We Fix Your Brand: 04 Martin O’Malley

Sep 8, 2015 by

Well so far we’ve taken on three Republicans in a row. I’m not picking on them, it’s just that there are so many more of them out there this year. Believe me, there’s a ton of suck on both sides of the political branding spectrum. Case in point: Martin O’Malley.

You missed a spot at the corner there

You missed a spot at the corner there

This is the essence of the O’Malley design plan. It’s a word balloon. Kind of. More like a word square. With big, blocky, obnoxious text in it. The idea here is to convey some sort of word-of-mouth thing like everybody’s talking about O’Malley. There are other iterations that have O’Malley quotes inside and a logofied version that give us the impression that Martin is some kind of transcendental hippie with one foot still in the commune.



Now don’t get me wrong, this is a pretty decent idea but I think it’s a bit of horse before the cart. It probably would have been better to get O’Malley some name recognition first, outside of whatever state he’s from, then bring out this campaign after people started talking about him. So far my only recollection of him is that he was somewhere near Bernie Sanders when some unruly protesters broke up a speech. But enough of poor planning. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to fix the suck of this brand.

First, the “word balloon” just isn’t doing the job. Has Martin ever read a comic book or strip? Has his design team? Square word balloons aren’t widely used in comics unless a robot has something to say. There are some lazy letterers who do use them now, and the result is a pretty dull and antiseptic page where space is wasted that could contain what passes for art these days. Not only that, but the tails-the little pointy things that show whose mouth is making the words-generally fold under the balloon and not out of the panel. Lastly, you don’t fill a space meant to convey human speech with thick slabs of blocky text. This isn’t word-of-mouth; this is a logo for a soon-to-fail computer company from 1995.

But how to fix this? We ran through quite a few roughs before hitting the nail on the head, which only goes to show you that you shouldn’t just run with the first thing your nephew draws for you! At first we tried making more realistic word balloons and filling them with traditional hand-lettered text. Looked just like it leaped off the funnybook page! The drawback was that it looked just like it leaped off the funnybook page. Not an image you want to project when running for president unless you’re Larry Harmon.

Then we scrapped the whole word-of-mouth idea for a more traditional design. It looked nice, but boring. No matter the typeface, that darn old apostrophe got in the way. So we hid it. We used a typeface that had square O with rounded corners [Bank Gothic] and placed a big, red, hand drawn check mark right on top of it. The idea was to emulate old hand signed ballots. The end of the check mark came out of the box at the top right and essentially became the apostrophe. It looked hideous. Another example of a good idea that just didn’t play well on the page. [So don’t feel bad Team O’Malley, even geniuses like us squirt out a few clunkers! We just don’t let anyone see them. You know, because we’re geniuses! Genii?]

So then we just started moving things around randomly. At one point our word balloon tail landed on the edge of the O and a eureka moment was born! The word-of-mouth concept was saved and the tail became the apostrophe! Except that in order to use the shorthand “O’M” it would mean multiple reducing images inside each other as an infinity shot, each one leaving the M outside its box and gah… horrible! Curses, foiled again!

So we gave up and went drinking.

For a day.

And when we came back, we got it right. We really don’t remember how because there was a lot of vodka involved, but after another day of drying out we looked upon what we had wrought and declared it good.

Who knew vodka was this good at design?

Who knew vodka was this good at design?

Sugo is a bold, dynamic font without being cold and mechanical. I think if Charlton Heston spoke in type it would look like this. The brackets serve as the word balloon without making the whole image look confined. The tail comes from the left [Democrats, liberals, etc,] and from the top [representing that someone is speaking to you. A tail pointing downward makes it look as if you’re the one speaking,] and the main graphic is set to the left to allow the 2016 to rest there innocuously [for now] at the lower right. And while that 2016 may seem out of place, it fits into a more dynamic part of the campaign, as you’ll see.

Like I said earlier, unless there’s a certain name recognition, nobody is going to get the “O’M” thing, so you need to spread a few ads around containing both the shorthand and longhand of the candidates name before you can just start plastering the shorthand around on its own.

This is starting to look like a well planned campaign

This is starting to look like a well planned campaign

The dialogue bracket and the O’M are in the exact same place while the closing bracket has, well… closed. To the right is the campaign slogan. [Actually, the slogan is “Rebuilding the American Dream” but dreams don’t need rebuilding; they need realization! So, yeah, we changed that for you. You can thank us with cash or vodka.] Below the slogan is the candidates full name and election year [set in a more mechanical Packenham to differentiate speaker from spoken] split by a thin white line which connects to a longer white underline. In the early days of newspaper editorial cartoons, this is how word balloons were done. A single underline below the text and a directional toward the speaker. This doubles down on the word-of-mouth concept as everything above that white line comes directly from the candidate, while it may be inferred that the O’M logo represents someone asking the viewer, “Did you hear what O’Malley said?”

O'Malley 03

O'Malley 04

No, there are no capital letters here. O’Malley speaks in long, properly punctuated sentences and sometimes the best stuff is in the middle. Save the caps for his name and logo. And no, there aren’t any quotation marks. You really don’t need them with this concept. You could have them if you want them, but honestly they just clutter up the space. Keep the quotes short and specific; keep the design simple, open and bright. The scope of this design can run forever, seriously, as long as Martin has something interesting to say. I picked my two favorite quotes for this exercise and I could see a series like this going over big in the political ephemera market. People love to collect a series!

Oh, and have your campaign manager call us. We’ll do lunch!

-M Styborski


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