Ukip's logo is quite successful – in communicating a spirit of gung-ho crapness

But what are the Conservatives doing to their tree?

11 October 2014

9:00 AM

11 October 2014

9:00 AM

Now that the conference season is over, we can compare not just the party policies, but their logos too. Last week’s Tory conference taught us the patriotic adaptation of their tree — now draped in the Union Flag — doesn’t work any better than the original green-tree symbol. The old symbol demonstrated Conservative values as imagined by the Innocent smoothie design team. It said ‘Tradition’. It said ‘the Environment’. It said, ‘Look what I can do with my crayons, Mummy.’

Stephen Bayley, design expert and Spectator colleague, was one of the hapless advisers tasked with picking the old logo. ‘Not so great,’ he told me, ‘but you should have seen the alternatives.’ The Union Flag tree was in part the brainchild of Andy Coulson, who felt the British flag should be involved somehow. But it looks like a sop to the disillusioned Tory right, meeting the improbable brief of being both patronising and scary.

Never underestimate the power of a strong institutional image, as one old ad slogan went. From the cross to the swastika (itself a conscious denial of the former when nicked by the Nazis), good logos are loaded with significance. At best, they should be shorthand for complex ideas — daubing a hammer and sickle on to the wall of your local McDonald’s is quicker, more effective and a damn sight less boring than copying out the entirety of Das Kapital.

You wouldn’t see this with the Tory logo, old or new. Nor would you get it from Labour. The red is a start — but the rose? You’d think they were a socialist dating agency. The most interesting thing you could say of the Lib Dems’ ‘Bird of Freedom’ is that it has an unfortunate similarity to the logo of Holland’s hard-right Party for Freedom. The latter, as the broadcaster Jonathan Meades told me, was adopted when the party began gunning for popular support, ‘disassociating itself from the pan-European far right to suggest it is just as wet as the Lib Dems’.

Ukip’s symbol is quite successful by comparison. It communicates the spirit of gung-ho crapness the party uses to sell itself as an antidote to Westminster slickness. It’s hilariously amateurish. The colours make it look like an angry pimple, while the design is Poundstretcher by way of clipart. You get the point, though. They know what country they live in and they won’t be targeting the aesthete vote any time soon.

It’s just easier for a fringe party to get the message across, and easier still for an extremist one. But why is the political mainstream’s design quite so rotten? Bayley has a theory: ‘Very little, in my opinion, that is worthwhile arises from consensus or committee. Since democratic politicians depend on market research and groupthink, the circumstances to do decent creative work on their behalf don’t exist.’ If you’re trying to please everyone, you lose the essential single-mindedness needed for a decent logo. It’s the art director’s answer to that old joke about train times: say what you like about Hitler, but at least he gave a clear design brief.

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  • cargill55

    The reference on his Twitter profile says :

    Digby Warde – Aldam. Not quite as stupid as his name

    Well at least he got the name bit right.

    • oh i’m going to miss you kippers. you’re so sweetly prickly. How dare DW-A make fun of our logo!

      • cargill55

        He’s a fool, that’s all.

  • Jacques Strap

    Well the Tories wanted to sell off our forests….

    No doubt their tree will end up under a newbuild housing estate. Nick Boles would love it.

    I think the legalise cannabis party has the best logo. You know what it represents instantly.

  • Kitty MLB

    Oh the UKIP logo is awful.. can give you a nasty headache, and who in gods name
    would ever put purple and yellow together.

    • Sam_Beresford

      It’s noticeable though!

    • Swanky

      Someone that wants to get your attention and to show that they’re not like all the other parties.

  • John Carins

    How many times have the Conservatives changed their logo? Symbolic of the loss of values and movable policies I guess.

    • you_kid

      I suggest Ukip jump ship and on the bandwagon of progressive youff culture simply to attract a wider, (and most importantly) younger audience. Don’t change the colour scheme like the conservative pseudo-Greenies did – just change what is depicted (see avatar).

  • Radford_NG

    The UKIP logo grew organically,and was originally the generic £ symbol badge of the `no to the euro` movement.

    The Lib. Dem. bright bird I like;pity about the party.

    The Labour rose I object to;the rose being the flower of England.It was adopted by Kinnock who was trying to restore the reputation of the party after the `gauche ga-ga`days.He picked up the rose symbol from one of the East European freedom movements.(I forget which.)

    As for the Conservative `tree`….D.W-A says it all.There was nothing wrong with the previous `torch` symbol.

  • Mike

    Ukips logo seems quite in line with their stated policies, keep the pound and stand up for Britain.

    The Greens is what you’d expect and obviously boring.

    The Tories use of the Union Jack is a bit of an oxymoron these days. Cameron has sold out Britain to the EU and very nearly lost Scotland from the logo so whats the connection.

    Labours rose is half right due to the unpleasant fact that every rose has thorns and embracing Labour is very risky and hazardous to your health.

    As for the LibDumbs, the colour and symbol are right as they’re a bunch of yellow bellied apologists for the EU and will fly off to Brussels to get even more strictures for the UK to obey.

    • bionde

      Labour’s rose is an accurate representation of their party- very red and full of pricks

  • Sam_Beresford

    Am I the only one who thinks the Tory logo looks like a unionist logo from Northern Ireland?

  • Morgeo

    Conservatives have a Union Jack but don’t represent the British people. So that emblem is a joke. You can see it fraying at the edges.
    Labour is a rose but where is the thistle or leek ? Not very clever.
    Lib/Dem’s have a bird which I suppose is a dove but it seems more like a pigeon looking for easy pickings.
    Ukip at least represent the constituents and are not feathering their own nest and not willing to live under laws that are thrust upon the country by an unelected bunch of idiots who want square tomatoes and straight cucumbers.

  • Swanky

    Goodness, what a tendentious snooty piece of up-yourselfness this review is. Firstly I do not see what is so awful about the new union-jack Conservative logo: it has a certain vibrancy and verve, and is not the least bit ‘scary’ (what drugs are you on?). ‘Tory right’: you mean there IS such a thing? I hadn’t noticed.

    As for the LibDems, that’s orange-yellow for the ‘golden tomorrow’ they believe in, the daft apeths. It’s not in the least bit like the other bird emblem shown here.
    Labour’s rose is the Left as ever trying to soft-sell its incredibly outworn and indeed immoral message (socialism not only does not work, it kills, as the 20th century so mind-bogglingly demonstrated).

    As for UKIP, you might have made more of what looks like the pound sign and asked why that was chosen as the visual, never mind the colours (which I find uplifting, bright, modern). But as a UKIP supporter, why should I feed you your material?