

Stars and Stripes by Phil Fung:

Unite Us by Nicholas Rock:

United/Change by Shawn Hazen:

Obama/Hope ’08 by Shel Starkman:

Signpost for Change by Lisa Marie Regan:

Manifest Hope gathered together a diverse group of the nation’s most inspiring visual artists under one roof to mark this monumental achievement in our nation’s history. The Gallery encouraged artists and activists to maintain the momentum to bring about true change in the United States. Three themes of change are highlighted in the show (Workers Rights, Green Economy, and Healthcare for ALL). To view entire online gallery, you know the drill.

Manifest Change: Health Care For All
Potion Bottle-Hope by Marc Petrovic:

Manifest Unity: Workers’ Rights
Restoration by Scotlund Halsley:

Manifest Opportunity: The Green Economy
Change USA by Derek Gores:

The 2008 Presidential Election saw an increase in the percentage of voters. Here are a few initiatives that were focused on getting the public out to vote:

To view VC’s post on the initiative click here.


Click here for more videos from Vote For Change


If I were President: (Selected Video of Majora Carter)


AIGA invited designers from across the United States to create nonpartisan posters—and YouTube submissions—that inspire the American public to participate in the electoral process and vote for a presidential candidate in the 2008 general election. In all, 24 posters were selected as finalists to be printed and distributed nationally. View the entire gallery here.

by Steff Geissbuhler

by Office

Chris Piascik

During this election there were a number of initiatives to educate the public to know their rights and document their experience at the voting booth. Here are a few we have highlighted.

Video the Vote:

The Polling Place Project:
The Polling Place Photo Project was a nationwide experiment in citizen journalism that encouraged voters to capture, post and share photographs of primaries, caucuses and general elections. By documenting local voting experiences, participants contributed to an archive of photographs that capture the richness and complexity of voting in America.

What was so fascinating about this campaign is the level of enthusiasm it elicited from the public. It seemed as though everyone wanted to join in and express their hope for change. We’d like to highlight three examples of how the brand took on a life of its own. If you’re in need for more Obama Art, KH over at The Obama Art Report created a daily blog dedicated to documenting just that.

Drink For Change: The Obama Blend
It’s smooth, fresh and lacks bitterness. Environmentally friendly, unexpected, and a little left of center. Contributes to your overall well being and Health(care).

Yes We Carve: Barack O’Lantern

Super Obama World:

posted by Oberholtzer Creative Staff at 3:34 pm  


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