Designing Democracy: How Myanmar's Political Parties (Finally) Created Unique Brands

Until this year's election, the two major political parties used eerily similar logos and names.

In 2008, President Obama’s campaign revolutionized the role of graphic design in American politics. Using a contemporary typeface and bold logo, Obama’s campaign presented an cohesive brand that struck a bold contrast with his opponent's traditional typefaces and visuals.

The same lesson about the importance of unique branding was made clear the hard way in the years leading up to last week’s parliamentary elections in Myanmar, where political parties traded accusations of copying each others’ logos. Because the country was under military rule for the past 50 years, the election was only its third since 1962. And with such a sparse political history to draw from, parties chose to use symbols that would be instantly recognizable to residents who weren't familiar with the electoral process. While politicians hoped that approach would them develop loyal followings, it backfired when many of the parties chose extremely similar symbols. Factor in that 9 out of 17 parties include a form of the word “democracy” in their name, and the result was a political mess.

The symbol that caused the most confusion during the campaign season was the kha mauk, a traditional Burmese farmer’s hat. Typically made of bamboo and formed into a conical shape, the kha mauk became the symbol of the National League for Democracy, the opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, in 1990,. Despite winning a landslide victory, Suu Kyi’s party was denied power by the military government. By the time the party geared up for this year’s election, some members of the NLD had broken off to form the National Democratic Force, who also chose the kha mauk as their symbol.

Ohn Kyaing, an executive member of the NLD, told reporters the NDF was wrong to use the same symbol because the kha mauk is essential to the identity of his party. “A kha mauk is a kha mauk, and it was the recognized logo of the NLD in the last election," he said. "The kha mauk is the symbol of the NLD's 1990 victory—and it is also the symbol of the people’s victory.” The kha mauk has come to represent defiance against the ruling military, and the hats are regularly worn by young activistswhen protesting.

In 2010, the NLD filed a formal complaint to the election commission, hoping to block the NDF from using the kha mauk. The NDF was allowed to keep the symbol, though Khin Maung Swe, an NDF leader admitted that voters might be confused in the upcoming election. Adding to the chaos, the New National Democracy Party's symbol includes three bamboo hats.

After the commission allowed the NDF to continue using a kha mauk, the NLD chose to change its own symbol, trading the hat for a symbol of a golden, fighting peacock. While the image of a peacock displaying its feathers has long represented the country, an aggressive version of the showy bird was used by student protestors, whose rallies were brutally squelched by the military, resulting in the death of 3,000 people. “We used this image to acknowledge the struggle of the students,” said Win Htein, a senior member of the NLD.

The confusion doesn’t stop there; the Mon National Democratic Party also uses agold bird as its symbol that looks very similar to the NLD’s fighting peacock. The symbol is actually a hamsa, a mythological, goose-like bird that has appeared on past renditions of the country’s flag.

Aung San Suu Kyi may have led the NLD to victory, but not without the headache of defining a political identity for an inexperienced electorate. Politicians are right to reach out to their constituents by employing symbols that speak to the country’s heritage, but extra care and creativity must go into differentiating one political party from another. As Myanmar witnesses the greatest change in its modern history, political parties will eventually gain more experience and better-defined identities, taking an eager electorate with them.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Burma Democratic Concern (BDC)

Creative Commons

National Tell a Joke Day dates back to 1944 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was having a meeting with Vice-President, Henry Wallace. The two men were tired and depressed due to the stress caused by leading a country through world war.

During a lull in the meeting, Wallace said, "Frank, to cheer you up I have a joke I'd like to share."

"Let's have it, Henry," Roosevelt replied while ashing his cigarette.

"Why did the chicken cross the road?" Wallace asked. "Not sure," Roosevelt replied.

"To get to the other side," Wallace responded.

Roosevelt laughed so hard that the bourbon he was drinking sprayed out of his nose and onto the floor of the oval office.

RELATED: A comedian shuts down a sexist heckler who, ironically, brought his daughters to the show

The joke was so funny, and did such a great job at lightening both their moods, Roosevelt proclaimed that every year, August 16 would be National Tell a Joke Day.

Just kidding.

Nobody knows why National Tell a Joke Day started, but in a world where the President of the United States is trying to buy Greenland, "Beverly Hills, 90210" is back on TV, and the economy is about to go off a cliff, we could all use a bit of levity.

To celebrate National Tell a Joke Day, the people on Twitter responded with hundreds of the corniest dad jokes ever told. Here are some of the best.


The Judean date palm was once common in ancient Judea. The tree itself was a source of shelter, its fruit was ubiquitous in food, and its likeness was even engraved on money. But the plant became extinct around 500 A.D., and the prevalent palm was no more. But the plant is getting a second chance at life in the new millennium after researchers were able to resurrect ancient seeds.

Two thousand-year-old seeds were discovered inside a pottery jar during an archaeological excavation of Masada, a historic mountain fortress in southern Israel. It is believed the seeds were produced between 155 B.C. and 64 A.D. Those seeds sat inside a researcher's drawer in Tel Aviv for years, not doing anything.

Elaine Solowey, the Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel, wondered if she could revive the Judean Date Palm, so in 2005, she began to experiment. "I assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time. How could it be?" Solewey said.

Keep Reading Show less

There's been an uptick in fake emotional support animals (ESAs), which has led some airlines to crack down on which animals can and can't fly. Remember that emotional support peacock?

But some restrictions on ESAs don't fly with the Department of Transportation (DOT), leading them to crack down on the crack down.

Delta says that there has been an 84 percent increase in animal incidents since 2016, thanks in part to the increase of ESAs on airplanes. Last year, Delta airlines banned pit bulls and pit bull-related dog breeds after two airline staff were bitten by the breed while boarding a flight from Atlanta to Tokyo.

"We must err on the side of safety. Most recently, two Delta employees were bit by a pit bull traveling as a support animal last week. We struggled with the decision to expand the ban to service animals, knowing that some customers have legitimate needs, but we have determined that untrained, pit bull-type dogs posing as both service and support animals are a potential safety risk," Delta told People regarding the new rule.

Keep Reading Show less
via Liam Beach / Facebook

Trying to get one dog to sit still and make eye contact with a camera for more than half a second is a low-key miracle. Lining up 16 dogs, on steps, and having them all stare at the camera simultaneously is the work of a God-like dog whisperer.

This miracle worker is Liam Beach, a 19-year-old animal management graduate from Cardiff, Wales. A friend of his dared him to attempt the shot and he accepted the challenge.

"My friend Catherine challenged me to try to get all of my lot sat on the stairs for a photo. She said, 'I bet you can't pull it off,' so I thought 'challenge accepted,'" he said, accoriding to Paws Planet.

Keep Reading Show less
via Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Americans on both sides of the political aisle can agree on one thing: our infrastructure needs a huge upgrade. While politicians drag their feet on high-speed rail projects, fixing bridges, and building new airports, one amazing project is picking up steam.

The Great American Rail-Trail, a bike path that will connect Washington state to Washington, D.C., is over 50% complete.

The trail is being planned by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit that is working with local governments to make the dream a reality.

Keep Reading Show less