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How design made the difference

Design had a big impact on the referendum result, argues Rob Coke of brand agency Studio Output in an article in Creative Review.

The result’s in the name

He argues: “‘Brexit’ ticks all the boxes for a strong brand name: short, easy to spell, good mouthfeel.”

And as a result of that nickname, “leaving was already baked into the vote’s name”. Thus the referendum wasn’t a ‘Breferendum’, it was a vote on ‘Brexit’. Leaving was the active thing to do and people are “happier being ‘pulled’ towards something than ‘pushed’ away from something else”, he says.

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Active simplicity

The simplicity of the campaign name Vote Leave made it all the more effective. “It’s literally the thing you’re going to do when you get your hands on the ballot paper… Don’t think, just do.”

Coke argues that Vote Leave is also a “petulant, bitchy message”: “It speaks to people disenfranchised from authority… It taps into the sentiment that if you’re powerless this is the final act of defiance you can make. Don’t like it? Vote Leave.”

Many names, no identity

In contrast Vote Remain brought to mind human or archaeological remains. As Coke puts it: “It comes with decomposition as standard.”

Aside from the fact that it defends the status quo, he says, “it’s not even the best ‘remainy’ word”.

And the Remain campaign’s use of so many names (including ‘Stronger In’, ‘IN’, ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’, ‘I’m IN’) resulted in confusion about what the campaign was called; as a result it lacked the urgency and consistency of Vote Leave.

Seeing Red

Coke argues that this urgency was also reflected in Vote Leave’s colour choice: “If you want to stir things up, red is what you need: the colour of blood, fire and action. So not only did Leave have the most powerful name, they took the most active colour.

“One thing this has all shown is that half the population have been viewing life through a red mist for some time. Vote Leave reflected this and made a connection in the gut where Stronger In failed.”

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