be scared;
be excited



Recently an old friend wrote to tell me that something I said to him long ago still inspires him all these years later: “’Nothing is scary; it is always exciting!’ Everyday I hear those words – thank you.” I recall it here because that is precisely what I think about the prospects for design and branding during a Trump Presidency.

It’s no secret that many in our business opposed Donald Trump’s election. Nor is it a secret that many who voted for him across the country did so to thumb their collective nose at the Establishment. Among other things, then, it means they rejected a Clinton campaign brand created by the industry’s leading lights—our very own Establishment.

So let’s take a look at how the Clinton brand came across. From its slick logo to its tired slogan, Stronger Together, the message was corporate to the max and anything but fresh. In short, precisely what one should expect from folks who have gotten fat over the years tailoring their aesthetics and pitch mantras to the needs of big consumer goods and services clients.

hillary,  Photo: The New York Times

Unlike the Establishment top-down of the Clinton brand, Trump’s was anti-Establishment bottom-up. The message was simple, Make America Great Again. But never was it tightly-scripted, its messenger himself messy, constantly careening off the road. This free-form quality also characterized the posters, often hand-made, that his supporters either brought to rallies or decorated their front lawns with. So the overall image projected by the Trump campaign had an undeniable grass roots ring to it. Moreover, that quality neatly dovetailed with the self-made nature of Trump’s own brand before he ran for office. No wizard pulling the strings from behind the curtain on his show. Just the Donald.

At a moment when appealing notions such as craft, homespun and the like are much in vogue, it wasn’t the Clinton pro branders but Donald Trump’s campaign that best used them in their broadest sense to gain share on Election Day.

There are those I’ve heard who are scared creativity will catch a cold under Trump because he’s a philistine. Or that as a major media monger he may dish out opinions left and right or, God forbid, negative about the work we do. Perhaps. But I think there’s an important point they’re missing and it’s why I think now will be exciting for our field.


Trump’s election serves as yet another resounding reminder that the Establishment, whether in politics or, in our case, design & branding, has officially run out of gas.

This opens the door to less-established, smaller, nimbler firms that can offer the marketplace fresh, unexpected approaches. In other words, not something top-down predictably perfect to a T but where you can muss things up a bit and still make them look good, even beautiful. Make them come across as natural because that’s the way things really are and the audience is ready to accept it. So take chances. Now is a time when the risk-reward ratio is going our way.

Header photo: Nate Gowdy, The Stranger

More Thoughts.

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