iconography and obama

I want a transformative movement!

What all transformative movements have in common is the quality of speaking up to an aspirational public, to our best possible selves. Transformative movements act like the world is better than it is, and—when they work—they inspire the world to live up to this partial projection. The Obama campaign, has, in moments, embodied precisely that quality: Obama conjures a better America and that better America shows up for him. But political moments do more than speak to our best selves; they harness that quasi-mystical power to make radical demands to transform the real world. The Obama campaign has not done this, not on any issue at the core of our current crisis. Not on global warming, the war in Iraq, the housing crisis, health care, underemployment, or the assaults on civil liberties. Not a single Obama policy is unequivocal in its clarity and morality, which is the essential quality of a transformative movement.

The campaign’s most radical demand, even if unstated, is the idea of electing Obama himself. It is Obama—and not his plans for the presidency—that is the ultimate expression of the “movement.” If the process ends there, the Obama campaign becomes less like the civil rights movement and more like the lifestyle brands in the late ’90s—the Nikes, Microsofts, and Starbucks that expertly captured the transcendent quality of past liberation movements, and our desire for meaning in our lives, to build their brands.

Of course the real fault is not Obama’s, but ours. We have forgotten the kind of risk and work it takes to build transformative mass movements, and so settle for iconography instead. That said, he’d better win.

by Naomi Klein

I read this at The Nation. I think it gets to the crux of what bothers me about Obama and his campaign. I haven’t been able to find the words by Naomi Klein has. This isn’t a transformative movement. All this is is an orchestrated political campaign as lifestyle brand. And I especially don’t like the campaign. His “logo” and “yes we can” make my skin crawl.

His buffed up graphics, his gathering of phone numbers and emails for his VP announcement by instant message, his plan to make his acceptance speech in a football stadium… it is a commercialization that upsets me to the core.

Today I found an email in my spam filter that reinforced my discomfort.

Designing Obama’s brand
Sol Sender, Principal, Sender LLC

Sol Sender and his team at Sender LLC have turned the letter “O” in Barack Obama’s name into an iconic logo like the swoosh from the Nike. The innovative approach toward branding the Obama campaign has helped set it apart from what has come before. Obama’s brand has sparked many conversations about the importance of design in political campaigns. When Michael Bierut from Pentagram was asked where Obama’s brand stands against the best commercial brand design, he answered “I think it’s just as good or better.” Sol Sender will share his insight and his experience of working on one of the most recognized political brands. Register for this event ahead of time since it’ll fill up fast.

I’ve lived through a time where there were so many inspirational figures. In hindsight they each had their flaws but they inspired a nation and the world. They had authenticity that inspired you to the bone, they didn’t need a design firm to manufacture one by creating a “lifestyle brand”.

Are we as a nation so bereft of ideas and inspiration that Obama is enough?

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