Obama needs a more modern office.


Just watched the Weekly Address from the President-Elect and can’t help but feel as there is a big visual disconnect to his highly designed campaign. Check out the setting of his change.gov office. The overall proportions of the set/him feel off and the space itself feels old-school and change inhibiting. If he wants to continue represent that breath of fresh air he’s been during his entire campaign, he’ll have to change the setting. Thoughts?

43 Comments leave a comment below

  1. I agree. I’d either like to see him in a really nice Presidential office, or a really well designed tech-y office that’s like a War Room. But I guess either can wait a few months til the White House.

  2. Yeah, it’s pretty bad. But, he’s only been president-elect for a week and a half. They’ll get it figured out soon.

  3. On yesterday’s guardian’s G2 supplement, there was a special on this. Different designers illustraated how they’d envision Obama’s office in the white house!

  4. I like the signed basketball. Hadn’t noticed that before.

  5. I agree, it looks pretty weak, but I suspect it was a highly intentional choice, so as not to make it appear to be a presidential address. His campaign was regularly criticised for being “presumptuous” in assuming that he would be the Democratic nominee or president-elect. As he himself has pointed out a number of times, we only have one president at a time.

  6. Considering how superbly run his campaign was I doubt this setting was chosen without reason. He won on the topic of change (And I am so glad he did) with a large margin. But there are people who did not go for that and so now, that he is elected, he needs to bring them over. A conservative appearance might help them to not resent but accept and maybe embrace. Or it is all bogus. Who knows… :)

  7. Ugh, was thinking the EXACT same thing. It felt like he had stepped straight outta 1981. In a bad way.

  8. Or maybe he’s using it to appeal to all the red state folk who didn’t vote for him.

  9. Switch out the old school wood paneling & the encyclopedia britannica and we’d have a winner.

  10. agreed! i think you should host a contest.

  11. I would love to see Pentagram’s redesign of the White House get constructed, but imagine the backlash from all the traditional red-staters.

    Here it is, in case you haven’t seen it:

  12. I disagree. This setting is conservative for a reason. The whole setting is constructed with traditional archetypes: books, the colour of wood, a plant, American flag, leather seat… Archetypes that stand for knowledge, trust & security in this particular setting.

    If you want Obama to redesign the setting, where do you want him to stop? Should he also dress differently? Or talk differently?

    I don’t know.

    As a designer, I agree with your point (a zillion idea’s pop up inside my head), but the message has to get across to the American people. And that message get better across within a traditional setting, then a modern-aged restyled environment.
    It just feels…better.

    Just my 2 cents…

  13. You have to remember that many people think he is all fluff and no substance. I’d take a bunch of griping designers over a bunch of regular citizens who are more focused on an elite interior shot than the message he’s delivering any day.

  14. I’m in the ‘this is to perfect to be accidental’ camp. It in terms of political theater, it’s dead neutral. Generic perfectified.

  15. I hadn’t noticed. My eyes were on him.

  16. I agree with Corine – it’s the man and words that matter! However, I am hopeful we see a design presence in the White House.

    As for this set, the lighting makes me think that the conservative setting was a thrown-together setup in the corner of his transition office. Also, the conservative accessories in the background don’t have much thought as the stages in Denver or Grant Park…

  17. I was struck by the degree to which the image he was projecting had been managed. Sure, the background is bland, but you’ve got the flag (mandatory, but kept to a minimum), the JFK books (presidential papers? in any case, evocative), Obama himself, and then the basketball and the plant (I had thought the basketball was a handmade pot; thanks to AJT for pointing out what it really was).

    I would have been happy to see him in his home office, but presumably the transition team is working in temporary quarters, and can’t be bothered to take the time to put together anything really fancy.

    In a couple of months these talks will be shot in the Oval Office (next to the fireplace, perhaps?). Meanwhile, I’m happy to see Obama take advantage of technology that makes it easy for people to get access to (or even stumble on) these brief talks that are apparently the replacement for the mythical weekly radio broadcasts that presidents have been making for my whole life, and that I have never, ever heard anything about unless a news article quoted something they said.

  18. Looks to traditional and corporate to me. Yes, he should present a more modern image for these chats. Why not in a fire side setting? More informal.

  19. “Or maybe he’s using it to appeal to all the red state folk who didn’t vote for him.”
    “As a designer, I agree with your point (a zillion idea’s pop up inside my head), but the message has to get across to the American people.”

    Agreed! His camp knows exactly what they’re doing. Too much “change” might throw the Republicans into another tissy.

  20. I think there are more important things to worry about right now than whether or not Obama should address the American people in his office (offices tend to be boring) or waste time and money making it pretty for us.

    I was focused on him and what he was saying. I was not distracted by what was in his office. That is how it should be. What is wrong with doing things in a basic way? If it is important then why do I need him to be sitting by a fireplace? He is not making a Christmas greeting!!!!

    Simple is best in my opinion.

    I think the change Obama speaks of runs deeper than decorating. I would hope that people would be more concerned with important matters than silly things like this.

    I think the fact that he is making these public addresses before he is even officially in office is a sign of change from the past. He is hitting the ground running.

    He is a man of change but he is a man of tradition as well…aren’t we all?

  21. The thing that stuck out to me the most was that Obama is off center and appears to be slouching a bit. Sit up straight! :)

    I also think if you are going to do web video the background needs to be much less busy and Obama needs to fill up more of the frame.

    Here is my concept for his YouTube addresses:

  22. wow, HUGE disconnect.

  23. While I agree with the posters about the design challenges, there is a practical reason that the “office” does not have striking individuality to it, is that it’s not a space of his design or choosing. It’s located in the Kluczynski Federal Building in Chicago which like most federal buildings is “old-stuffy-stodgy-chic”.

  24. shepard fairey should just go ahead and re-do it for him.

  25. Here’s my suggestion. Green screen! Put Obama in front of a green screen. Then everyone – and I do mean everyone – can put whatever background behind him they prefer. Imagine the possibilities; from Obama Girl, to rappers, to Bill Maher, to conservative talk show programs, to Al Qaeda. Sure it might cause an international incident but it could also be very, very funny! America and the world could use a laugh right about now. Just a thought. ;^)

  26. I think Roger is on the mark and whoever said I was just lookin at him…me too

    I wish Barack well in his term of office because things are getting worse daily

  27. I’m with Roger. The other thing is — his office is probably in a government building. Govt bldgs are funded by taxpayer dollars. A few years ago I went into the Senate and was surprised by how cramped and old-school the offices were. But then again, it’s not a movie set. It’s not a TV show. Govt offices, private eye offices, forensic science offices are not as they appear on TV. I wish they did…..at least my version of TV

  28. @Director Bob:

    Hey, it worked for Stephen Colbert, right? :)

  29. I see your point about needing a modern office to match his message, but to be honest, i really don’t care what his office looks like as long as he can fix what has been done these past eight years.

  30. i adore detailed design-and Obama- i can’t help but argue- the office design is completely inconsequential… the words are far more important.

  31. i definitely agree. the scary, seventies wall paneling made me cringe. there is also just something about a sitting speech that seems lethargic and under-animated (i.e. no arm or hand movement, no real body language to emphasize passionate points, etc.). personally, i would most definitely like to see obama in an office made with sustainable materials that are also eye-catching. one thing i have learned from working in an architecture office is that when someone’s office space looks hum drum, it is really, really difficult for anyone to envision the work done in said office to be anything even close to cutting-edge.

  32. I feel certain that creepy wood paneling will not last long once Michelle is in the house. The dress she wore to the acceptance speech gives me much hope that she has big plans up her sylish sleeves.

  33. i imagine you could have some sway in regards to that. a high-ranking design website making suggestions to the president’s webcasts?….makes sense to me. i think you could even refer to the number of comments on this post alone.

  34. Although I agree with you completely … I am way more concerned with how he changes our country. Our financial status needs way more help than his office.


  35. I’m with Doug Cranmer on this – he’s in a temporary office where they have to shut down half the loop every time he goes anywhere near it, so I’m thinking both the idea and the reality of this background is, we’ve got more important things to think about. I figure they arranged the background roughly 30 seconds before they were ready to film.

  36. What bothered me most was the camera angle (I’m a TV producer; can’t help but notice). ie.e he’s looking UP all the time, craning his neck, that really distracted me I must say….

  37. you have a great eye!

  38. you have a great eye!

  39. you have a great eye!

  40. you have a great eye!

  41. you have a great eye!

  42. you have a great eye!

  43. ok I was going to comment on this but I could help myself… completely frivolous discussion, the sort of thing you would expect to hear on Wolf Blitzer’s situation room but not here…