It's as iconic as the Nike swoosh or the McDonald's Golden Arches, and during the past year it has appeared on everything from bumper stickers to cupcakes to pumpkins.

The "Obama 'O' " is a simple but effective design - a blue "O" that is simultaneously just another letter of the alphabet and a glowing white sun rising against a red-and-white-striped horizon.

Its clean lines, bold colors and distinctive shape make it a sharp departure from campaign logos of presidential elections past.

At the same time, according to the Chicago-based brand-strategist who helped design it, the logo incorporates traditional American flag-style stripes.

"It's new and yet it isn't new," Sol Sender, 38, said yesterday. He was in town to speak last night at Moore College of Art and Design.

"It feels fresh and young, while still evoking feelings of patriotism."

His small design firm, Sender LLC, created the logo in two weeks in early 2007. The firm was connected with the Obama campaign through Steve Juras, a friend of Sender's from the Art Institute of Chicago, where they had attended graduate school for design.

Juras, the creative director of design company mo/de, had worked with Obama adviser David Axelrod and recommended Sender LLC when the campaign was looking to create a visual identity.

Sender's firm, which had never designed for a political campaign before, didn't have time to be nervous, he said.

"It all happened so quickly," he said.

Moving through sketches and ideas, the six-person team got smaller. In the end, Sender and two other designers - Amanda Gentry and Andy Keene - worked closely to create the design, drawing inspiration from Obama's two books, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from My Father.

"The notion of this being a new day for America and the dawning of a new type of politics in Washington was the driving idea behind the symbol," said Sender.

Sender, who has not met Obama, said that the campaign took control of the symbol in 2007.

Obama-campaign designer John Slabyk adapted Sender's symbol in a way that it could be embraced by different groups, Sender said. Slabyk incorporated a rainbow for LGBT supporters, notebook paper for student supporters and a running elephant for Republican supporters - but it didn't stop there. Nearly every social, cultural and religious group in the country was given a customized "O."

Sender said it was amazing and surreal to see his design take on so many forms and meanings.

Obama supporters saw it as a visual extension of the messages of hope, unity and change that were central to the Obama campaign, Sender said.

Sender now works for Chicago's VSA Partners, an agency that designs for Converse, Harley-Davidson, General Electric and other companies.

Sender's appearance at Moore was sponsored by the Philadelphia chapter of AIGA, a national organization of professional designers. *