Student politics is either something you're deeply involved with or not at all.
I was the latter up until I was the Brand & Promotions Manager - in charge of the strategic direction, style and communication of a presidential election campaign. My good friend Aaron was running to be the President of the Student Union at the university so I was thrilled when he asked me to come on board his team.
Aaron Bailey is a remarkable man. His drive and enthusiasm is matched only by his charisma. As soon as you meet Aaron, you immediately understand why so many admire him and value his presence. He is a force to be reckoned with: when he sets a vision, he devotes everything to it and brings others along with him. Aaron is determined, candid and unexpectedly thoughtful.
In an election campaign, you are promoting the individual and their ideas - in some ways similar and different from a company or product campaign. Vote Aaron Bailey for President was shortened to 'AB4P'. This became our website, on buttons, social media posts and word-of-mouth.
After a couple of design pitches and photoshoots, we decided to capitalize on Aaron's distinctive look: his recognizable glasses and perfectly pompadoured hair. And so our logo was born:
Starting to dissect his character and achievements for the campaign, we quickly realized that it can seem very egoistic and self-absorbed. So this cartoon-style logo was fun, playful, true to Aaron's aesthetic but did not take itself too seriously.
After all, this was student politics and not just politics.
So we asked ourselves, 'What is fun yet composed? Fresh yet retro? Friendly yet bold?' And the answer was simple: polka dots! It's a pattern that evokes all these tones we wanted and flexible at the same time.
Although early prototypes focused on polka dots, we ended up circulating around the dot - a theme we enhanced in the 'ab4p.ca' typeface and all other communications. The remaining visual identity continued the bright colours and minimalistic flavour with additional sophistication and self-sure composure.
Note the consistent colour palette, airy layout and an all-lowercase name that increases the rounded shapes.
During the two weeks of elections, we ran an '11 Days of Aaron' segment through our online and social media platforms. These highlighted his achievements, communities and connections to promote voting. However, all these posts carried the same lighthearted and enthusiastic tone.
Things were going well. The election competitiveness was rising, debates were being held and platforms emerging. That's when things took an unexpected turn. Students began to co-opt the AB4P logo and poke fun of the posters. University posters are all too often subject to the creativity and vandalism of passersby. Here are some examples:
At first, we were alarmed that this might compromise the messaging and communication of the campaign but soon realized that it is a testament to the fun and customizability of our brand! So we started urging students to intentionally deface the face and post it on social media!
We did this by releasing a video that doubly served as a prompt for student creativity and another medium of promotion!
In the end, the campaign was very successful with Aaron winning the presidential race! It was a thrill to come up with evolving strategies that responded to the student reactions at the same time as sticking to the election protocols. The energy and excitement of the team is captured in the winning shot below:
The campaign team was composed of Hassan Packir, Corina Santema, Paul Lee, Steven Ponnoosamy, Justin Habashi, Tony Li, Chris Roach, Anthony Poon, Timothy Hoggan, myself and of course, Aaron Bailey.