America’s 250th Anniversary Logo Got Released — And It’s Even Worse Than You’d Expect

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Gage Klipper Commentary & Analysis Writer
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It looks “like absolute ass.”

That’s how the Daily Caller’s Andrew Powell perfectly described the new logo celebrating the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

He’s right, of course — but a closer look is needed.

Great art isn’t meant to represent a subject on its own terms, but as the artist sees it. In turn, what the artist sees often reflects the values and ideals of his moment in history. For example, Michelangelo’s masterpiece “David” depicts the biblical hero who defeated Goliath, but with its idealized form and anatomically correct musculature, represents a Renaissance infatuation with humanism.

In an age when our culture feels stunted — resigned to a future worse than our past — it’s no wonder that America’s corporate-tested semiquincentennial logo feels so uninspired. (RELATED: Why Does The Logo For America’s 250th Birthday Look Like Absolute A**?)

In her announcement, America250 Chair Rosie Rios described the bicentennial logo that inspired her as a child nearly 50 years ago. The “double-lined five-pointed red and blue star with rounded edges that was vibrant, dynamic, and became a symbol for what our nation stood for.” Everyone knows the story behind the stars on the American flag; there is one for each state in the Union. But in Christianity, the five-pointed star represents the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the three wise men to the birthplace of Jesus. It stands as a symbol of protection and divine guidance — precisely the Founders’ hope for a new nation.

The new logo is nothing less than the death of symbolism. The number “250” offers a literal representation of the moment it is meant to commemorate. It uses exactly what it needs to convey what it is, but eschews any superfluous feature that would tell us what it stands for. With digits interconnected by sharp edges and shallow-arched stripes, efficiency seems to be the only guiding light.

“How do we create a product with the least amount of raw material?” the artists at “brand design firm” Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv seem to be asking. It reflects a perfect contentment with being — to remain exactly what it is with no desire to imagine anything grander.

Sure, the “flowing” ribbons form a “single continuous path,” ostensibly meant to represent “the unity, cooperation, and harmony we strive for as a country.” But at a time when the powers-that-be mobilize against half the country as potential “domestic terrorists” and “semi-fascists,” does anyone truly believe this is still what we strive for, let alone embody? Rather than a flowing ribbon, the motif seems to evoke a cable, much like the similarly styled logo at CNN. The outlet’s founders reportedly chose the monogram with a line like a “cable connecting the characters” to indicate the outlet’s ability to keep a “finger on the pulse of world news.” But America’s new cable has fewer grand ambitions. It seeks only to lay the path of least resistance to maintain the status quo.

One might argue that marketing designs are not art, and should not be held to the same standard. They do not exist to promote an ideal or any great truth, but to promote and sell a product — whether it be consumer goods or a moment in time. The 250 logo is part of identifying a “brand identity” after all, which has been a longstanding marketing practice that pre-dates our current pathologies. But take a look back at some of America’s most brilliant advertising campaigns and it would be hard to deny their artistic merit. (RELATED: How Stupidity Became America’s Most Valuable Social Currency)

Advertising from the 1940s and 50s sought to entice a population weary from wartime rationing with an all-American ideal of prosperity, the material validation of the principles so many in that generation had fought and died to preserve. With beautiful families living in suburban paradise, ads often took inspiration from Norman Rockwell to sell the heartwarming moment only this product could provide.

The 1960s and 70s ushered in the Golden Age of Advertising. Younger generations sought to split from convention in all its forms. Spreads represented modern ideals for the modern consumer — and became a lot more sexual. Scantily clad, single women sold everything from liquor and cigarettes to Coke and Coppertone. The cultural pulse of America beat towards revolution and companies lined up to give it to them.

In the 1980s and 90s, the social revolution transformed into a technological one. Personal computers, mobile phones, the internet — all were beginning to rise as America emerged victorious from the Cold War. Some of the best ads of the time sold the promise of limitless potential. Apple’s iconic 1984 Superbowl promised a technological utopia far different from George Orwell’s “1984,” while the 1997 “Think Different” campaign lionized the creators and innovators who had “no respect for the status quo.”

A disdain for the status quo is something all of these ads shared throughout the decades. Yes, their goal was to sell a product, but they had enough respect for the public to understand this was what they had to do to make a successful appeal. These ads do not reflect the lifestyle of the average person in their respective time periods. Rather, they reflect an ideal — the standard of excellence the average American strived for, however it was defined at a certain moment. They are not just aesthetically superior to the 250 logo, but vastly excel at evoking the desired feeling in their target audience.

With an indifferent shrug at American greatness, the 250 logo mistakes elite sensibilities with the general mood of the people. Our leaders demand we be grateful for what they give us, and scoff at the idea of ordinary people daring to want more. What they fail to see is that America is much more than a brand — it’s an identity, a culture, a heritage, an ideal unto itself. As the aspirational spirit of the design falls away, all we are left with is a product to buy. And that is not enough to keep a country together for long.

“You don’t deserve better,” our leaders remind us with this logo.

In the spirit of the Declaration, it falls to all of us to show them that we do.