In her three years in the national spotlight, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the undisputed face of undisguised progressivism. But there’s another legacy of her first victory in 2018: her campaign logo and poster changed the visual branding of the left.
If Donald J. Trump redefined the red hat as a symbol of the right, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s inclination and break with the traditional color palette of red, white and blue created a kind of new graphic language for progressivism. Political designers say the mood of their logo conveys insurrection, youth, diversity, liberalism, and victory.
“What AOC You changed what it means to run for office,” said Amoy Barnes, a 34-year-old black Democrat running for Staten Island city council when Ms. Barnes’ consulting firm introduced her to a number of previous political logos to inspire her, she immediately fell for the Ocasio-Cortez design. “As a young woman of color with her bright purple, inclination and full name, she has set a bar to say we don’t get things up have to do the same way. “
Gavan Fitzsimons, a professor at Duke University’s Business School who studies the effects of branding on the unconscious of voters and consumers, said familiar design can spark strong associations.
“It is unlikely that voters seeing these elements would at least initially notice the resemblance to the A.O.C. Design, ”explained Fitzsimons. But he added, “What happens cognitively is that there is a light shining in your head.”
“Essentially, they borrow from all the work they have done on the progressive side of the Democratic Party,” he said of like logos.
The characteristic A.O.C. Typography has even found itself on T-shirts sold by politicians from both parties – as a visual abbreviation for the left.
Senator Bernie Sanders, whose 2016 presidential bid inspired Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s own political career, is selling shirts that support the Green New Deal (the initiative of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez).
While Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary for Mr. Trump, who is now running for governor of Arkansas, has taken over the flipped text for her anti-left clothing line and demands, “Let’s cut the culture off.”
All of this amused the design team who created Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s logo and who started cataloging various duplicates that appear on the campaign trail and in popular culture. “They are everywhere,” said Scott Starrett, who helped design her logo. “Finding her is really fun now.”
Mr. Starrett made contact with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez before she was “A.O.C.”. – In an interview, he kept referring to her as Sandy because her pre-political friends and family members knew her – and said they discussed her ideology long before he and Maria Arenas from the design firm Tandem designed their logo.
The color palette and speech bubble in the final design were inspired by Rosie the Riveter, Starrett said. The poster with her outward view was drawn from a Cesar Chavez postage stamp. And the overall picture came from boxes, farm labor unions, and Luchador posters.
The inverted exclamation point with a star underscored her Puerto Rican heritage while turning her name into a rally. “We wanted this idea of her calling her name to get attention, and also the idea of people calling her name,” said Mr. Starrett.
However, the oblique and condensed font was just as much a typographical necessity as anything else. Mr Starrett said they tried to ensure that they did not spell their full name, but Ms. Ocasio-Cortez held on. She wanted her full name. They tipped and piled it up to make it fit.
“The way she handled that angled typography that has gone down in slang,” said Sol Sender, who led the design team that created the famous 2008 former President Barack Obama’s logo. a red, white, and blue “O” for his nameand a rising sun signifying a new day – which itself spurred a number of imitators.
When Melquiades Gagarin started his own long-term challenge for Congress in 2020 in a congressional district in Queens alongside Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, his logo was on the upside on purpose.
Mr. Gagarin called it “a tribute to the A.O.C. Campaign ”itself, but also the“ activist, progressive spirit ”that it embodies. His website featured a photo of Mr Gagarin looking into the distance, just as Mrs Ocasio-Cortez had done on her signature posters.
“It was almost a joke,” said Gagarin with a laugh, “if you didn’t look into the distance, you weren’t a progressive candidate.”
Mr. Gagarin lost, as insurgents often do. A winner: Magdalena Peña, whose copycat design and application for a first-grade senator at her elementary school in Queens was praised by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez herself earlier this year.
“I love it!” She wrote approvingly in a tweet. (Ms. Ocasio-Cortez declined an interview request for this article.)
As impressed as Mr Sender was by the iconography of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez – “she announced herself as a candidate who would stand for something else – and the entire design language supported this” – he is disappointed by the flood of imitators.
“Dig deeper,” he urged other designers. “Come on, don’t you have any ideas of your own?”
Almost no design is really original. Others have previously used angled text – including the Clinton Gore ticket in 1992. And some archconservative Republicans still use it, including Trump-Aligned Representative Mo Brookswho is running for the Senate in Alabama.
The Ocasio-Cortez logo was not only characterized by the inclination of the text. There was also a color scheme of purple and yellow, unusual for politics.
“It’s really difficult to hug red, white, and blue,” said Tarik Nally, a Louisville-based designer. “Not because we don’t love our country or our colors. But because that can be seen as an establishment.”
Mr. Nally designed the logo for Charles Booker, an insurgent Democrat who ran for the Kentucky Senate in 2020. He used purple and yellow and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s signature on top.
“Progress and increase and movement and upward momentum,” said Mr. Nally. “It just felt right.” Mr. Booker lost in the party’s primary last year but is considering running again in 2022.
Prior to her re-election in 2020, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez asked her team about redesigning the logo to “stay ahead of the curve,” as Mr. Starrett described it. He successfully rejected the idea, claiming that the original logo still shaped the curve.
This race only added to the power of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s design. She faced a major battle against former CNBC journalist Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, whose logo was flat with a blue arrow pointing forward.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez won on a landslide. Now Ms. Caruso-Cabrera is running for the New York Comptroller – and has updated her logo to flip it up, reflecting the woman she ran into.
“It was the first time I thought about it,” Ms. Caruso-Cabrera said when asked about the similarities with the logo one afternoon while walking through the Union Square farmers’ market. “The upside,” she said, “was always about optimism.”
Moments later, a young woman came by with a burlap sack full of groceries and a yellow Ocasio Cortez t-shirt.
Kitty Bennett contributed to the research.