I generally prefer to steer clear of politics here, but this Fast Co Design article about the visual identity of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaign was too good to pass up. It’s a lesson about courageous branding that goes against the grain.

Ocasio-Cortez, if you are unfamiliar, is a 28-year-old who last week defeated a longtime, well-bankrolled incumbent in the Democratic primary in her New York City congressional district. Given the partisan lean of the district, she is nearly guaranteed to win the general election in November and become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. 

As the article points out, her campaign branding breaks a number of conventions for US elections:

  • The upward tilt of both her face and of the typography on her campaign material is unusual and unconsciously suggest hope and optimism. The design was inspired by labor and civil rights movements from the 1960s and ‘70s 
  • The color scheme is built around purple and yellow – not the traditional red/white/blue
  • The inverted exclamation marks and stars unabashedly reflect her multicultural identity
  • The font also has a hand-drawn feel to it, which is appropriate for a candidate campaigning  as the nemesis of the 1%

Of course, in politics great design isn’t everything.  At least one other multicultural Democratic primary candidate in New York had some very compelling branding and a message similar to Ocasio-Cortez’s but he lost, in part, because he ran a bad campaign.  Plus, Ocasio-Cortez’s message resonated with the very progressive mindset of Democratic voters in her culturally diverse urban district. The same approach may not have worked in Iowa or Missouri. She was the right candidate in the right place with the right message at the right time.

It will be interesting to see if other candidates will copy her visual branding (undoubtedly they will) and how much success they will have (more of an open question).  I could easily envision a populist Republican candidate in the Trump mold trying something similar.