Rand Paul is a Republican candidate seeking the GOP nomination for President of the United States in 2016. But you know that. What you might not know is that before there was Rand Paul, there was Paul Rand, a graphic designer and art director who came up with well known logos for companies like ABC, UPS, IBM, UPS, Steve Jobs’ NeXT, and Enron (ouch, how would you like to have that in your portfolio?).
Rand (the designer) said, “The principal role of a logo is to identify, and simplicity is its means… Its effectiveness depends on distinctiveness, visibility, adaptability, memorability, universality, and timelessness.” Dave Schools recently used this to create ‘The Seven-Step Paul Rand Logo Test.” It goes like this. First, ask these questions:
- Is it distinctive?
- Is it visible?
- Is it adaptable?
- Is it memorable?
- Is it universal?
- Is it timeless?
- Is it simple?
Then, Schools says “For each step except for the last one, rate on a scale from 1 to 10. For the last step of simplicity, rate on a scale from 1 to 15. This mathematically gives weight to what is most important in a logo. A score of 75 is perfect, and anything below a 60 is discardable.”
Just for fun, let’s apply the Paul Rand test to the logo for Rand Paul’s 2016 Presidential campaign.
1. Is it distinctive? Is it different than competing brands? Is it unique? Ted Cruz’s campaign also features a flame, although it looks a bit like a burning flag. In a Business Insider piece Richard Westendorf, a creative director at Landor Associates brand consultants, said “This looks as if it was dashed off in PowerPoint by a staffer.” In the same piece Karl Gude, a graphics professor at Michigan State University and former graphics artist at Newsweek and the AP, says Paul’s logo “stands out from the jingoistic, flag-waving logos inherent to presidential campaigns.”
I agree with both experts. My first impression was that it was different from the normal campaign logo that often equates being unique with doing a lot of things, rather than focusing on simplicity. My second impression was that whereas the Apple or Nike logos are simple yet unique, the Rand Paul logo is just simple.
2. Is it visible? Definitely. The thick, bold, uppercase type means it won’t be missed, as long as it’s surrounded by adequate whitespace. It’s also a conveniently short word that is easy to read and pronounce. That simplicity enhances its readability and its recognizability. Once you see the logo for a minute or two, if you see it out of the corner of your eye you’ll quickly recognize it again. The red flame on top also draws the eye, making it that much more visible.
I’d give it a 10/10 but that’s like saying it couldn’t be any better in this area. I’m not going to go that far on any of these.
3. Is it adaptable? The test I liked to give my agency’s clients, back when we got involved in logos and branding, was to ask “Can it be used on a pen just as well as on a billboard?” If so, it’s probably a fairly adaptable logo. In the case of the Paul logo yes, it’s quite adaptable. It would be easily readable printed small on a pen, and would work well on a billboard as well, and everything in between. Is it as adaptable as the Nike swoosh or the Target logo? No, not quite that adaptable, but pretty good.
4. Is it memorable? It’s hard to make a temporary logo memorable. The three pillars of a good logo are design, time, and money. With any of those two you can overcome falling short with one of the others. Case in point, the Coca-Cola logo is not an example of great design. That is, it wouldn’t be great if you came up with it today. But add 100 years and a few billion dollars and you’ve got a great logo. Part of what makes the Coca-Cola logo memorable is that it is distinctive. Because the Paul logo scores low in that area compared to all other logos (not just campaign logos, where it is more unique), I’d classify it as not very memorable.
5. Is it universal? Is the logo immediately understandable, or does it create cognitive dissonance? The bold, capital type symbolizes strength, something we want in a President. So far, so good. The type leaning to the right indicates forward movement, progress, action. Again, good qualities for a President. The use of the first name rather than the second serves at least two purposes; 1) it makes the logo more friendly and personable, and 2) it separates Rand from his father, Ron Paul. I happen to love Ron Paul, but he wasn’t a great politician (I mean that as a compliment) and he’s a potential liability to Rand’s campaign, what with his outspoken nature and ill-fitting suits (this might be a good moment to express my gratitude to Rand for ditching the turtleneck and bad hair–thank you). Using the last name “Paul” would have emphasized the connection. I’m not saying Rand’s campaign has repudiated the relationship between Rand and his father, but it’s likely they don’t want to go out of their way to call attention to it any more than Jeb wants to call attention to his relationship with two former Presidents who aren’t terribly popular at the moment. Good luck with that, Jeb.
But other than these positives, the logo itself doesn’t mean much. What’s the flame for? I don’t know. The fire of liberty? “We the people” marching to DC with pitchforks and torches to kill the monster that is our federal government? I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to me. Granted, what’s an apple have to do with computers? Not much in the collective consciousness when it started, but again, time and money do amazing things. Rand may be able to raise some money, but he doesn’t have much time.
6. Is it timeless? This logo would probably work as well today as in 20 years, but that’s not saying much. It’s easy to be timeless when you don’t take any risks, but you lose out in other areas. Still, we’re just talking about this one area, so we don’t want to get tripped up by noting the negatives that don’t relate to this one criterium.
7. Is it simple? It could be simpler. In that aforementioned Business Insider piece Westerndorf recommended “Ditch the torch, keep the strong wordmark. Done.” I’m a fan of logos that don’t have a mark, or symbol. Not that I’m opposed to Apple’s apple, Target’s target, or Nike’s swoosh, but too many companies think a mark is a requirement for a logo. But think of Banana Republic, IBM, ABC, Coca-Cola, and a host of others. Using a mark isn’t wrong, but using a mark just because you feel like you’ve gotta have one is very, very wrong.
I agree somewhat with Westerndorf. The flame doesn’t do much for me. But if you took it away you’d have text that is completely unmemorable and without any distinctive trait. If it were me, I would ditch the flame and do something very simple with the logotype that makes it distinctive and memorable. Win-win. But I’ve got to stay on topic, and when it comes to being simple, it is pretty simple.
Remember this score is out of 15.
Here’s how it all adds up:
- Is it distinctive? 5/10
- Is it visible? 9/10
- Is it adaptable? 8/10
- Is it memorable? 3/10
- Is it universal? 5/10
- Is it timeless? 6/10
- Is it simple? 10/15
Wow. Remember, anything below a 60 is to be discarded. I wasn’t keeping track while I scored each individual part. If you had told me it would get that far below a 60 I wouldn’t have predicted that. It’s a good thing I wasn’t paying attention or I probably would have scored it a little higher in some areas.
Does this mean the Rand Paul campaign should scrap the logo? If they were paying me to give them brand advice, I would at least modify it, focusing mostly on my comments in #7 above. There’s little to be lost, and enough to gain to make it worth it, imho.Liked it? Share it!
Josh, I love this. For me, a strong indicator of how much I like something is whether I wished I had done it myself. It more often comes to mind in a design solution, but following politics as I do, I’ve often thought of the Paul Rand flip flop, but you nailed it in detail here. No matter the score, I think Rand Paul’s logo beats the other Republican candidates.
The use of negative space to create the Liberty Torch is what makes this logo great. I am no supporter of Rand Paul, but this is solid graphic design.