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Designers explain why nobody likes Hillary Clinton's campaign logo

Christophe Haubursin is a senior producer for the Vox video team. Since joining the team in 2016, he has produced for Vox’s YouTube channel and Emmy-nominated shows Glad You Asked and Explained.

Hillary Clinton's new campaign logo — a blue "H" with a red arrow through it — didn't exactly get a warm reception during its rollout Sunday.

Internet users seem to love picking apart logos, whether they're from a campaign (recall Romney's Aquafresh-esque 2012 logo, which spawned enough jokes to fuel a Tumblr), or even from the Olympics. But when you get beyond the typical backlash, design experts say Clinton's logo really does have problems — poor design choices that just make it less appealing visually. These problems almost certainly won't doom her campaign, but they were enough to stand out to people who study design for a living.

The problem with Clinton’s logo: too blocky, too familiar, bad colors

The use of blocky shapes and primary colors are what make the logo feel immature and clunky, says behavioral scientist Susan Weinschenk, who runs a consulting group called the Team W. The blocky look, Weinschenk said, also clashes with the tone of the video itself — where the video conveys warmth and togetherness, the icon is flat and cold.

"People like curves, and this has no curves," she said. "It's a stark, corporate, hard-edged logo."

When you look at successful logos — Nike, McDonald's, Coca-Cola — you notice they tend to be pretty curvy. Most political campaigns' logos do the same: think of the Obama design, for example, from 2008.

Then there was the Clinton campaign's decision to go with basic, primary colors. Red on blue is typically a faux pas in design, Weinschenk says, because it can hurt viewers' eyes and make the text look like it's vibrating. Beyond that, the choice of primary colors is patriotic — but can also have its downsides.

"When you put basic geometry with primary colors it starts to feel kiddish," said Paul Davies, a psychologist turned designer who works with Etch UK. "Obama had the same blue and red and white but with gradients and subtle shadings."

Whereas other logos space out the clashing colors with blank space, Hillary's logo places the red arrow directly on top of the blue rectangle — creating an illusion that isn't pleasant to look at.

People who don't like Hillary probably won't like her icon, either

Even if the logo irks designers, it's unlikely to doom the Clinton candidacy. What's likely happening is that those who already had opinions about her candidacy are simply projecting those on to the new image.

Davies likens it to psychological transference. Everyone has opinions and expectations of the Clinton campaign; the logo gives a platform for those feelings to be represented visually. When that visual doesn't align with people's feelings, there's a clash between perception and reality.

Once the Clinton logo is sufficiently associated with the campaign it represents, it will likely fade out of the public consciousness, Davies said.

"If Hillary is successful, it will be forgotten in a good way," he said. "And if not, it will just be forgotten."

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