You might’ve noticed that the White House website looked different on Inauguration Day. You might not have noticed that something else is different, too: the White House logo.
The new Administration subtly refreshed the logo: In contrast to the Trump Administration’s logo, Biden’s depicts the White House facade with architectural details like columns and windows in white on a navy blue background. According to Ben Ostrower, founder and creative director of the creative agency Wide Eye—which designed the logo along with White House creative director Carahna Magwood and illustrator John Mata—it took about 30 revisions to get it right. And that was just the beginning. From there, they designed an entire logo system, with each created to meet the needs of different contexts and mediums.
Think back on when you’ve seen the White House logo (like here), and it probably seems like it hasn’t changed at all. In fact, it has changed in minute ways from one administration to the next. The digital logos from the Bush and Obama eras had a gradient navy background framed with an oval. The Obama team simplified the previous logo by removing the words “The White House” and “Washington.” And in 2017, the Trump administration removed the oval frame and flattened and inverted the colors so the house itself was navy.
The latest update is meant to reflect the Biden Administration’s goals, according to White House director of digital strategy Rob Flaherty (as any logo design should). He points to shadowing behind the columns. “There’s a bit more texture to [the logo] than you might have on a flatter logo,” Flaherty says. “It is both forward looking while having its roots in something very traditional. That’s a nice statement about what we’re trying to do here. We are bringing the country together and winning the battle for the soul of the nation, but also trying to do it in a way that makes people’s lives materially better.”
The logo also depicts the building’s north facade. Though Ostrower says they toyed with the idea of showing the more picturesque South side, they ultimately stuck with tradition. The front door of the White House is on the north facade, so the logo symbolizes that the White House is accessible—the people’s house.
The logo also appears with two different typefaces used during Biden’s campaign—Mercury and Decimal—depending on context, with Mercury, a more traditional serif typeface, taking center stage. “The serif felt more august, befitting the office of the President,” says typographer Jonathan Hoefler, who designed the typefaces.
Hoefler also gave the typefaces a framework (above), showing the “voices that can be coaxed out of [them].” He took inspiration from Kennedy era letterhead that used a sans serif typeface, and suggested that the Biden design team apply Decimal in the same way. They now use it for print applications like stationery and press releases. “You can see the parallels,” says Flaherty of the Kennedy era letterhead and its modern application, “but you can also see how ours is just a tinge more forward-looking.”
While the logo might seem studiously traditional, the designers added subtle details that can be mixed and matched so that no matter where the logo lands—whether that’s on a piece of paper or a Zoom backgrounds—it always looks presidential.