DDB’s Wendy Clark Talked Logo Design With the Hillary Clinton Campaign in Wikileaks Emails

By Patrick Coffee 

So here’s an interesting one we missed yesterday. Amid all the scandalous revelations about the secret to making one’s risotto creamy, John Podesta and other senior members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign team discussed logos with DDB North America CEO Wendy Clark back in early 2015.

With a big hat tip to Tech Insider, this week Wikileaks published an email thread headlined “Visual Identity / Design Rationale” in which Clark discusses the thought process behind Clinton’s logo with the campaign’s chief strategist/veteran pollster Joel Benenson. Clark and Teddy Goff of Precision Strategies had met with the design agency Pentagram to discuss possible directions for the logo and comparing it to the classic Apple “rainbow.”

The full email is very in-depth and worth a read; Clark begins by discussing whether the word “Hillary” should be followed by a period. Here’s one section regarding the now-famous H arrow logo, also known as “H Window”:

H Window — while there’s lots of positive reaction for this direction there’s also more to do in terms of getting the team and the Secretary comfortable to go on this. In her feedback on our call her language of “embracing people, embracing our problems and embracing our future” was really helpful along with “reaching outwards to inspire upwards.”

How do we imbue this approach with an even stronger sense of her passion and motivation behind doing the job? She leans away from Hillary type or Hillary signature, she’s unwilling for this to be so focused on her … So the core mark has to work harder to her mission and/or attributes.

Clark later addresses other proposed ideas like the addition of an & symbol or plus sign, writing, “I think the watch out here is to not get too clever or too cutesy with symbols.”

As a thesis statement of sorts, she wrote: “We want to create a visual representation for Secretary Clinton that is equally as compelling, interesting, exciting and inviting as Obama’s mark was eight years ago.”

She then argued that Obama had essentially been the first to turn a political candidacy into a legitimate brand, writing, “They in fact used what many would say were widely accepted brand techniques that companies outside politics historically use—contemporary colors and iconography, dynamic composition in the mark, the mark to represent truths of the brand, etc. … In the political campaigns before Obama it was largely typesetting with use of flag imagery, stars and photograph identity as the core design assets used.”

In comparing these Obama and Clinton branding efforts to those of more traditional business clients, she brought up Target’s red target and Apple’s classic rainbow fruit, arguing that the consistency of the messaging in these companies’ marketing efforts led to them becoming synonymous with affordability and creative thinking, respectively: “No one would look at that mark standalone and say it means Apple is the leader in human-centered designed, electronic devices with a vision for the future.”

To be clear, this story is not in any way a scandal. But it’s pretty interesting to note that Clark had been consulting with the Clinton campaign, especially in light of its subsequent outreach to ad agencies including Droga5, Burrell Communications and Venables Bell & Partners.

The exchange also includes this aside, which Clinton PR chief Jennifer Palmieri wrote to campaign chair and sometime chef Podesta regarding the DDB exec: “This diatribe make[s] me like her.”