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Why Clinton Lost To Obama. Obama Designed A Better Campaign.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on June 04, 2008

There are many reasons why Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic Party nomination to Barack Obama but perhaps the most important is that the Obama campaign’s use of modern principles in design thinking and web social networking was superior to Hillary’s traditional approach of marketing metrics and personal networking.

There are important lessons here not only to people in politics but to managers in business. The new is defeating the old.

Lesson #1— New digital networking is better than old personal networking. Obama raised more money from more people using the net than Clinton raised using lunches and dinners. His digital network was far larger, younger and more middle class. Her personal network was much smaller, older and richer. He used twitter to great effect. She uses twitter but to little effect. Jason Oke points out on his blog that on twitter, Obama his campaign offers to follow you once you sign up. He has 33,000 people signed up—and follows 33,000 people. Hillary’s twitter site does not follow people when they sign up and has only 4,000 people on it. As Oke puts it, Obama has a different—and better-grammar of social media.

Lesson #2— Voter experience is more important than marketing metrics. Obama’s campaign, especially his speeches, was designed to evoke powerful emotional responses of hope and change from primary voters. There was strong bonding and loyalty between Obama and his organization and voters. Hillary succeeded in doing this with older Boomer women, but not with other voters. She relied on polling research and marketing and metrics to guide her campaign, offering programs of help to dozens of slices of voters. It was transactional—something for each and every segment. In the end, emotional bonding trumped transactional promises. Designing a better voter experience was more important than numbers generated by market/polling research.

Lesson #3- Gen X is more powerful and imporant than the Boomer generation. Hard as it may be to accept for the dominant and dominating demographic, the boomers, it's influence in society is waning. The even larger (by a smidgen) Gen X generation, with its own net-centric ways of organizing and communicating, is starting to take control of US society. The message to politicians and managers alike is simple: Don't play old King Canute and stand on the shore telling the tide not to come in. The Gen X tide is inevitable and overwhelming.

Brian Collins, a great branding guru, sends in a link to an interview he did with ABC News on the different typefaces the three candidates chose in the primary campaigns. Obama chose a modern typeface invented in the last five years. Clinton goes with a more traditional one.

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Reader Comments

Pete Mortensen

June 4, 2008 05:34 PM

Though I think most of your points are correct, Bruce, I think the over-arching framework you put on it is wide of the mark. What evidence of design thinking do you see in his campaign? A new typeface? A Twitter account?

His campaign's fundraising model was a brilliant adaptation of Howard Dean's that brought in a lot of dollars without helping him to win the nomination. Social media have nothing to do with design thinking. Twitter, for example, was basically designed with no particular thought for how it would ever make any money. It was designed to be about the service first, not about the people who would use it or or its business model, which I thought were pre-requisites for design thinking.

Conversely, you could argue that Obama won because he just had a more operationally effective staff and a more widespread grass-roots campaign. Or that he's a master of old-school strategy and management techniques. It doesn't take design thinking to win in caucus states, it takes hard work and a massive street team.

I think what you're talking about here has very little to do with innovation or design thinking and everything to do with one campaign that genuinely connected with and understood the needs of people across this country, and another campaign that analyzed voters like test tubes full of chemicals. Hillary's campaign is a testament to the failure of Mark Penn's "Microtrends" and of patently divisive polling techniques for understanding who other people are.

Obama's victory was one of genuine human connection over "market research."


June 4, 2008 06:35 PM

The writer overstates technology. In states where Obama outspent Hillary 3:1, Obama won. In states that Obama outspent Hillary 2:1, she won.

Money talks according to this article:

Barack winning has nothing to do with font types or social media networks. Barack wins by out $$$$$$$ his competition.


June 4, 2008 06:35 PM

Yes, his campaign appearred to be much better organized. Yes his speeches were designed to evoke powerful emotional responses and that was the key.

In contrast to Clinton's negative images, cold and calculating delivery and transparent false concern for the constituents she was trying to influence, Obama's optimistic tone and positive view of the future dramatically contrasted to her "cold war" view of election campaign techniques.


June 4, 2008 06:36 PM

Yes, his campaign appearred to be much better organized. Yes his speeches were designed to evoke powerful emotional responses and that was the key.

In contrast to Clinton's negative images, cold and calculating delivery and transparent false concern for the constituents she was trying to influence, Obama's optimistic tone and positive view of the future dramatically contrasted to her "cold war" view of election campaign techniques.


June 4, 2008 06:37 PM

Of course, you opt for the sexy over the staple here. The sexy may be social media, but the staple is the issue that governed the early part of this primary season: the Iraq war.

The war is hugely unpopular. Clinton voted for it. Obama advocated against it.

Without that single insight, your twitter is on mute: we don't "follow" you. I know you want to find an excuse to talk new media. Fine, but eat the meat on your plate first, son, before you babble on.


June 4, 2008 06:54 PM

Hillary Clinton is STUNNING!!!

You have just witnessed the greatest political campaign fight in American history. One for the textbooks, and the history books. Hillary Clinton fought her heart out against all odds to win for all of the American people . While at the same time doing her best to prepare Sen. Barack Obama to win in November if he was the nominee. STUNNING!!! WELL DONE HILLARY CLINTON. WELL DONE! Your AMAZING! :-)

Sen. Obama could not have had a better opponent than Hillary Clinton. Nor could he have had a better opponent to prepare him for the battle royal to come against John McCain and the Republicans ahead of the November elections. Hillary Clinton was like a big Mama cat determined to teach her kitten how to hunt, and hang with the big dogs for the fights ahead.

And how about Bill Clinton, Chelsea, and th whole Clinton team. They were magnificent. They really showed their metal. BRAVO! TEAM CLINTON... BRAVO!

And how about YOU! my fellow Americans. I'm so proud of you. And proud to be one of you. You showed what you are made of. And what makes America so great. You never gave up on your Champion Hillary Clinton. Time, and time again you eagerly waited your turn to vote for Hillary Clinton. To pick her up and pass her along down the line to the rest of your fellow Americans.

You never gave up on her. Just as Hillary Clinton never gave up on you. No matter how many times they counted her out. No matter how many times they brutally knocked her down. You knew she would get back up. And you were ready to support her when she did. AMERICA LOVES A FIGHTER. AMERICA UNDERSTANDS A FIGHTER. AMERICA IS A FIGHTER. I'M PROUD OF YOU AMERICA!

Hillary said she would accept the VP spot on the ticket if ask. And I am thrilled to hear that. I think it would be crazy not to take her up on that offer. You could not have a better VP than Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is Sen. Obama's best chance of winning the Whitehouse in November. And it is essential that the democrats take back the Whitehouse.

The American people are in a very desperate condition now. George Bush has wrecked America, and much of the world.



jacksmith... Working Class :-)

p.s. I really liked Sen. Barack Obama's speech in Minnesota. I think he just maybe ready now for the Bush Republican attack machine, dirty tricks, and vote fraud machine. :-)

Michael David

June 4, 2008 06:57 PM

I agree with the previous reader who commented. This article is over-generalized and has no credibility when subjected honest rigorous intellectual thought. It's the kind of drivel the media has been trying to spoon feed to a reading public that it under-estimates. Don't write anything if you are just going to write hackneyed cliches.


June 4, 2008 06:59 PM

Completely agree with the tech component. I live in Palo Alto and you have to be so out of the loop not to see what tech can do and has done. I have been begging my demographic to use technology in so many ways..a wiki for group documents that are currently only emailed, for example. But they ignore me and think that email is high tech. We are all female boomers. I finally left the group, it was like talking to my grandparents. That must be how many of the Obama supporters thought about the Hillary campaign. The "genuine human connection" Pete says caused the win could only have happened in the context of a tech savvy community organizer. Hillary had all the pluses for a campaign in a pre digital world.


June 4, 2008 07:08 PM

If he wants to get to the White House, Obama needs to reverse his current trend as he heads into battle with McCain.

He also needs to tap Hillary for VP.


June 4, 2008 07:13 PM

Hillary blew the campaign right from the start by failing to apologize for, or even acknowledge, her culpability in getting us involved in the Iraq war. If she had been more forthcoming and honest about her involvement in this monumental fiasco she would have gained some respect. Since she chose to completely ignore this issue, Hillary lost major credibility points with the American people.

Her campaign was based on a single flawed premise; namely, the notion that she was the most qualified person so we have to elect her as our nominee. She really brought no new ideas to the table. The Clinton arrogance was palpable.

Her twisting of facts and figures to suit her own agenda was very off-putting. I think the American people are very suspect of anything that even remotely smells like lies! This wasn’t the right time to run a political campaign based on half truths.

I don’t think it was a good idea to change her accent and message every time she spoke to a different audience. The president must lead the entire nation as a whole, not one little group at a time. This tactic struck me as a bit disingenuous and left me believing I couldn’t trust anything she had to say.

And now that the campaign is over, she has the hubris to deny Obama any acknowledgement for his well deserved victory and is now attempting to hijack the vice-presidency for herself. The Clinton’s really have to grow up and accept reality. Obama would be wise to have nothing to do with these people, he can win the presidency on his own merits and without all the Clinton baggage.

will ross

June 4, 2008 07:38 PM

another measure of the organizational differences between the two campaigns is obama's hiring rule #1 -- "no drama" -- which contributed to a cohesive team environment. by contrast, the clinton team over time was characterized by contention and organizational turnover. from a leadership perspective, team obama worked forward from a single cohesive strategic plan, stayed on message and on budget, and executed the plan, while team clinton saw leadership turnover, message migration, budget chaos and too many chiefs.


June 4, 2008 07:57 PM

Mostly good points, but Lesson 3 requires clarification; i.e. how are you defining Generation X and Baby Boomer? Generally "Generation X" has referred to the "baby bust" following the boom; i.e., years of low birthrate, from 1965-78. Therefore by definition it is not "even larger (by a smidgen)" than the boomer generation. That also assume you treat the entire boom as one generation. In recent years the latter half of the boom has increasingly been viewed as a separate generation, dubbed by Jonathan Pontell "Generation Jones". That Jones group is larger than the first half of the boom. Generation Jones also coincides with Canadian author Douglas Coupland's Generation X, which predates the baby bust use.

Joshua Drake

June 4, 2008 09:03 PM

Good post about an interesting theory.

Pete, empathy is an essential element of design thinking.

Bruce Temkin

June 4, 2008 09:20 PM

Clinton's campaign just lost its soul (assuming that it had one to begin with). I'm not saying that Hillary is walking around like some type of zombie, but there was no clear purpose driving her candidacy and too little that appealed to voters at an emotional level. When a candidate heavilly analyzing how his/her message will play across different voting segments, he/she can lose sight of what is most important: the message. People want to see that their candidates truly believe in something. To me, Hillary's situation mirrors the problem within many large companies: they've lost their souls, and lack purpose.

You can see my thoughts in my blog "Customer Experience Matters" (

bruce nussbaum

June 4, 2008 10:06 PM

I increasingly think that design is being defined by sociology and that one reason why design is so important today is that is meshes with social media so well. Connection and emphathy are critical components of design and both are emobodied in social media. I don't have this quite worked out yet but I think there is something important there.
I think the Obama campaign was far more empathetic and connected, both emotionally and organizationally through twitter and other web networks, than the Clinton campaign, which was more transactional (specific program deals offered to many, narrow niche groups).
I do recognize that older boomer women did have a strong emotional connection to Clinton, but that was out of identification and history, not something her campaign generated. And she didn't promise them anything--unless all the other groups her campaign focussed on.
In some ways, people co-created the Obama campaign online, with money and organizational help. And that, too, I would argue, is design these days.
Watcha think?


June 4, 2008 10:33 PM

The Obama campaign was better run than Clinton's in every respect. Yes, Dean pioneered Internet fundraising, but Obama and Clinton had equal opportunity to use it and Obama used it better.

That is partially what enabled him to outspend her. And, he needed to outspend her because she started this primary season with every possible advantage, from money to name recognition to media contacts to donor lists to Super Delegates to love of the Clinton brand in the hearts of many Democrats. She polled 30 points or more ahead of him in every state--at first.

Also, he spent wisely, spending less where he knew he would not win, no matter what. He also reduced his campaigning dramatically after he had a majority of the pleged delegates She did not spend wisely. He hired on the basis of competence; she on the basis of loyalty.

Most of all, though, he understood this was a delegate contest, had a 50 state strategy and proceeded accordingly. She thought she was as inevitable as the press claimed. She proceeded as athough she would win all the early primaries and emerge a clear winner by Super Tuesday.

She was stunned when that did not happen and never seemed to re-group to form another strategy, except to get more and more negative and divisive, which caused defections in her SD base.

She entered Texas saying she was only just learning about the Teas Two Step. Guess who won the delegate race in Texas? Obama.

Between them, Bill and Hillary have many more campaigns under their belts than Obama. Which is a perfect example of why you pick the best and the brightest, and not the most experienced one. However, while on that subject, Obama has more years in elected office than she does and got his jobs without the influence of his spouse.

Jason Oke

June 4, 2008 11:08 PM

Bruce -
Thanks for referencing my piece, much appreciated.

While I agree with several of the commenters that there are many factors that led to Obama's success, some of them traditional politicking, I really believe you're spot on about the importance of connection and empathy in his campaign. I'd say it's been the key underlying theme of his whole campaign and the reason that design, social media, and grassroots operations have become such important parts of it.

It's also evident in his speeches, even last night, which tend to use "we" instead of "I". Even look at the legally registered names of the campaigns: "Hillary for President" vs "Obama for America" - small but it says a lot.

Ronald E Scott

June 4, 2008 11:14 PM

At this poiont Hillary Clinton doesn't owe the Demoratic Party a thing. She should run as an Independent. She and Bloomberg would make a winning team
Lieberman and a lot of moderate Democrats would join her Many of us moderate Republicans admired her magnificent campaign and would vote for her. Obama will get only the students and the Blacks. She would get the rest of the Democrats. The Republican Right
hate McCain and will stay at home Hillary will romp to victory .

Pete Mortensen

June 4, 2008 11:56 PM

Bruce, I totally agree with the follow-up comment. You nailed it on the second time out. I just wanted to make it clear that empathy isn't a subset of design thinking -- it is, on its own, the fundamental source of growth and change.


June 5, 2008 02:25 AM

When are any of the news people going to investigate all the bills that Obama worked on while in the Senate? That would give voters an idea of the kind of priorities that Obama really cares about.
Isn't that what news organizations are suppose to do?


June 5, 2008 03:58 AM

I certainly don't disagree with your points Bruce. But I do recoil a bit at your citing design principles as "perhaps the most important" reason Obama won.

I can think of a lot more reasons that were more important. Most of them values-based.

And, yeah, I know you appreciate that and all. But I gotta say, it feels like you're co-opting a major historic event to make a self-(or industry-) serving point. And that just feels kinda Ickes.


June 5, 2008 09:25 AM

The power of clairvoyance on Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton’s touted soon-to-come concession will be inconclusive and a cliffhanger. She still strongly believes in clairvoyance which as recently as the beginning of May reconfirmed she would get the nomination. Not all in her inner camp believed this, Bill included. The pressure by her staff to give up after North Carolina and Indiana was resisted solely because of this strong faith in clairvoyance. The RFK and June reference was not a misspeak, but had been discussed and rumored within the inner circle. It has been assured to her again and again that something catastrophic will happen towards the mid of June, and she would get the nomination. However, the pressure in the recent days has become too intense, but she is bidding for time, and still strongly believes in waiting till towards mid June as she was assured. Hence, even when she stages a mock concession this weekend, it will go thus: I am suspending my campaign to support BHO, but wish to retain the right to hold onto my delegates and votes, and enjoy the necessary visibility to continue to promote my agenda on health care, economy, ending the war, and the environment. Do not be mistaken, she still believes strongly that the nomination will be hers. If the DNC and her increasingly dissenting inner circle do not prevail on her to make an unconditional concession, she will hold onto this believe, and will try to force things to happen by herself at some point before August. She is herself becoming increasingly impatient against the advice that she remains calm and patient till all is fulfilled. I am one who no longer shares this belief.


June 5, 2008 07:23 PM

The Democrats' recent primary battle is indeed a great story of design. That story centers on the Clintonistas efforts to fight Howard Dean's attempt to bring men("Nascar dads")into a party that had become 65% female. The Clintonistas quickly swung into action, after all, their plan was exactly the opposite: Make the party 75-80% female, greasing the wheels for a Hillary campaign. Suddenly, during the '06 campaign cycle, news features began to appear on network and cable news lamenting the lack of voting among the nations 20 million young single females--what a crisis! There was only one problem--the youngest single female voters participate at higher rates than their married counterparts, as well as single and married males. The Clintonistas knew they could depend on the media pandering to women(You mean you actually believe that the media isn't biased on behalf of the largest, and most powerful block of voters/consumers--white females? Shame on you!) It was going to be a slam dunk. She would bash males, the media would back her, when these males fought back she would cry sexism, the media would back her, and an outraged political party of 80% females would carry her to the White House.
This was all designed before the race began in order to beat her main contenders--assumed at that time to be white males. Enter design flaw #1! There turned out to be TWO candidates who could play the struggle-for-equality card, much to the Clintons' surprise.
But the surprises did not end there. The Clintonistas did not get blanket support from young women--and this is where it gets really interesting in sociological terms. For nearly two generations now, the "angry white gals" have been getting their revenge on American sexism, by living through their daughters and creating supergirls. The good news is that they have succeeded; the bad news for Hillary is that these young women don't perceive a code-red male-bashing response as necessary in today's political environment. Where I live, in Washington State, we have two white female senators and a white female governor--all Democrats, and we ended up choosing Obama. No one from the national media has ever ask us why.
Today, if a young woman says yes to education, yes to family planning, and skips the romance section and goes to the personal finance section at the bookstore, she has a real chance at success. We are not in Saudi Arabia--nor are we living in the 1950's.
But there is something else: these younger women do not get the obsession of older women about Hillary. That is beause Hill is not seen as merely a female candidate who could prove that a woman could be president--that's nothing. She is the official leader of the first wives club of America and wow, is she doing the job. She is proving that she can do her ex-husband's job while locking his genitals in her purse(no more sex for you, Bill--think Seinfeld's soupNazi) and making him do her bidding as a subordinate. Do you have any idea how powerful this fantasy is to women aged 45 to 80--especially in the age of Viagra. Hillary was not a candidate for these women, she was the Holy Grail.
Suffice it to say, young women don't get this as much--if at all. Pretty much game over.


June 5, 2008 07:51 PM

I'm not too sure if the design principles you're citing are the reason why Obama won and Hilary didn't.
First of all, it was an incredibly close race, evidence that the shifting of generational power is more to the point here than design thinking. Hilary is old school, Obama is new school. Among my generation (Gen X), there's absolutely no question that Obama is more connected with the realities facing this nation over the next 20 years than either of the other two candidates (Hilary and McCain).
Second, Obama's use of social media does make him more accessible and (probably) more appealing to my generation. If we consider Obama as a brand and political experience, then perhaps a design thinking analysis makes more sense.
Lastly, design, to me, is decision making process centered around people and experience. Citing Obama's appeal to empathy and connection is, in this sense, a design strategy. However, at this point, I still think that this election is going to come down to whether or not the Boomers or the generations after can muster enough unity to shape our political future. Design thinking will influence future politics, as energy issues and the global economy will become dominant forces. Whether that comes out in this presidential election or the next, I don't know.

Tingoo from U.K.

June 6, 2008 12:36 AM

It really broke my heart firstly to see how cunning and manipulative Obama Barack has been in rivalry with Hillary Clinton.
Secondly, Barack Obama has supporters and financial back up that Hillary Clinton did not have. She was battling on her own literally.
Thirdly: Shame on AMERICAN PEOPLE for bullying a lady to corners and not respecting that SHE has SUBSTANCE over matter to offer as opposed to MAN EGO that talks but does NOT have any substance or experience. We in U.K. can see through this man Mr. Obama being a HYPOCRITE; BETRAYING U.S.A.
Fourthly: Obama being a Muslim converted into Christianity half heartedly respects or worships the church values and if we are to speak of racial discrimination, Obama Barack contemplates upon BLACK POWER/ FREEDOM more than anything.....
Fifthly: I challenge the Senator Obama:
What agenda does he have on:

Obama is all mouth and no trousers as we say in U.K.

Hillary Clinton is a lady of substance and maturity. You Americans are shameless people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


June 6, 2008 01:02 AM

I'm with Crawford. It is a bit like the zamboni manufacturer taking credit for the Red Wings' Stanley Cup.

Peter Triestman

June 6, 2008 02:01 AM

And, lets not forget that people don't want to see the shrill shrew and her embarassing husband anymore. Maybe she would have done better if he had an affair with a young woman, and the public would have felt sorry for her. Pathetic reasons to favor her, but what else could she have done better?


June 6, 2008 07:42 AM

Bruce, I think you highlighted something very important about design thinking in your latest response. While at heart of design solutions are a connection and empathy for people, I think your theories articulate something related to this, but deeper- that there is and important relationship between the realms of sociology and design.

While this is evident through examples in social media, the truth is design is involved in all sorts of social functions from the planning of organizational structures in society to the way a presidential campaign is devised. At the end of the day, these are all social problems involving the creation of systems of living and/or communication. They require design solutions and therefore require design thinking.

Joe from Chicago

June 7, 2008 01:19 AM

This is an interesting article, and there are some well reasoned comments providing alternative explanations. However, the overall vote was close: it seems impetuous for anyone to believe that a single story can explain such narrowly separated outcomes.

In fact, I think this summarizes my enthusiasm for Obama. His rhetoric suggests an understanding that the problems we face have many factors. I think he would realize that his job would be to "sail the ship of state," dynamically responding to "winds" and "tides" instead of applying the current administration's heels-dug-in political analysis. From how the campaigns were run and the candidate personae were forged, I can't imagine Hillary as a ship captain. Perhaps a bus driver, but also maybe just driving the lead car in the convoy and hoping everyone stays together.

Finally, for many people, the concept of "design" is very broad, almost a synonym for "a sensitivity to complex systems" (a la Bruce Mau, etc). So while I think it's far from "science" to draw the conclusions Bruce Nussbaum draws, I can appreciate the argument, and the discussion it has generated.

WIll @ Seattle

June 7, 2008 07:34 AM

Tingoo: First, it's not your country, is it? We made a bit of a point of telling y'all that a while back. No offense, but we don't usually presume to criticize _your_ mystical Government by Upper Class Twit Of The Year.

Second, you've been getting your alleged facts from quite a distance.

I started this campaign as a strong Clinton supporter, and only reluctantly gave up on Hillary over the space of months as I watched her -- and more particularly, her incompetent advisors -- turn away from a coherent and uplifting message to a dark, divisive and oft-times racist mess.

Hillary's failure came, not from media or elite conspiracies, but from her inability to run a national campaign.

This inability, I'm sorry to say, was not due to lack of native talent and experience, but her inability to fire the incompetent, hire the competent, and to do so when the need was most evident.

In contrast, the Obama campaign at the national and local levels was always fully aware of the strategic and tactical practices required to maximize their gains. Proving that one can win a national political battle is, in my opinion, the _minimal_ indicator that one is ready to administer a nation.

Third: I am indeed very sorry that we will not have our first female President this year. However, I tell you _as a former Clinton supporter_ that this particular woman did not do what needed to be done, this year.

There will be other women, other years, and I will fight for the ones who can continue the work of uniting these United States.

As for the contribution of design expertise to the success or failure of the two campaigns, that is a separate matter, and I'll have to think on it more deeply.

James Wu

June 7, 2008 08:19 PM

Hillary Clinton fatal problem is that she is too calculating. For example, she did not admit her voter on Iraq's was a mistake. I guess on her mind, she thought that Iraq war has a small chance of winning so she would not rollback her vote. She talked to people in the way that she assumed that people like to hear. As human, when people like to hear that you talked from your heart like real human, but not like a political machine. Even some words seem to be offending at the moment. When Obama said that middle class in rural area are bitter. It is offending but it is true. People will admit that and eventually agree with that. A great political leader is the one that talk to people's heart. Any technical issues like organization and fundraising will follow but they are not deciding factors. A great politician makes everything works for him/her. A bad one does not even though how carefully they are designed.

T.J. Hallowell

June 10, 2008 04:19 AM

The comments above made some very interesting points.

Certainly the use of the internet for fundraising and coordination was critical. Money provided BO with ground troops to get the vote out and establish more campaign offices.

Despite the importance GenX might think they have, they were a dismal disappointment in the 2004 election. They were courted to participate, text messaged endlessly but crapped out when it came time to actually vote. They just don't know how to follow through. If they think they have influence, they'll need to actually show up this time around. Maybe showing up at a polling place to use a 'homely' voting machine is just not a 'cool' user experience. Perhaps that is, in itself, a design problem.

Designers always like to think that "design" made the difference. My opinion is that it was a very minor player in this result. The principal differentiator of this contest was the media coverage. It changed minds. While the misogynists at MSNBC endlessly ridiculed Hillary, they were providing a "pillow" for BO, i.e. how can we make you more comfortable?
The misogyny was despicable. If the same level of racial hatred was leveled at BO there would have been rioting in the streets. Watts would have burned once again. But it's OK to be vile to women. I feel sorry for mothers trying to raise daughters to have self esteem while they are exposed to such hatred of Hillary by the media. This vile abuse has been OK. Why would any female want to run for public office?

For me, BO is merely a less qualified man displacing a more qualified woman. It happens all the time in every profession. So now we are left with a very tragic choice, Mr. Hundred Years War or as Tingoo said above "Obama is all mouth and no trousers as we say in U.K.".

Once the electorate realizes who BO will bring along in his circle of advisors, there will be even more disappointment. He has used gutter Chicago style politics to win his previous elections. I see him as a total hypocrite - a condescending, arrogant hypocrite. He's really stuck on himself - just look at his posters - he thinks he's the second coming of Christ.

We can all be happy with the realization that the double standard is alive and well.

I think McCain will win. Anyway, I think the Republicans should clean up the mess they've made.

Have a nice election!

mary hodder

June 10, 2008 08:34 AM

Should have responded to this sooner.. hope you see the comment.

Social media and information technology generally do not happen at one point in time. They happen and have effect over time.

I've been following Obama and Clinton on Twitter for the past 6 months. Obama's group wrote a script about 6 weeks ago to friend everyone who had friended Obama. Until then, they were similar in just having followers with no return following.

Also, the way their campaigns tweeted was really different. Often, up til the very end, when Obama made tweets more like Clinton, his tweets were generally unspecific broadcast tweets about say, a weeks worth of focus. Then you wouldn't hear from the campaign for another week.

Clinton on the other hand tended to tweet, around events, several times a day, very specifically. For examply, her tweets would say, speaking with this class at that school right now, then the next one would say, talking to a group of vets at x place, then the next would say, help us out with this action (including link to help) and so on. They also would be more high level, as in "today is Iowa" or whatever.. but the point is, I felt like I was following Hillary around in her tweets each day. Or hearing her thank supporters for specific areas and acts.

Barack, no. I felt like I was reading the weekly press release headline. Granted, the last couple of weeks of the campaign, he got more specific and conversational.

I agree that Barack did a better job of friending everyone back the past 6 or so weeks, and that it was fun to be friended back (my pic is at on the front page of his friend icon list on his page) but I don't think based upon what happened you can argue he got social media better than Clinton, overall.

They both learned over the course of the campaign, and in an instant, the Clinton campaign could write a script, friend everyone, and have things look instantly like they "got it" on that point all along.

It's the longer term interaction I care about.. and their actions don't really support what you said above.. about technologies and the candidates use of them, from my experience.



June 10, 2008 04:20 PM

I really think the commenters here are missing the point. Mr. Nussbaum is not claiming by any means that the ONLY deciding factor was design, but when all of the factors are compared, the addition of design really does make a difference, whether it be a phone or a campaign.

Frankly, the idea of "user experience" to explain the over arching message difference in Senator Obama's campaign is right on the money. And no one can argue that his graphic poster (which is no longer available because everyone bought every last one) was perhaps the most beautiful piece of campaign graphics used in a loooong time.

Every piece of messaging exudes just one ideal- Hope. The logo, the typeface, the posters, the actual speeches, the position on every point of policy- it all deals with hope.

And this message was indeed designed.

Rachel D.

June 12, 2008 12:31 PM


I am from the UK and find this debate fascinating:

1. The confusion of the definition/purpose/perpetrators of design as the field grows and morphs in new ways

...bunking up with...

2. the political conflict, mixed messages, and general passionate opinions associated with the Obama-Clinton race.

Bruce - was it how you had anticipated your post might provoke responses?

***I would firstly like to say how alarmed I am at the only other UK contribution within these comments. I wonder whether other readers perceive the British as 'rockers of the boat' or not? As a young professional over here I do have very differing opinions about the race, which have no place here, but am horrified at the idea of a 'we know best' comment. I don't know how else to express my distaste.***

Anyhow, back to the topic.
Bruce has identified the role of design in an arena that has clearly surprised some people. Empathy, feedback, co-design. All are very popular words at the moment for describing aspects of design thinking, and well they do.

I would agree with Monique and others: aspects of design and/or design thinking have been used to enhance campaigns and reach people. They are not the only tools used, but strong ones.
And Pete, the definition of design varies so much at the moment, but I believe empathy is widely accepted as a crucial part of design thinking, without which things simply fail or can have very negative unforseen consequences. Feelings and the pursuit of understanding are inextricably linked with the creation of solutions; things that work AND are wanted/needed.

I write only as a young thing, but I'm entering the design industry afresh and seeing an array of ways to apply what I have learnt so far. None of them beautifying products, but trying to affect change in the world. Young and idealistic perhaps, but these ideals are also akin to politics in ways I am only just discovering. Fighting to use what you've got to improve something but stay realistic. It strikes me that the two are starting to work together. Lets see where it appears in the presidential race.

Thanks to everyone for your comments that are helping me develop my thinking on this, and to Bruce for the spike of observation; so topical and bang on the money!

J Wareham

July 12, 2008 07:40 PM

Let me give you an honest (and less than honorable) explanation of why I like Obama.

Having grown up in the 1970s, I have lived with truckloads of white man’s guilt for years. While living in Europe for many years, I have often felt obliged to defend the USA against attacks of being a racist place – I have repeatedly argued that despite America’s many flaws, we do have more social mobility than most countries. Most acknowledge that the differences between Hillary’s and Obama’s politics are minimal. However, I do think that the symbolic value of having a African-American person elected president is nothing less than mind-blowing. As long as his politics are a shade more moderate than Bush, I will vote for him. I do not Twitter or Facebook or any of that stuff – hell I can barely SMS. For me, Obama being elected would somehow validate an ideal (perhaps naïve) that somehow, in all the rhetoric I was forced to digest as a child, some of it might be true. I might be able to shed just a little of all this white man’s guilt I have been carrying for so long.

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