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Posters and Election Propaganda

A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 8:43AM   |  Add a comment
Rafael López, Poster for Artists for Obama, 2012


In 2008, Rafael López created a powerful poster for the Barack Obama for President campaign. His poster, "Voz Unida" ("United Voice"), was one of ten posters designed for the campaign's Artists for Obama series. The 1000 prints of López's poster sold for $60 each. Some of the other artists in the series were Robert Indiana, Shepard Fairey, Scott Hansen, and Lou Stoval. The style of "Voz Unida"—showing a blue-tinted Obama surrounded by red, yellow, brown, and orange tones—was calculated to appeal to Latino voters, among others.

This year, López designed a new poster, "Estamos Unidos" ("We are United") (seen at the right). He was inspired to do so, he said, because of President Obama's support for "early education programs for children" and because he "has doubled Pell Grants so working families can afford college." Also, according to López, Obama's "bold actions to fix the broken immigration system and support of the Dream Act prove he is on our side." The poster is characterized by the same "visionary" gaze that was evident in the 2008 poster, with the same background colors.

The evolution of the painting of "Estamos Unidos" can be seen at López's Web site.

The new poster will soon be available for purchase at the Obama for America Store.

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:01AM   |  Add a comment
Tuxedo Party Poster, Halifax, Canada, 2012



Poster for Tuxedo Stan, a cat running as a write-in candidate for Mayor of Halifax, Canada, under the banner of the Tuxedo Party. According to its Facebook page, "The Tuxedo Party is a political movement aimed to improve the welfare of felines in HRM [Halifax Regional Municipality] 'because neglect isn't working'." Click here for more on the campaign.

The Tuxedo Party's Facebook page has more than 4,800 "Likes" as of today.

 

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:15PM   |  Add a comment
Roosevelt and Johnson Poster (1912)

Next year's election campaign in the United States promises to be a wild one, with an incumbent president fighting increasingly longer odds on his reelection, given the terrible state of the economy. The campaign promises to be one in which both issues and personalities are prominent.

One hundred years earlier, another incumbent U.S. president, William Howard Taft, fought to retain power. And although issues (conservation, tariffs, rights of workers, and governmental reform) were important, the dynamic personality of former president Theodore Roosevelt loomed large (compared to the dull Taft). Taft's campaign was crippled by a split in his Republican Party, with Roosevelt leading the progressive wing of the party (and running under the banner of the Progressive or "Bull Moose" Party) against the conservatives, who supported Taft for the nomination. Robert La Follette, who had defeated Taft in two of the first four primaries, did not support either Taft or Roosevelt. Woodrow Wilson led a united Democratic Party to victory. Although Roosevelt’s popular and electoral vote totals surpassed those of Taft, Wilson’s margin over the former president in the popular vote was a substantial 14.5 percent.

In 1912, political campaigns did not use any of the media that emerged later in the twentieth century. Political campaigning did not change fundamentally until the medium of radio altered strategies in the mid-1920s, although campaign speeches had surpassed parades and rallies in importance around the turn of the century. Posters, banners, and billboards, however, continued to be a significant vehicle for political operatives. In 1912, the New Jersey Roosevelt Republican League issued a report on its primary campaign to defeat President Taft for the party’s nomination, stating, “Banners are swung across the streets in every city and town of importance, extolling the candidates. Billboards are plastered with huge posters eulogizing President Taft. Campaign pictures of ‘Teddy’ [Roosevelt] and Taft look out from windows everywhere.” Moreover, many lithographic posters were produced, and these were quite colorful, with backgrounds in bright hues for greater impact.

The election of 1912 was a watershed of sorts for U.S. campaign posters. Gone were the cornucopias and most of the patriotic symbols (such as eagles and flags) that had been used since the 1840s. Instead, Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party seized upon the symbol of the Bull Moose—which prompted the party’s nickname—to symbolize the strength of the candidate and his third-party movement. Its symbol was included on some of the posters, cloth banners, buttons, pennants, handkerchiefs, postcards, and other campaign promotions. Since three candidates were essentially “progressive,” personality qualities and symbols were really more important than issues. Slogans were also an essential ingredient: Roosevelt stumped the country calling for a “New Nationalism”; Wilson delivered campaign speeches for a “New Freedom”; and Taft generally stayed in the White House, with his banners proclaiming “Better be safe than sorry.”

A series of photographic portraits of all the major candidates were issued with neither their names nor the names of their parties—another change for printed election propaganda. Other posters did contain some of this information, but one for the Progressive ticket of Roosevelt and Senator Hiram Johnson of California included only the last names of the two candidates, their full-length photographic portraits, and the final lines of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Ballad of the East and West” (See the figure to the right). Roosevelt’s image had come a long way since the last time he ran: in 1904, stuffed “teddy bears” were distributed, which related Roosevelt to both a huggable toy and “family values”; in 1912, he was associated more with the bull moose, with verses from Kipling fortifying the impression of strength. The Taft campaign used the party’s symbol of the elephant—which had been around for several decades, along with the Democratic donkey—on many campaign items, including a poster that displayed portraits of Taft and his running mate, Vice President James Sherman, on the animal’s blanket. Undoubtedly, with Roosevelt’s breakaway movement so powerful, it was important for the Taft strategists to emphasize party symbolism and loyalty.

For more on the election of 1912, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 6:20PM   |  Add a comment
McKinley Campaign Poster (1896/1900) (Library of Congress Reproduction No. LC-USZC2-201)

In its May auction, Heritage Auction Galleries sold a copy of what it called "Perhaps the Most Sought After of All Color Political Lithography from This 'Golden Era'." The period referred to went from the last decade of the nineteenth century through the first decade of the twentieth, and the poster was issued in 1896 and/or 1900 in support of Republican presidential candidate William McKinley.

Heritage stated: "Here graphic appeal combines with rarity, as there are surely fewer than ten examples of this poster known in the organized hobby, and several of those exhibit condition issues. This example is in superb condition and is assuredly unimprovable."  

The poster sold for almost $18,000.

McKinley, the governor of Ohio, was largely in favor of retaining the gold standard. In addition, he was the author of the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890, which was largely protectionist. His campaign manager, Mark Hanna, a wealthy businessperson who applied the principles of business of that period to political campaigns, raised millions of dollars, outspending the Democrats by anywhere from seven to thirty-two times.

Hanna packaged his candidate, creating the image of him as a leader who had a simple and clear message (encapsulated in the slogan on the poster, "Prosperity at Home, Prestige Abroad"). Overall, the Republican campaign theme in 1896 was that a McKinley administration could pull the country out of a depression and return it to prosperity, which did actually happen by 1900. This theme is illustrated in the poster, with the Republican presidential candidate holding a flag while literally standing on a platform of “sound money” (i.e., paper currency backed by gold), held up by businessmen and laborers. In the background are ships and factories, to symbolize "commerce" and "civilization," respectively. There are also rays of sunshine—used in the political posters of many countries to convey optimism.

Hanna’s tactics with which he associated his candidate and the Republican Party with the icon of the American flag, helped build support twenty years later to declare Flag Day an official national holiday.

To learn more about the McKinley campaigns and their posters, and much more, see the book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:00PM   |  Add a comment
"Cuomoween 2" Flyer/Poster (2010)

Carl Paladino, the Buffalo real estate and development millionaire, who won the New York State Republican gubernatorial primary in September by a landslide and lost by twenty-seven percentage points to his Democratic opponent, Andrew Cuomo, in November ran an unusually negative campaign. Typical were the flyer/posters, which one could download from Paladino's Web site. All told, there were twenty-four designs from his primary and general election campaigns, which included the following (most attacking Cuomo):

  • "Cuomoween 2"
  • "The Usual Suspects"
  • "The Business Council endorsing Cuomo is like asking the Boston Strangle to massage your neck."
  • "Clean up Albany? Start with Cuomo."
  • "No Cojones"

Most flyer/posters of this kind have been positive in the past. More extensive flyers—such as one linking furloughed convict Willie Horton to Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988—have been negative in the other elections and had a visual or two, with lots of supporting text. But Paladino's designs are really posters, with little text. They are meant to be downloaded and displayed, or sent as email attachments. "The Usual Suspects" is a faux-film poster that shows Cuomo in a yellow zoot suit and accuses him of taking bribes; "Lying Again" illustrates Cuomo as the long-nosed Pinocchio; one "Clean up Albany? Start with Cuomo" has the Democrat soaping up in the shower, and another has him as "Super Mario, Junior," who "has been playing the Albany game for 30 years"; and "Will You Stand with Carl...." has (Albany Democratic) tanks aimed at "One Man."  

Backed by tea-party groups, Paladino declared that he was "mad as hell," and promised to “clean up Albany with a baseball bat.” High unemployment, a record budget deficit, and missed budget deadlines in the state legislature all could have worked in his favor. But his campaign was so inept, that he turned a possible victory into a crushing defeat by threatening a reporter, focusing on secondary issues, and showing up totally unprepared for the one debate. He kept saying that he would reduce spending and taxes, but did not present many details on how he would accomplish these things. In the end, the vast majority of voters felt—as Cuomo's ads stated—that Paladino was "unfit for the office."

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 6:00PM   |  3 comments
Cover of Baum's Book (1900) & Republican Party Poster, Showing McKinley on a Gold Coin (1896)

In 1964, Henry Littlefield (a high school teacher in Mount Vernon, New York) published an article in the American Quarterly, which called L. Frank Baum's children's book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (published in 1900), a political parable of the United States at the end of the nineteenth century, which focused on the election of 1896.

It was suggested by Littlefield that these Baum characters represented the following people and groups:

  • The Wicked Witch of the East = Eastern industrialists and bankers, who "dehumanized a simple laborer so that the faster and better he worked the more quickly he became a kind of machine," according to Littlefield.
  • The Munchkins = the citizens--most of whom were oppressed
  • The Scarecrow = the western farmers
  • The Tin Woodman = the downtrodden eastern workers
  • The Cowardly Lion = William Jennings Bryan
  • The Wizard = "any President from Grant to McKinley....  [H]e symbolizes the American criterion for leadership--he is able to be everything to everybody," wrote Littlefield.
  • The Yellow Brick Road = the gold standard
  • Dorothy's silver shoes = the Democratic/Populist demand for silver coinage
  • The Emerald City = Washington, D.C.
  • Dorothy = Everyman

Other writers have added to, or challenged, Littlefield's interpretations (see David Parker's article). One, for example, noted that Dorothy's dog, Toto, represented the Prohibitionist teetotalers and that Oz was an abbreviation for "ounce." The silver advocates in 1896 had called for a 16-to-1-ounce ratio of silver to gold. Another thought Dorothy symbolized Mary Elizabeth Lease, a Populist speaker, who was thought to have told Kansas farmers to "raise less corn and more hell." Yet another thought that the book had much to do with imperialism in Asia, with The Wicked Witch of the East being President Grover Cleveland, The Wicked Witch of the West, William McKinley, and The Wizard, the latter's campaign manager, Mark Hanna. And another scholar wrote that The Wicked Witch of the West was Populism itself.

Many still think, however, that the work was mainly about the political battle between silver and gold advocates, after the Great Depression of 1893 in the United States: "Baum, a reform-minded Democrat who supported William Jennings Bryan's pro-silver candidacy, wrote the book as a parable of the Populists, an allegory of their failed efforts to reform the nation in 1896." wrote Parker about this theory.

The 1896 election campaign was one of the most exciting in U.S. history. In 1896, with farm foreclosures, and labor unemployment and discord growing alarmingly, the silver advocates took over the Democratic Party, gaining its nomination for Bryan, a dynamic congressman from Nebraska. His “Cross of Gold” speech at the Democratic National Convention in July of that year compared the cause of free silver to that of the Crusades and the American Revolution, with the political fight “in the defense of our homes, our families, and posterity.” During the campaign, zealous meetings were convened to discuss the silver issue. Broadsides announced these and called for “those who believe that in silver lies the remedy for the present financial stagnation” to support the cause. Democratic posters featured silver coins near portraits of Bryan. Bryan barnstormed the country campaigning for himself, and he gave about six hundred speeches to approximately five million people, while his Republican opponent, McKinley, stayed on the front porch of his home and spoke to people in groups selected by Hanna.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 12:15PM   |  Add a comment
Freeze Frame from BBC Interview (March 28, 2010)

Jonathan Gabay of brand forensics talks to the BBC about the British Conservative Party's poster campaign for this year's elections that directly attacks Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

It echoes Saatchi & Saatchi's famous 1979 campaign for Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives, best seen in the classic poster, titled "Labour Isn't Working."



Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:00PM   |  Add a comment
Front National Poster (2010) (www.lepenpaca2010.com)

Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National (FN) Party of France has once again issued an anti-immigration poster, titled “No to Islamism,” which borrows greatly from a recent poster distributed by another right-wing European political organization, the Swiss People's Party.

The FN poster attacks "Islamism" and shows a map of France with the Algerian flag imprinted on it, along with seven minarets. The other side of the poster has a woman wearing a veil.

According to France 24, the poster was the key piece in the campaign waged by the FN in the PACA (Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur) region, in which regional elections took place yesterday, and the plan was to plaster it all over France. However, a French court banned the poster—a decision that was appealed and protested on the FN Paca Web site.

The poster might have had an impact, as the FN did best in the Paca region, garnering 21% of the vote there in the first round of the elections, although it gained about 12% nationally. The Socialist Party did best, gaining over 29% nationally, President Nicolas Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) Party was next with 26%, and the Green party also was supported by 12% of the voters.  The second round is this Sunday. (See Connexion for first-round results.)

The regional elections have candidates contesting seats in France’s 26 regional councils.

Support for Le Pen and the FN, due in large part to its anti-immigration stance, has increased since he founded the party in 1972, but he and the FN typically are supported by under 15% of French voters.

To read more about anti-immigrant propaganda in election campaigns, click here.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:00PM   |  Add a comment
BIllboard for Tomasz Nalecz (Social Democratic Party, Poland, 2010) (Globalpost)

Poland will elect its next president in October by direct vote to serve a five-year term, and the campaign has already begun. Although the president does not have much power, he or she can veto legislation.

Poland's election campaigns are much influenced by American political marketing practices and by its consultants. For example, Tomasz Nalecz of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SDPL), erected billboards that featured not only his portrait but also that of Barack Obama. Nalecz was placed in front of the country's presidential palace with its equestrian statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski, and Obama has the U.S. Capitol behind him. Both look out at the voters, smiling. According to Jan Cienski, the billboard is controversial because permission to use Obama's photograph was not obtained. Nalecz's campaign maintains, however, that the photo is in the public domain.

American political techniques have influenced parties of the right, as well. In 2006, for instance, the Law and Justice party, was known for the “spin-doktorzy” practices by its strategists, Adam Bielan and Michal Kaminski, who also copied ads from the Reagan campaign, according to Cienski.

Other American campaign strategies, such as using social-networking sites, have also been used. The SDPL, for example, has a Facebook group.

Posters have been used extensively in Polish political campaigns, including by Solidarity, which displayed large posters (some of which were torn down by police, according to the party), as well as banners, TV spots, radio programs, bumper stickers, buttons, leaflets, and newspapers in its campaigns. In a special Solidarity poster for the 1989 campaign, Gary Cooper (as the American sheriff in the film High Noon) was shown with a ballot in one hand, instead of a pistol, along with the message “It’s high noon, June 4, 1989.”

To read more about Polish politics and posters, going back to the thirteenth century, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.  


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:28PM   |  Add a comment
Sebastián Piñera campaign poster (2010) (http://www.rnw.nl)

Sebastián Piñera, a conservative billionaire, won Chile's presidential election in a runoff yesterday. It was the first victory for a conservative in more than 50 years. Early returns showed Piñera defeating former president Eduardo Frei, a Christian Democrat, by a 4% margin, according to BBC News.

Piñera's platform included investment incentives, lowering taxes on small businesses, job creation, law-and-order policies, and steamlining government.

World Audit now ranks Chile the 21st most "democratic" country in the world (with 36 considered "fully democratic"), two decades after the military rule of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (1973-1990) ended.

Political parties in Chile use posters more than those in many other countries, since they are allocated limited time on public television and not even allowed to purchase commercial broadcast time.

To learn more about election campaigns and poster propaganda in Chile and other countries in Latin America, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:00PM   |  1 comment
BNP Billboard (June 2009) [http://norfolkunity.blogspot.com/2009/03/churches-dismiss-bnps-jesus-election.html]

The next general election in the United Kingdom must take place by June 3, 2010. All seats in the House of Commons will be filled. In the latest Guardian/ICM poll, the Conservatives lead with 44% support, followed by the ruling Labour Party (27%), the Liberals (18%), and Others (11%). Among the last group is the British National Party (BNP). One poll, however, had the BNP potentially gaining 22% of the vote, after BNP Leader Nick Griffin appeared on BBC Television.

The BNP is appealing to "the indigenous, white British people ... which successive governments have done far too little to protect,” according to the Telegraph. The party has campaigned to celebrate "White History Month," protested government funds given to a Moslem group, fought government immigration policies, and more (see the BNP Web site).

BNP posters, billboards, and videos have tried to link the party's image to past British leaders and glories. One poster shows Winston Churchill and British airmen during World War II; a billboard links the BNP to Jesus; a video (which includes many posters) on the party's Web site defends the party and its stands—calling for citizens to "take back" the country—as well as associating it with past achievements by the English.

 



Posted by Steven Seidman at 5:05PM   |  1 comment
SVP, "Stop. Consider a Minaret Ban," Switzerland (2009)

The Swiss People's Party (SVP) is at it again—this time with a poster urging a ban on the building of any minarets in the country. The poster shows a woman in a burka and the minarets on top of a Swiss flag. Some have said that the minarets look like missiles. There will be a referendum on November 29 on a possible ban on the building of new minarets.

The cities of Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne, and Winterthur have allowed this poster to be displayed as a matter of freedom of speech, according to BBC News. However, Basel, Lausanne and Fribourg have banned the public display of the poster.

According to a poll, about 35% of voters favor the ban, while 51% are opposed to it.

The SVP has issued controversial posters previously, including the "black sheep" poster of 2007 and the "black crows" poster of 2008.

The SVP is the top vote-getting party in parliamentary elections in Switzerland.

[Thanks to Joshua Seidman-Zager for sending the link to the BBC News article.]


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:10PM   |  Add a comment
Mannix Flynn Poster (2009) (www.greenapplemedia.ie)

Several Irish commentators are opining that an election poster in support of one Mannix Flynn is an interesting one—at least in Dublin. Ann Marie Hourihane, writing in the Irish Times, wrote that the Flynn poster stands out in a sea of mediocre designs:

"Mannix Flynn is standing for the local elections, and his poster was recommended to me by a visually literate friend as a work of art. Its background is an acid yellow-green. It has a little lettering in shocking pink. The background to the candidate’s name is a dirty turquoise and the words Mannix Flynn are rendered in a dark burgundy. It looks sharp. It is retro, but it looks new. I know of one young woman who is going to vote for Mannix Flynn on the basis that his poster is cool. In the land of the disembodied and grinning heads something new, and very good, can be done with a format which is staggering with weariness."

Flynn is a writer and actor, who ran for the Dublin City Council in the June 5th elections, and won as an independent.

You can check out Flynn's Web site, which has a music video supporting him, among other things.

Flynn should make sure that his posters are taken down though, since even independent candidates can be fined heavily for leaving them up under a 1997 law.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 12:11PM   |  Add a comment
Logo, Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV), The Netherlands (http://www.pvv.nl)

There are anti-immigrant parties in many European countries, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, and Switzerland (see previous blog entries from March 7, 2009 and December 14, 2008).

The elections to determine members of the European Union (EU) Parliament were just held in 27 nations, with the center-right European People's Party coalition emerging with the most seats.

One party that did particularly well was the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV). The PVV's platform calls for an end to immigration from non-European countries and opposes the admission of Turkey to the EU. In the 2006 elections for the Dutch House of Representatives, the PVV garnered only about 6% of the vote, but in this year's EU elections, it gained 17% (second only to the ruling Christian Democratic Alliance), giving the party its first four seats. In his "victory" speech, PVV leader, Geert Wilders stated: "The Netherlands is waking up from a long leftist nightmare. A nightmare of crazy high taxes, crime, lousy care, headscarves and burkas, of pauperizing, of mass immigration and Islamization...."

Other anti-immigrant parties also did well: the Italian Northern League won 10% of the vote (an increase from it's 8% in the 2008 general elections); the British National Party won its first two seats, with about 8% of the vote; Austria's Freedom Party won 13% of the vote (more than doubling its share); Hungary's Jobbik (For a Better Hungary) Party won 3 of 22 seats, with 15%—doing better than the Socialists; the Danish People's Party also won about 15%. British National Party Chairman Nick Griffin (who was elected to the EU Parliament over a Labourite) said: "We do say this country is full up. The key thing is to shut the door."

The biggest winners, according to the Financial Times of London, were the center-right parties, led by Angela Merkel of Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Donald Tusk of Poland, and Viktor Orban of Hungary, all of whose forces did much better than their Socialist (and other) opponents at the polls.

The EU Parliament is elected every five years. The body has power of legislation that affects environmental, consumer, and transportation matters, as well as joint control (with the countries' legislatures) over the $182 billion EU budget. The turnout in the elections, however, has also been going down, from a high of 62% in 1979 to 43% in this year's elections.

Other sources: Coming Vote on Assembly Elicits Shrugs in Europe/NY Times; Dutch Anti-Immigrant Party Emerges as Big Winner in EU Elections/TimesOnLine; Election Results Across Europe/BBC News; Results of the 2009 European Elections; View from the Right


Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:10AM   |  Add a comment
Swiss People's Party poster/billboard, 2009 (Photo:Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

Last month, the Swiss electorate voted for a referendum allowing the free movement of workers in 27 European Union (EU) countries. Almost 60% favored the referendum.

The opposition to the referendum was led by the Swiss People's Party (SVP), the top vote-getting party in parliamentary elections in Switzerland, and producer of the infamous "black sheep" poster of 2007 (see previous blog entry).

This time around, the SVP disseminated a poster that showed several black crows pecking at a map of Switzerland. The crows probably symbolize Romania and Bulgaria (the newest, but poorer countries in the EU), which the SVP believes will flood wealthier Switzerland with workers, taking jobs away from Swiss citizens and increasing costs for
social-welfare benefits.

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:05AM   |  Add a comment
Social Democratic Radical Party (Chile), Logo

Elections are scheduled this year in five countries in Latin America, namely Chile, Panama, Uruguay, El Salvador, and Honduras. World Audit rates the first three countries as "fully democratic," and the other two as "qualified democracies," meaning that there are some flaws.

In much of Latin America, “street poster art” is an influential political medium, and during election campaigns, posters are omnipresent. This is true even as the influences of television and the Internet have become greater. The standard practice is to maximize the impact of a poster’s message by pasting many copies of the same poster in rows or columns. This repetition attracts attention. During the 2005 Chilean presidential election,  “one [could not] seem to leave the house without being subject to posters lined up on every street,” according to one report. That posters are essential in Latin America is not surprising, considering a recent survey found that almost 80 percent of the region’s campaign managers believed the image of a candidate was the most important factor in a political campaign. Furthermore, 24 percent of these political professionals indicated that street posters were of “exceptional importance” in campaign advertising strategy, a percentage almost as high as for daily newspapers (29 percent) and private television (30 percent).

In 1970, Chile witnessed a momentous election campaign, which culminated in the election of Salvador Allende Gossens, a Socialist, as president. Supporters of Allende were excited and hopeful for change, with other voters fearful of what would happen in the country if he won. Some in Allende’s Socialist Party called for seizing power, if he was not elected. Three years later, Allende was found dead, after a military takeover, the presidential palace bombed beyond repair, and General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte was declared the dictatorial leader. It was apparent that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States, under President Richard Nixon, had worked to prevent Allende’s election, and—after he had won—helped to destabilize the regime. The details are supplied in my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History, along with sections on other nations in the region.

Free elections occurred again in Chile only in 1990. In 2005, Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, the candidate of Allende's Socialist Party (which is part of a coalition, Concert of Parties for Democracy or CPD), was elected president of Chile—the first woman to hold the office—winning a runoff election  with 53.5% of the vote.

At the right is the logo of the Social Democratic Radical Party of Chile (another member of the CPD), with the rose as its symbol—like many Socialist Parties around the world, including those in Brazil, Romania, Switzerland, Spain, Serbia, Ukraine, France, and the British Labour Party.

Also at the right is a poster, which targeted feminists, from the 1970 Allende campaign.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:05PM   |  2 comments
"At The Moment of Truth," Defaced Poster of Livni, with Barak [center] and Netanyahu [right] (2009) [Photo: EPA]

Israel's parliamentary election is this Tuesday, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party slightly favored to regain power. Since the Israeli incursion into Gaza last month, polls indicate an increase in popularity for the conservatives of Likud, whose main opposition is the ruling Kadima Party, led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is perceived as more moderate than Netanyahu. To the right of Netanyahu and his party is Soviet-born Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) Party is also doing well in the polls. It appears as though the hardliners toward the Palestinians may gain power. One consequence is that Netanyahu, if elected, will not stop building settlements in "occupied" territories. [See article in Reuters for more information on the campaign and U.S.-Israeli relations]

However, there has been a late shift back to the Kadima Party in the polls. Right now, according to the latest data, Likud will gain 27 seats and Kadima 25—out of 120 seats in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament). Yisrael Beiteinu will win 14 seats. The Labour Party, led by Ehud Barak (another former prime minister), trails badly. The leader of the party with a plurality will then attempt to put together a coalition government. According to Jason Koutsoukis of Fairfax Digital Network, even if Livni's party wins the most seats, it will be difficult for her to form a coalition, since Lieberman's party has similar stands to those of Likud.

As for the campaign, many Israelis are uncharacteristically lacking in enthusiasm for the candidates and their positions, according to David Blair of Britain's Weekly Telegraph. Of course, campaign posters continue to be seen on the streets, but fewer rallies have been held.

One group—suspected to be Orthodox extremists—defaced posters of Livni in Jerusalem. It probably had less to do with her centrist positions, and more to do with opposition to images of women being seen in public, wrote Shelly Paz of The Jerusalem Post.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 12:10PM   |  Add a comment
Reuters, Election Posters in Baghdad, 2009

Iraqi politicians have embraced American political methods, as evidenced by their behavior in the campaign leading up to the provincial elections on January 31, according to the Washington Post (click on the link for the full article).

Candidates for Baghdad's provincial council emulated John McCain at a three-hour town hall meeting, fielding questions from all quarters. With the violence diminished, politicians are now getting out in public. Some examples of questions from Iraqi citizens and journalists:

  • "Should the militarizing of Iraq continue?"
  • "How are you going to deal with run-down buildings?" 
  • "How much have you spent on your campaigns?"

There is no shortage of candidates vying for the 440 seats on provincial councils in 14 of the 18 provinces—14,431 (almost 30% female), to be exact, with over 400 blocs participating!

Posters are everywhere, and newspaper ads and glossy brochures are numerous. The evidence of the Americanization of Iraq's politics is also heard on the radio and television, with jingles and spots playing repeatedly, and candidate images and slogans on T-shirts (similar to those for Barack Obama a few months ago). A photograph of Sabir al-Isawi (the head of the Baghdad provincial council) for example, was printed on a campaign poster; he is depicted looking upward (like Obama in several U.S. posters), with an image of a child drinking polluted water from a broken pipe behind him.

Many women are running for office, but some have criticized them for illustrating their posters and other printed material with photographs of themselves. "We don't have a problem with women who want to be elected," Jaber Hussein Alwani (a tribal leader in Fallujah) said. "But they don't have to publicize their photo. It's unacceptable. They can just publish their names," he stated.

Some Iraqis complain about their politicians and political marketing—just like citizens in other countries. One stated: "When they put up posters, they each make themselves out to look like the best. When they're in office, they do nothing." Another declared: "I will not vote for anyone. I don't trust any of them. They're all thieves."


Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:15AM   |  1 comment
National Portrait Gallery, Shepard Fairey's "Hope" Poster, 2009

Shepard Fairey's "Hope" poster, which became the most famous icon of Barack Obama's presidential campaign, was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington, DC, on January 17. Fairey is a guerrilla artist, who previously was best known for his  "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" street-art posters and stickers, which promoted the huge wrestler in the late 1980s.

The National Portrait Gallery's blog stated: "Early in 2008, Fairey produced his first Obama portrait, with a stenciled face, visionary upward glance, and the caption 'Progress.' In this second version, Fairey repeated the heroic pose and patriotic color scheme, substituting the slogan 'Hope' .... The campaign sold 50,000 official posters; a San Francisco streetwear company produced T-shirts; grassroots organizations disseminated hundreds of thousands of stickers; and a free downloadable version generated countless repetitions."


Posted by Steven Seidman at 12:10PM   |  Add a comment
Saad Khalaf,  Campaign Poster, Iraq (2009) (Los Angeles Times)

Iraq's provincial election will take place at the end of January. Campaign posters are ubiquitous, especially in Baghdad, but they are often defaced or ripped down soon after they go up (as occurs in many countries)!

Accordingly, political parties and individual candidates have been admonished by the head of the country's Independent High Electoral Commission about defacing posters, as well as placing them on government buildings and security checkpoints. The penalties assessed can range from $90 to $44,500 (U.S.)

A party's election slate number is usually displayed prominently on the poster. One poster, for example, states:
"Madaniyoon list number 460: Our objective is to make sterilized water reach every house," according to the Los Angeles Times.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:23PM   |  Add a comment
Swiss People's Party, "Creating Security," 2007

The 2008 U.S. Republican Party Platform supported border security and English as the official national language, and opposed any amnesty for illegal immigrants. These stands—emphasized by most GOP presidential candidates during the primary campaign and continuing into the general election, particularly by state and local candidates, hurt many Republicans who ran: For example, in 2004, an estimated 39 percent of Latinos voted for George W. Bush; in 2008, only 31 percent voted for John McCain. But at least the U.S. does not have a party whose main purpose is to oppose immigration and immigrants. In other parts of the world, such parties abound.

In France, the increase in the number of immigrants and Arabs with French citizenship helped resurrect Jean-Marie Le Pen’s party, the Front National (FN), which had received little support since Le Pen helped found it in 1972. By 1988, however, Le Pen garnered 14 percent of the vote in the presidential election. The message of protecting white French citizens against the waves of immigrants was summed up on a Le Pen poster with the slogan “Defend our colors.” In 1995, he achieved 15 percent, with a blatant anti-immigrant campaign, marked by an FN poster that stated, “Three million unemployed, that is three million immigrants too many!” Another FN poster included a silhouette of an airplane in front of the setting sun, with the slogan “When we come in … They go out!” And in 2002, Le Pen (with his slogan of “France and the French First”) received almost 17 percent, getting him into a runoff against Jacques Chirac (who defeated him soundly 82 percent to 18 percent). But in the latest French presidential election, last year, Le Pen's share of the vote was down to 10 percent.

Unfortunately, anti-immigrant appeals have been evident in other countries, too. A poster distributed by the Danish People’s Party during the 2001 election showed a young blond girl with the statement, “When she retires, Denmark will be a majority-Muslim nation.”  In the same campaign, Venstre (the Liberal Party) erected a billboard that showed three Asian men, who had been tried for group rape, leaving the court after having been acquitted, with the caption “this will not be tolerated once Venstre gets in.” In that election, Venstre won the most seats in the parliament (a gain of 34 percent) and the People’s Party came in third in seats (a 70-percent increase). The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) achieved even more than its Danish counterpart, winning the most votes in the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2003, and 2007, possibly helped by posters that depicted foreigners as criminals shredding the nation’s flag. In the last elections, the SVP achieved its best result (29 percent), despite (or because of) issuing a subsequently banned poster that depicted three white cartoon sheep kicking a black one off the Swiss flag, as well as the slogan “Creating security” (see the illustration to the right). Anti-immigrant poster campaigns by political parties have also been conducted recently in other European countries, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, and The Netherlands, as well as in New Zealand.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 4:53PM   |  2 comments
Daddy Lumba Music Video for Nana Akufo-Addo, 2008

The presidential campaign in Ghana just ended, with the voting on Sunday resulting in a virtual tie between the two candidates. According to Reuters, Nana Akufo-Addo (a former minister of foreign affairs) of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) is slightly ahead in the count with about 49 percent of the vote so far, but almost 4 of 10 constituencies have not been tallied as yet. John Atta Mills (who has run for president, and lost, twice previously) of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has garnered almost 48 percent. If neither candidate's total hits 50 percent, there will be a run-off on December 28. Both men are moderates, and favor investment in healthcare, education, and infrastructure.

Ghana is a stable democracy of more than 20 million people—rated #35 in the world, by World Audit (one of only two "fully democratic" countries in Africa, the other being Mauritius). Ghana has a fairly healthy economy, which grew almost 7 percent in 2007. It is a major producer of cocoa and gold, and is developing offshore oil discoveries. Poverty still exists, however, and literacy (in 2000) was under 60 percent.

The campaign had the usual "mud slinging," but "there was a carnival atmosphere and friendly exchanges among rival supporters," said Will Ross, a BBC correspondent. Posters, billboards, and t-shirts for Akufo-Addo called him “The Best Man for Ghana.” Those for Mills termed him a man “you can trust” and “a better man for Ghana”.

Here is a music video, performed by Daddy Lumba, for Nana:



Posted by Steven Seidman at 5:18PM   |  1 comment
Swedish People's Party of Finland, 1960 (http://en.wikipedia.org)


Finland—according to World Audit—is ranked #1 of the world's countries for "democracy" (after a review of figures on public corruption, human and political rights, free speech, and the rule of law in every country of at least one million people).

The nation conducts presidential elections every six years, selects a parliament every four years, has European Parliament elections every five years, and municipal elections every four years.

There are 13 registered political parties, and 7 other ones that were removed after the 2007 parliamentary elections for failing to win a seat in two consecutive votes. Although the three main parties (Centre, National Coalition, and Social Democratic) gained 2/3 of the seats in the parliament in 2007, the support for them was about the same (23%, 22%, and 21%, respectively), and a coalition government was formed, with the first two parties joining with the Green League and Swedish People's Party (representing the Swedish speakers in Finland). 

In Finland, where legal restrictions are placed on political advertising on television and radio, posters are widely used. Many candidates also have their own Web pages. Nowadays, the posters often show portraits of the candidates, but issues and logos are also represented. For a good sampling of election posters throughout history from the Finnish Social Democratic Party, click on this link.

At the right are two Finnish campaign posters:

  • Swedish People's Party (1960)—advocating for the rights of Swedish speakers (top)
  • Urho Kekkonen for president (1956)—promoting the politician who held office from 1956 until 1982. He was elected the first time by two votes in the electoral college, which was done away with after he left office (bottom)

 

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 7:11AM   |  3 comments
Fabeka Lebron (L), Barna Director, & Glenis Anglada (R), collector (http://www.diariosocialrd.com)
The best exhibition of Barack Obama campaign posters is in the Dominican Republic. Titled "The Art as Political and Policy of Art," the exhibition was organized by the Barna Business School, and includes 50 posters from a private collection. According to Diario Social, the show "seeks to validate the importance of design in communication strategy and how artists are key elements in any political revolution...."
 

 
 
[Thanks to Jason Urban of PRINTERESTING for publicizing this exhibition and posting the YouTube video of the poster gallery, for those of us who can't make it down to the D.R.]
 

Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:23PM   |  2 comments
Eric Portis, "Obama!" 2008 (http://www.ericportis.com)

Eric Portis is an artist who created an interesting poster to promote Barack Obama, with copies intended to be sold on the streets of Denver, the site of the Democratic National Convention this year. His printing technique was old fashioned, seen mainly in the nineteenth century: it involved using four carved wood blocks, each one for a different color on the cardboard poster. 

Obama smiles out at us, with rays of light behind him (similar to Ray Noland's "The Dream"—seen earlier in this blog), and the Denver skyline. Under the candidate's name are a number of symbols, including an "environmental" leaf, a "health reform" bandage, and a "economic" cent.  There's also a heart, brain, and star—perhaps to symbolize compassion, astuteness, and charisma, as well as a "happy" smile and a pair of ears! The center of the "O" in Obama's name is Illinois—his home state.

Porter is 24 years old and lives in Denver. According to Hake's Americana Auctions, the artist printed 150 of these posters, which were all sold. He then "voided" the wood blocks to prevent any more of this design to be printed.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:34PM   |  Add a comment
John Key Poster, National Party Web site, 2008

In 1853, New Zealand held its first parliamentary elections. The country conducted its most recent elections on Saturday, November 8. Voting always occurs on a Saturday, so that most people can vote on a day off from work (a very good idea!). The National Party, a center-right party under the leadership of  John Key, won the most votes (and therefore seats), and will form a coalition government. It gained 45% of the vote, compared to the ruling Labour Party's 34% and the Green Party's 6%.

New Zealand is in a recession, and the center-left Labourites in power (since 1999, with Helen Clark the prime minister) were blamed for it—similar to the situation in the U.S., except that the conservatives were voted in.

New Zealand claims to be the first self-governing country to have all women vote in parliamentary elections. This occurred in 1893. It was not until 1920 that women in the United States gained this right in national elections.

The New Zealand First Party, which was represented in the country's House of  Representatives for over fifteen years, did not win enough votes to be awarded any seats this time (it gained under 5%, which is the threshold). Its leader, Winston Peters, who is part Maori, heads a party that is opposed to immigration, in general (see the billboard to the right).

The history and posters of New Zealand are quite interesting. For more information, see New Zealand History online.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 4:31PM   |  Add a comment
MoveOn.org, "Yes We Did," 2008


MoveOn.org just announced that it is selling a "Yes We Did" poster. It features the now-famous Shepard Fairey image of Barack Obama and the Obama-for President-logo, with flowing red-and-white stripes added, as well as a crowd of supporters in the background. It also added the phrases "United We Progress Toward a More Perfect Union," "Together We Made History," and "People Powered."

The posters are 24" x 36" and cost $20 for one copy. The money will fund the organization's future campaigns.

MoveOn.org has 4.2 million members.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:00PM   |  Add a comment
Seymour Chwast, "No McBush," 2008 (http://www.30reasons.org)


Graphic designer Seymour Chwast has just displayed a pro-Obama poster design on the interesting Website known as 30 Reasons, which is putting up a different poster for each of the thirty days leading up to the election.


Chwast is a commercial artist, who has designed everything from food packages to posters. He was active during the Vietnam War creating protest posters, including one that showed Uncle Sam with warplanes dropping bombs inside his mouth.

 

Chwast has written many books, including Graphic Style: From Victorian to Digital (which he co-authored with Steven Heller).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:25PM   |  Add a comment
"America First," 1916 (in Michael Beschloss, Ed., American Heritage Illustrated History of The Presidents)

Before "Country First" (one of John McCain's slogans in this year's campaign), there was "America First."

Interestingly, this slogan was used in two different years, by two different political parties, in the early twentieth century, and again in 1992 (in a primary campaign).

In 1916, Democrat Woodrow Wilson's campaign employed it in the U.S. presidential campaign. In that election, the slogan was a reference to the Wilson administration having kept the country out of the war in Europe; and the slogan “Wilson, That’s All!” had been employed previously in advertisements for a brand of whiskey (according to Michael Beschloss in his American Heritage Illustrated History of The Presidents). Wilson's opponent, Republican Charles Evans Hughes, blamed the concerted “He Kept Us Out of War”/“America First” propaganda effort that so heavily used vivid pictorial posters and billboards for his defeat.

In 1920, it was the Republican campaign for Warren G. Harding that used this slogan, exploiting the public's disillusionment with World War I and its aftermath. One can see the "America First" slogan in Howard Chandler Christy’s idealized rendition of Harding with the candidate dramatically making the "V" sign with one hand and holding an American flag with the other.

Patrick Buchanan, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992, also used the theme "America First." According to Ron Faucheux, "Buchanan's enemies drew unflattering comparisons between his slogan and the same one that had been used a half-century earlier by the 'America First' committee, an isolationist group that opposed U.S. entry into World War II." The "America First" committee's goal had been to prevent the U.S. from entering World War II. 

McCain's "Country First" slogan does not imply any isolationism. In the present campaign, McCain is trying to say that the Republican candidate puts the "country" before any political considerations. For example, McCain called for the "surge" in Iraq when this was an unpopular strategy, even among members of his own party.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:10PM   |  Add a comment
Alex Ross, "SuperObama," 2008 (http://www.artofobama.com)


I've already discussed the guerrilla artists for Obama (Ron English and Shepard Fairey), but what about other artists' work? We've seen Ray Noland's "The Dream," but he has produced many other posters supporting Obama, such as "Coast to Coast" (Obama with a basketball) and "Next" (similar to "The Dream). I've created a gallery of Obama posters. Here are several pro-Obama ones:

  • "Obama Bomaye" by Emek
  • "Yes We Can" by Antar Dayal
  • "We Want Change" by Mear One
  • "Hope" by Mac
  • "Barack Obama" by Burlesque Design
  • "Nuestra Voz" by Rafael Lopez
  • "McSame" by Andrew Lewis
  • "The Republicans Present McSame" by Zoltron 

Click Here for the Gallery.


There are not many artists supporting McCain. The only one to be found is Baxter Orr, who created the "Dope" poster (seen bottom right).

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 11:15AM   |  Add a comment
Ray Noland, "The Dream," 2008 (http://gotellmama.org)


Some of the posters promoting Democratic candidate Barack Obama are vaguely familiar in their "revolutionary" design. Most are unauthorized by his campaign, in that they have been produced and disseminated by artists who support Obama, but are posting and/or selling these posters independently.

Some have termed the imagery devised for Obama as indicative of a "personality cult," similar to what artists developed for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Che, and other authoritarian leaders. Peggy Shapiro, for instance, referring to Shepard Fairey's idealized portraits of Obama (as well as those by Russian artists of Soviet dictators), wrote that they depicted "the leader, face illuminated by 'holy' light, look[ing] off to the horizon and see[ing] the truth that is not available to his mere mortal followers, who must look up to his image." The image that Fairey created of Obama (shown previously in another post in this blog) may be "revolutionary," but it is much more subtle than the Cuban posters showing raised rifles and fists. It is a simplified portrait of the candidate with light and patriotic colors enveloping him, with the blue a lot lighter and softer than on the flag.

While there are those on the right who insist that the Democratic candidate is himself a "radical"—associating with such as William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright—there is little evidence to substantiate this allegation. What does seem to be the case is that artists such as Fairey and Ray Noland have incorporated radical imagery into their designs to promote Obama's election. Noland, for example, in his poster "The Dream," shows Obama—bathed in light—gazing into the distance, with a sun and rays as a backdrop. The iconography is religious, but similar to some Mao posters.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:03PM   |  4 comments
Poster of Sonia Gandhi as the Hindu Goddess Durga (detail), Congress Party, India, 2007 (http://www.timesonline.co.uk)

Posters are widely used in election campaigns in India, even though the country is rapidly modernizing, and other media are becoming more common.

Recently, a city court ordered the political parties of New Delhi not to put up posters, leaving them without a viable means of propagandizing in the city's assembly elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Vijay Goel stated: "Before implementing the law, an alternative should be suggested. One cannot go for advertising alternatively, because it is very expensive." 

Some citizens were happy about the court's decision, since they consider posters to be an eyesore. One resident said, for instance: "It is so annoying to see these posters all over the city. They even paste the posters on houses in residential colonies. In Patel Nagar, they covered a public toilet fully in posters, so much that it was beyond recognition. This is not the way a civilised society lives."

Such advertising is evident all over India, with billboards promoting films dotting roads, and posters tacked on walls, taxis, and buses, making these media logical choices to promote candidates during election periods. One solution for the political parties is to display posters mainly in stores and homes. In fact, party headquarters distribute posters, banners, flags, handbills, and stickers to localities to give to owners of private establishments to put in wi. Posters have been prominent in marches and rallies in India, helping gain attention from onlookers, advertising meetings, and attracting media coverage.

Some posters draw attention, but damage the party and its leaders' standing with a segment of the population. Last year, the Congress Party issued a poster that showed Sonia Gandhi as a Hindu goddess. This poster was criticized because the party is secular and some perceived the imagery as insulting to Hinduism.

While candidates are usually featured on posters, sometimes issues are highlighted. The BJP, in 2004, for example, printed posters that included the image of a burning train, in which fifty-nine people died because of terrorism. Many Indian political consultants have reported that there has been a recent increase in emotionalism and negative campaign tactics in the country’s election campaigns.

The street poster is a medium to which many Indian campaign managers turn, so it will be problematic if their use is curtailed by the courts.  A survey found that 25 percent of managers rated posters as “exceptionally important” as a political advertising medium, behind rallies and daily newspapers (both 50 percent), public television (45 percent), and radio (41 percent). Private television (17 percent), direct mail (3 percent), and magazines (0 percent) trailed badly.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 12:12PM   |  1 comment
Conservative Party Poster, Great Britain, 1909

British election posters (unlike those in the U.S.—at least the authorized ones) are often striking in design and/or visually outrageous. Not only are they generally more negative, but also more issue-oriented. One poster, issued by the Conservative Party in 1997, titled “New Labour, New Danger,” depicted Tony Blair with demonic, red eyes; others in the campaign included “New Labour, New Taxes” (which had a purse with red eyes) and “New Labour, No Britain” (featuring a white flag). Another poster, this time distributed by the Labour Party in 2001, caricatured opposition leader William Hague sporting Margaret Thatcher’s hairdo.

Such practices go way back. In the early nineteenth century, all the British parties distributed millions of full-color posters that ridiculed their opponents and their policies. At the right is one, issued by the Conservatives in 1909, which illustrates "socialism" as a demon (i.e., the Liberals, primarily) choking Britannia, wearing the belt of "prosperity" and stomping on the nation's shield. By the 1920s, Tory posters (directed now at the Labour Party) employed “bewhiskered, blood-stained Bolsheviki of the usual caricature type,” according to The New York Times; one poster, featuring a “Red” returning to Russia with bundles of banknotes, turned out the lyrics “Bolshevik, Bolshevik, where have you been? Over to England, where the ‘Reds’ are still green?”

In Great Britain, where television time for political parties and candidates is limited, and no advertisements are allowed on either television or radio, there are no legal limitations on expenditures for posters and billboards. Consequently, posters in British election campaigns have a more significant role than in the United States.

There is some evidence to indicate that these poster campaigns have an effect on voters. One focus group study, for example, showed that posters influenced young British swing voters during the 1996 election campaign. The modern billboard and poster attacks on Blair, Hague, and other leaders—and their positions— were a continuation of a tradition in British politics, begun over one hundred years ago with the negative printed advertisements against Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone, and Lloyd George, and their parties.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 9:42AM   |  3 comments
Studio Number One, Shepard Fairey and One of His Obama Posters, 2008


Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" street-art posters and stickers, which promoted the huge wrestler in the late 1980s, designed a poster for the Obama campaign that was both patriotic (it's red-white-and-blue, albeit more subtle than the usual election posters) and iconic.


The imagery, according to Fairey, is meant to convey "noble confidence,... a suggestion of looking into the future." The word "Obey" (in the Andre poster) has been replaced by "Change" in the Obama design (He also produced two others with "Hope" and "Progress). I would agree that Fairey's imagery helps promote the Obama brand: he appears to be fresh, cool, and progressive. The artist has the Democratic candidate gazing upwards, a technique used in many propaganda posters, including one for President Gerald Ford in 1976, for example. Fairey has stated that his Obama designs were influenced, stylistically, by Soviet posters, in fact. Of course, almost all advertising and political marketing are propagandistic.


Fairey's "Change" poster was available on Obama's Web site, and has sold out. It was featured on the front page of The New York Times, and has also been seen on bumper stickers and billboards. His Andre posters and stickers (and others he created) were often used in guerrilla-marketing campaigns, meaning they were put up illegally in a variety of places. And before his poster was distributed officially by the Obama campaign, it reportedly authorized Fairey to do so in a guerrilla campaign. Since his creation was posted online, it also spread virally.

 

 

 

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:59PM   |  Add a comment
Kip Overton, ''Liberty Leading the People,'' Montana Citizens for Liberty, Inc., 1984

Now that John McCain has selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be on his ticket, let's look at a poster that was produced in support of the only other woman to run for vice president. In 1984, Democrat Walter Mondale picked New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro to be his running mate. That year, the Montana Citizens for Liberty produced a poster that featured Ferraro as Liberty (based on the Eugène Delacroix painting "Liberty at the Barricades," done after the Paris Revolution of 1830) and advocated passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (Mondale is shown holding an ERA banner). The Delacroix work depicted a bare-breasted Liberty. Of course, the later version had Ferraro covered. At least 70,000 copies of the 1984 poster were printed. The illustration gained attention and helped raise money for democratic candidates. It now sells for about $70. A Hillary Clinton pin based on the Delacroix's work sold at auction for more than $1,000.

Women gained the right to vote in the United States in 1920. In Great Britain, they obtained full voting rights in 1928; in France, females first exercised their suffrage rights in 1946 (even though Liberty or Marianne had been illustrated as a woman in that country in the eighteenth century); Switzerland did not accomplish this until 1971. Election campaign posters in many countries targeted women, particularly in the period right after their enfranchisement. For example, a British poster in the 1930s showed a woman holding a child, with the appeal “Mothers—Vote Labour.”

Suffragettes in the early nineteenth century pasted posters on walls: one large lithograph featured babies marching under the title “Give Mother The Vote: We Need It”; others showed professional women, some of whom wore caps and gowns decrying their lack of suffrage (one poster was titled “Convicts, Lunatics, and Women! Have No Vote for Parliament”).


Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:46PM   |  2 comments
“Col. John C. Fremont,” Republican Party, 1856


The first Republican National Convention that nominated candidates was held in 1856 in Philadelphia, and John Frémont was chosen to run for the U.S. presidency. Frémont, running on a platform that opposed slavery (as well as polygamy in Mormon areas), was one of the many military heroes nominated by the political parties (John Kerry and John McCain being the last two). At this convention, Abraham Lincoln lost in the balloting for the vice-presidential nomination to William Dayton, who had been a U.S. senator from New Jersey.

During the Mexican-American War, Frémont captured Santa Barbara, California, and later served as a senator of California, after it became a state. One campaign poster depicted the Republican candidate on horseback [illustrated in the upper-right box]—a common image-management technique, which had been used in previous U.S. campaigns for candidates with military backgrounds, including Andrew Jackson. Frémont looks almost Napoleonic here (second only to William Henry Harrison sixteen years earlier [shown in the lower-right box]), but his regalia are those of a frontiersman—to appeal to a large segment of the American electorate then.

Frémont lost to James Buchanan, the nominee of the Democratic Party, by a 12% margin, with ex-President Millard Fillmore, of the anti-immigrant American (or "Know-Nothing") Party, trailing by almost 24 points. 

 

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:19AM   |  5 comments
Obama Berlin Poster-July, 2008 (www.oberholtzer-creative.com)


In July, Barack Obama’s visit to Germany was promoted with a poster that highlighted his speech in Berlin.


The design is obviously similar to those produced in the 1920s and 1930s by the Bauhaus movement, which boasted strong sans-serif typefaces and used diagonal lines and lettering to increase the dynamism of the composition. After World War I, the ideas of the Bauhaus school influenced a generation of graphic designers, including those in the political domain. An example of such a poster is one by Nico Schrier (in the lower-right box) in which a man is calling his “comrades” to “vote Red” (the color of The Netherlands' Social Democratic Workers’ Party) in the 1933 election.

Typography was taught at the Bauhaus as early as 1923, and instructor László Moholy-Nagy stated that type "must be communication in its most intense form. The emphasis must be on absolute clarity." This is evident in the sans-serif lettering in the two posters shown here.


Both posters also featured one dominant image. This works to focus the viewer's attention on a key visual, limiting competing elements, which could distract. 

 

[Thanks to Laura Larrimore for alerting me to the Obama poster.]

 

 

 

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:48AM   |  Add a comment
Byron, McCain Poster, 2008 (http://www.johnmccain.com)



The winner of the McCain Poster Contest was announced this week. The design by Byron of Mesa, Arizona won the most votes in the competition on the Republican candidate for president's Web site. Let's take a look at the design. It features a determined-looking McCain thoughtfully gazing to the side. This pose seems appropriate, considering the serious times that the senator says we are in. (Posters for Carter, Nixon, and Ford also used this approach.) Alongside the candidate is a flag, with an eagle ornament above it. Both symbols have been used repeatedly by the major parties in U.S. election campaigns. Finally the slogan, "Integrity We Can Trust," reinforces the theme that the Republican campaign has developed: "McCain is a man of honor, who will put his country first."



The McCain design is relatively conventional. Unlike some of Obama's posters, it is not very artistic or "cutting edge." It uses design techniques that have been employed dozens of times before, probably because they are thought to be effective. In 1984, for example, idealized drawings of President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush, against an American flag backdrop, and the façade of the White House, were seen in a poster. In 1840, Whig banners were produced, some with an eagle holding a scroll with the designations “Tip” and “Ty” (for the ticket of William Henry “Old Tippecanoe” Harrison and John Tyler) in its beak and the slogan “Our Country is safe, in such Hands." Patriotic slogans and symbols are propagandistic because they appeal to voters' emotions, and are always evident in election campaign material. This year is no different.

 

 


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