For everyone of a certain age, the phrase “I Like Ike” brings to mind a round pin, striped red at the top and blue at the bottom, not unlike the world famous Pepsi logo. It’s no accident that Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous presidential campaign button and the symbol of a multinational corporation should look so familiar – they’re both icons of exceptional product design, after all! And that’s why it’s not just Americans who voted in the early 1950s who recognize the pin, but school kids of our current era as well.
Iconic design transcends generations, and whether you’re talking about promotional coffee mugs or custom koozies, a good design is sure to linger in the public conscious. Perhaps none as long as most presidential campaign buttons though. Emblematic of your political platform – which, for many Americans, means your moral, economic and even religious worldview – political buttons date back to George Washington’s inauguration, according to Our White House. These early buttons were usually fashioned from brass, whereas mass production and advancements in imagery – not to mention simple aesthetics – have pushed pins of the late 20th century and today into a different realm altogether!
While many older pins are collected for memorabilia, they’ve also played a major role in election victories and losses – like the hugely successful political draft of Eisenhower with the “I Like Ike!” movement. While recent campaigns have seen a slight decrease in buttons – the traditional pin-back variety can be expensive to produce compared to popular bumper stickers or online imagery – many presidential campaigns still market their imagery in button-sized icons. Just think of the Obama campaign’s blue semicircle O overlaid by a red and white American flag, flowing like a road moving forward – or the trio of red, white and blue silhouettes in Mitt Romney’s campaign logo’s letter R. By sticking these images on patriotic promotional items, candidates are assigning not only their names but their entire political platforms to a single image – in this case, a single letter! – and giving that image wide distribution.
There’s never been a more important time for excellent design and wide distribution of it. Alongside traditional pins, custom bumper stickers and lawn signs, the 2012 candidates’ logos have had wide distribution as web buttons, which bloggers and commentators might stick to their site as one would a lapel!