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Forward. And the power of punctuation.

Forward. Obama's campaign slogan.

To capitalise or not to capitalise, that is the question.

Don’t take this article as any sort of suggestion as to my political tendencies. I’m not even American so my opinion is pretty much moot anyway. Love him or hate him though, Barack Obama does have some damn good slogans.


I know I’m late to the party but it is a rather wonderful campaign slogan isn’t it? Confident in its simplicity, assertive in its punctuation, a single word with a huge amount of meaning. Screw photography, these eight characters say more than any image ever could. Forward. It’s why I love the English language.

But let’s mix it up a little and see how some tiny alterations can change the meaning so dramatically.


Limp and insecure, too afraid to commit with a period, who’s going to believe this slogan? Not I. Also happens to be the slogan the SNP used at their party conference last year.


Shouting it from the rooftops in desperation, the exclamation mark renders the calm, understated confidence of the period obsolete. Obama’s just trying too hard now.


Add a question mark and we have a slogan Mitt Romney could use in opposition to the Democrats to conjure up images of doubt in the minds of the voters. Given his flip-flopping on slogans, it’s actually quite suitable too.

Another alternatively for Mitt could be “Forward, Obama? Really?!”.


Hinting at the unknown, this slogan would be accompanied by a photo of Obama winking at the camera with a wry, cheeky smile, his index finger extended into the air as if to say “You’re guess is as good as mine!”.


And suddenly Obama’s an author.

Backward? Forward!

By labouring the point and overstating the obvious, suddenly we’ve lost all meaning behind the elegance of a single punctuated word. The reason “Forward.” works is because of everything it doesn’t say or rather doesn’t need to say.

It’s toasted.

We have a joke in the office that whenever I can’t think of a headline to write, I shove in the copy “It’s toasted.”. You’ll see it in a lot of our mock-ups. Coincidently it was first used by Lucky Strike in 1917, the same year Lenin coined the slogan “Vperod”, aka “Forward” to the non-Russian speaking. Apparently it’s a pretty common catchphrase amongst the Lefties.

So, turns out political writing is lot more fun than I would’ve thought. Now if only they would change the Constitution so Arnie could run for president. I’m sure his slogans would be a campaign writer’s dream.

“You know how I said I’d only be president for one term? I LIED.”

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Author: Gordon McLachlan

Gordon is uncomfortably good looking.




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  1. Adam October 24, 2012 at 8:04 am

    I’m glad you wrote this, I’d been thinking how great FORWARD. was for a while but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Its also one the first uses of H&FJ’s Gotham for web typography is existence, as its still in beta. It’ll be more popular that Comic Sans once released, or if (when) Obama wins.

    • Gordon October 27, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      Ooh, we hadn’t clocked the typography usage. Nice point. Gotta love how they even connected forward thinking to the use of type :)

  2. Espen November 6, 2012 at 10:48 am

    It now looks like Obama has changed the full stop to an exclamation mark – so much for keeping calm in the last days before E-day.

    • Gordon November 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      I think it was a last minute change to reflect a final battle cry.

      “Forward! To victory!”

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