Did brand mark design predict Trump’s rise to power?

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How brand marks reflect social & cultural trends.

Just like uncovering a time capsule or the remains of a petrified Mammoth, a collection of branding from any given period tells us much about that point in time. A case in point is this great snapshot of historic brand marks featuring factories. As we have moved from the industrial revolution through a technological revolution, the factory and it’s symbolism as an icon for business might have both diminished from the landscape of our cities and brand world.

In his book Creating the Corporate Soul: The Rise of Public Relations and Corporate Imagery in American Big Business, Roland Marchand writes that; “during the late nineteenth century and even later in some cases, as industries rapidly expanded, the factory image made good sense as a merchandising and public relations vehicle. Impressive and often romanticized, it assured customers that they were dealing with a stable, competent firm. These depictions sought to hearten executives and impress viewers by displaying billows of (productive) black smoke spouting from a multitude of chimneys.”

Whilst this approach to reflecting the standing of a business through the iconography it uses to represent itself to the market hasn’t changed, they type of imagery used has evolved as technology has come to replace manufacturing as a symbol of the future.


Whilst the rest of the world has seen a continuing decline in factory iconography in brand visual language, the last 20 years has seen a marked increase in this symbolism in the US.

Most interesting is a trend in the United States that has seen the reemergence in popularity of the factory in brand identity design. Whilst the rest of the world has seen a continuing decline in the use of factory iconography in brand visual language, the last 20 years has seen a marked increase in this symbolism in the US. This trend is so pronounced in the US that brand identities featuring factories in their design are almost as popular as they were at their height in the 1940s.

This trend reflects the wave of social sentiment of romance with the old days that Trump used so effectively to surf into the White House. When times become uncertain, many people (customers and captains of industry alike) are drawn to the sense of ‘when times were better’. Whilst usually coloured by the rose tinted glasses of time, ‘the old days’ can become a powerful emotional current – especially during times of recession and social instability.

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It turns out that tracking trends in brand identity iconography not only provides an historic snapshot, but also a guide to current social sentiment.

Dave Ansett
David is the founder of Truly Deeply, recognized as a top Branding Agency on DesignRush with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. David has extensive experience working with hospitality, retail, food & beverage and entrepreneurial clients. Find out more here.

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