James K. Polk was nicknamed Napoleon of the Stump. Grover Cleveland was also known as Uncle Jumbo. Those are just some of the bits of trivia I picked up from Branding the Presidents of the United States, a project by Detroit-based designer Meg Jannott. So far, she's created distinct visual brand identities for 40 of the 44 presidents by using paintings, photographs, typefaces and logos—and in some cases, nicknames, quotes, slogans and clever visual cues—in an effort to distill each man in a single image. That's no small task, and even Jannott concedes there are misfires here. (For my money, emphasizing William Howard Taft's bulging belly while simply noting his nickname, Big Bill, feels a tad lazy.) Even so, there are more hits than misses, and some of the results, particularly among the more modern leaders of the free world, take expert measure of the men and the times they helped to shape. For me, the most evocative entry is John F. Kennedy's, with his famous "Ask not what your country can do for you" quote centered between a picture of a rocket and the president gesturing heavenward. The image somehow distills an entire era, suggesting space-age hopes amid Cold War tensions, the hazy picture quality adding more than a touch of melancholy. The shot of Richard Nixon, eyes glued to his binoculars, really says it all about a guy who was always on the lookout for his "enemies." Ronald Reagan's overly stiff pose and washed-out complexion make him seem like a wax dummy, which those of us who recall his eight long years in office are fairly sure he was. Should Mitt Romney win, here's my suggestion: a brand identity in the style and color of U.S. currency, text rendered in Comic Sans. Via Co.Create.
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