It’s election season, which means that people just can’t seem to fight the urge to nitpick the tiniest details of the presidential race.  Who’s up in the polls today?  What did Obama wear at the fundraising gala?  Did Romney really say that?  For political junkies, there’s a no more exciting time than the months leading up to an election.  For designers who love dissecting every color choice, font selection, and image, it’s an equally interesting few months, as the candidates tweak their logos and campaign materials.

In advance of tonight’s debate, we thought it would be fun to take a look at each ticket’s logo and do a little nitpicking of our own.  Fair and balanced analysis?  Of course!

Obama/Biden

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The President enters the campaign with a decided advantage when it comes to the logo: having worked so well in 2008, it’s a design that the public is comfortable with.  Its successful track record instills confidence and familiarity within voters.  The same characteristics and beliefs it stood for four years ago are all back again, for better or worse, depending on your political perspective.

Furthermore, the big “O,” which works as both a solo letter or as a zero in 2012, is a very dynamic image: to different viewers it can be an initial, a rising sun, or something else dripping with symbolism.  Kudos to the designers for being able to present so much implied meaning with nothing more than three horizontal lines overlapping a circle.

One interesting thing to note about the “O:” it’s the first candidate logo since Hubert Humphrey’s in 1968 to focus so heavily on a particular letter in the candidate’s name.  It’s worked out much better for Obama than it did for the famed Minnesotan politician.

Romney/Ryan

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After an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination in 2008, Romney ditched his flying eagle logo for something out of the Obama design playbook: emphasis on an initial.  The “R” of Romney’s last name becomes the key feature in his 2012 logo, produced in triplicate in the iconic red, white, and blue colors of the United States flag.  Outside of people thinking that his name is “Omney,” what else can we learn about Mitt’s character and campaign from the logo?

As previously mentioned, the “R” has obvious, albeit abstract, similarities to the American flag.  Every recent candidate has featured some allusions to Old Glory, so Romney made a smart choice by covering this important base in a more creative way.  Additionally, the “R” hints at the strong flag icon utilized by George W. Bush in his two successful campaigns.  There’s no better way to motivate supporters than by subtly linking to a previous winner.

A great logo isn’t going to swing the vote in one candidate’s favor, although bad designs definitely hurt (what we you thinking, Barry Goldwater?).  The logo is one of the best ways to start building a strong persona and campaign identity.  With that in mind, Romney’s logo must do more “work” that Obama’s; it has to create a narrative from scratch, while the “O” has four years and a campaign victory building its foundation.

Studying the logos gives attentive political fanatics and voters with a keen eye for design a good preview of what to expect this evening.  Watch the debate tonight and take note of how clear the public persona of each candidate is signified by the logo.  Does the optimism and hopefulness of Obama’s rising “O” shape his rhetoric tonight?  Will Romney highlight his strong conservative values in his comments and rebuttals?  I’ve got a feeling that we’ll see many similarities because a debate, much like a logo, is about identifying with potential voters.

Whose logo does a better job shaping public perception?  Let us know in the comments.