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Like Airbnb, Trump-Pence logo designer forgot that the internet has a dirty mind

The campaign probably intended to convey a partnership. Social media wags saw a coupling.

Sometimes social media can’t help but channel its inner 13-year-old.

As Donald Trump announced his new running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, his campaign unveiled a new logo that immediately became the object of ridicule on social media, and inspired oh-so-many sexually suggestive GIFs.

Perhaps that critical reception shouldn’t be surprising, given the unusual rancor of the 2016 campaign. But the day-long Twitter troll-fest is reminiscent of the mockery that accompanied the 2014 unveiling of Airbnb’s new corporate logo, with a circular pink shape that critics guffawed looked like a vagina.

“It’s just like: Go ahead, laugh all you want, guys,” Airbnb co-founder and CTO Nathan Blecharczyk told Recode at the time. “We wouldn’t want to design a logo that caters to the lowest common denominator. This was a yearlong undertaking for dozens of people, it’s something meaningful, and no one pauses to really understand that.”

The chortles eventually stopped, but not before the logo became the butt of a thousand jokes. Apparently it’s still a touchy subject; Airbnb declined comment for this story.

The new Trump-Pence logo enmeshes the candidates’ initials — TP — with the American flag, sparking immediate references to toilet paper and other bathroom wit.

As the day continued, Twitter became something like a crowdsourced design studio or a post-facto focus group, and the logo emerged as a Rorschach test for the mass id, with some viewers interpreting male dominance and others seeing a rather specific sex act. The designers might have anticipated this before releasing into the wild a logo with one letter penetrating another.

“I can see this being sold to them as a visual representation of two people working hand-in-hand,” said Ethan Imboden, vice president of creative at Frog Design. “My guess is that was the intention, to represent them more in the form of a monogram, bringing together a T and P as a partnership.”

Twitter saw it differently.

Even serious Republican political advisers like pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson cringed.

Imboden said the Trump-Pence and Airbnb logos share a design element that invites comparisons to the human anatomy: They’re both symmetrical over a vertical axis.

“It invites an anthropomorphic meaning,” Imboden said.

The most striking decision, Imboden said, was the designer’s choice to replace the field of stars on the American flag with Trump’s and Pence’s initials.

“To me, the designer is making a very strong statement by placing Trump and Pence at the center of our symbolic heritage, effectively overwriting all 50 states with two people,” he said. “It’s a very aggressive positioning of their identity on top of our national identity.”

Of course, professional and instant amateur design experts had earlier trashed Hillary Clinton’s logo, with its blue H and rightward-pointing red arrow that seemed to suggest a political shift to the right. Logos are a great way to capture the attention of distracted voters on social media. Clinton’s, critics charged, didn’t say enough.

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