As the first four major 2016 presidential hopefuls look to highlight their differences, one bond ties the quartet together: criticism of their campaign logos.

Eager to seize early momentum and impress their brand upon voters, the four have unveiled logos they hope will click with the electorate. But in the finicky world of social media, where everyone seems to be a critic, the reaction has not always been kind. Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton's logo has been likened to a traffic sign; GOP senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz each chose logos that feature a flame and their fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio seemingly forgot about seven electoral votes. Veterans of the logo rollout process say the real or perceived glitches are as predictable as a candidate's sudden affinity for Iowa.

“Icons are very powerful things and that [Obama] symbol got used independent of the candidate's name."

— Sol Sender

“The thing about political [clients], there’s very little experience around how long it takes to do exceptional quality design work,” said Sol Sender, the graphic designer responsible for President Obama’s 2008 campaign logo. “Plus, there’s probably an urgency.”

Cruz’s emblem is a trio of upward-winding flames, colored as the American Flag. But critics have chimed in that the blue patch and white stars are on the opposite side from where they should be, and some on social media have even claimed the image suggests a burning flag.


Critics say Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's simple red flame logo is too bland.

Paul's logo features a solid red flame flickering above his block-lettered first name.

“Sen. Rand Paul has always stood for liberty, and what better represents liberty than Lady Liberty's torch?” a Paul spokesman told FoxNews.com.

Rubio’s logo features a small, red silhouette of the continental U.S. dotting the lower case “i” in his last name. The illustration leaves out Hawaii and Alaska, an omission that didn’t escape Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat.

Clinton used a blue capital “H” bisected by a red, right-pointing arrow. Whistleblowing website Wikileaks saw a similarity to its own Twitter logo, tweeting that Clinton “has stolen our innovative” design. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn likened the Clinton image to a hospital traffic sign.

Used to working on corporate projects that had a minimum of eight to 12 weeks design time, Sender, now with the firm VSA Partners, said he and a small team devised and presented the Obama symbol in fewer than two weeks. That parallels the swift design process of the Paul campaign, which decided on the concept of a liberty torch with flame and designed the logo in-house.

“We felt more pressed from a creative development perspective than we would like to be in an ideal situation,” Sender said of his work for the Obama campaign.


Florida Sen. Marco Rubio only represented 48 states -- and 263 electoral votes -- in his logo.

Sender said he never heard directly from Obama about what direction to take the logo, and dealt mainly with Obama campaign chief David Axelrod. Axelrod presented Sender with some general thoughts, but never specifically cited the “hope and change” message that became analogous with Obama’s run.

“They gave us a less well-developed brief than we would expect in a typical corporate or consumer brand situation,” Sender said.

Paul’s campaign took the additional step of tweeting a link to the logo and asking “graphic designers across the country” to add their input. “This is your campaign,” Paul tweeted.

But can an incomplete map, backwards flag, red flame or an arrow really have an impact on a national campaign?

“Icons are very powerful things and that [Obama] symbol got used independent of the candidate's name," Sender said. "We didn’t even need to put ‘Barack Obama’ next to it. When you look at the world and semantic reality and how people experience visual communications, those are very powerful things. I think it can be a very galvanizing force.”


Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the first candidate to announce he was running for the 2016 presidential nomination -- and the first to face design critiques.