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Open Manifesto

The ‘O’ in Obama.

A conversation between Sol Sender and S.H.

{20th of November 2008}


Editor's Note: This interview was originally published in the New York Times online. It is reprinted here with the kind permission of Steven Heller.


At the end of 2006, Mode, a motion design studio in Chicago, approached Sol Sender, a graphic designer, to create a logo for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The resulting “O” became one of the most recognizable political logos in recent history. I spoke with Mr. Sender a few days after the election to discuss the evolution of his design.


How did you get the job of designing the Obama logo?


We got the job through Mode. Steve Juras, a classmate of mine from graduate school is the creative director there. They have a long-standing relationship with AKP&D Message and Media, a campaign consulting firm led by David Axelrod and David Plouffe among others.


Have you done other political logos in the past?


No, we had not.


I have to ask, since many agencies that do political campaigns are simply “doing a job,” did you have strong feelings one way or the other for the Obama candidacy?


We were excited to work on the logo and energized by the prospect of Mr. Obama’s campaign. However, we didn’t pursue or develop the work because we were motivated exclusively by ideology.


(The rest of this article is available, in print, in Open Manifesto #5)


Steven Heller wears many hats (in addition to the New York Yankees): For 33 years he has been an art director of the New York Times, originally on the OpEd Page and for almost 30 of those years on the New York Times Book Review. Currently he is a senior art director. He also writes book reviews and obituaries for the Times.


Among many other things, he is the founder and co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts, New York, where he lectures on the history of graphic design. Prior to this, he lectured for 14 years on the history of illustration in the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual arts. He also was director for ten years of SVA’s Modernism & Eclecticism: A History of American Graphic Design symposiums.