I've been following the election for some time now (ever since the party nominations gave me a reason to care) and have, until the eve of the election, generally ignored the candidate's websites. I've seen several comments from various respected news organizations on the idea that Obama ran a perfect campaign (or as close as one could come) and at least from an aesthetic point of view I'm inclined to agree. Obama did several things with the visual design of this campaign that few candidates have done in recent memory, several of which created quite a bit of interest in the design community. For starters, Obama has a logo. Not some crappy wordmark that Steve's friend who has a Mac and a bootlegged copy of Illustrator laid out last night, but an honest to God logo. It's even a pretty good logo. Granted it's not the best I've ever seen, but it's versatile, and it also manages to be timeless and modern enough at the same time to have that special appeal that a good logo should. The O is obvious (in a good way), the flag motif comes across nicely and it still looks pretty snazzy when they give it that oh-so-unique and never-been done-before web 2.0 glossy button effect. So Obama has a logo. Good for him. John McCain manages a star and some angled rule lines. Country First. A nice message, one that manages to convey that tasty war-hero flavor, but fairly generic and reeking of every campaign for the last 15 years. So McCain's group kind of lacked foresight on that one. Endemic of the rest of the campaign? Seemingly. So from the logo, we move on to the typography. Obama used a very nice typeface called Gotham. Clean, crisp, modern (but in a traditional way) and unified in form enough to blend with nearly any visual element. McCain's typography is unremarkable. So much so that I didn't bother to find out what typeface he used. Blech. Something with serifs. Perhaps the largest part of the campaign's visual cannon is the website. Obama's website conveys the right message. Hope. The page itself is almost angelic, with a brilliant azure background, ethereal glowing swashes appearing on either side of the header, everything with a glow, everything with a subtle drop shadow. Lots of white space and only two columns. Easy to read (Hillary supporters click here - bravely done, sir). McCain's website has too much stuff. Too many columns, too much type too close together. Too many colors. If McCain's target is grumpy, old, white men then this clutter, colorful mess of over-stimulation is not the right method of attracting them. I think the aesthetics of these campaigns speak volumes about the actual campaigns themselves. Obama's visual style is clean, direct, focused and essentially unvarying. McCain's visual style is cluttered, going too many directions at once and lacks focus over all. McCain's campaign presented a visual style that was outdated and essentially didn't do anything to show that McCain was a maverick (visually). If he can't even back his message up with a cohesive, branded visual campaign, how can we expect him to follow through in other respects?