About this blog
A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters
Tagged as “graphic design”
Monday, April 13, 2015
Hillary Clinton's campaign just unveiled its new logo. Like George W. Bush in 2004 (at least in one poster), the candidate is identified with one letter in the design. Like most U.S. election logos, it is red, white, and blue. Like President Obama's 2012 logo, it says her campaign's goal for America is to "move forward" (albeit with an arrow, as well as a word).
And, like the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012, her Web site and social media pages incorporate the logo in an attempt to rebrand her as a candidate with a fresh message, directed at all Americans, while her rollout video targets the middle class, particularly women.
Her new logo is much simpler and more "modern" than her 2008 design. To read my take on her 2008 logo, go to my September 3, 2008 blog post. Back then, I characterized it as "a fairly conventional logo design," which was also patriotic, and slightly stylized and simplified (compared to other political logos).
That being said, her 2016 logo has already generated numerous comments. The positive ones like its simplicity, colors, and "forward" symbolism. The negative comments focus on it being similar to other designs (including "go this way to the hospital"), allegedly poor artistry, and believe that the message is confusing. To read some of opinions, click here.
Of course, the best U.S. presidential campaign logo was probably Obama's 2008 design. To read what I said about that logo, go to my August 22, 2008 blog post.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
There are almost 100 Green political parties around the world. They have similar platforms, which frequently call for environmentalism, social justice, and non-nuclear energy.
The Greens have achieved some electoral successes in a number of countries, winning parliamentary seats in Australia, New Zealand, and several European nations. In the 2013 German elections, for example, the Greens received more than 8% of the vote, gaining 63 of the 631 seats in the Bundestag. In the United States, the Green Party's national ticket of Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala won less than 500,000 votes (about 0.5%) in 2012.
The logos of the Green parties are, of course, mainly green in color, and include a small number of symbols. The U.S. Green Party's logo has a globe inside a flower, as does that of England and many other green parties also incorporate a flower, including those in Portugal, Greece, and the Czech Republic. Other Green parties (in Latvia and Somalia, for instance) have a tree as the dominant symbol. And the Mexican party's logo has a toucan resting on a leaf inside a "V" (for "verde" or "green").
Monday, May 27, 2013
The logos of today's political parties in many countries have become bland corporate identity pieces, similar to those of Sony, Panasonic, and RCA.
The German ones are particularly uninspired, with only one (Alliance 90/The Greens) adding a visual to the initials displayed.
In other countries, visuals accompany the names of the parties. For example, the British Labour Party includes a socialist rose; the U.S. Republican Party incorporates an elephant; and the Workers Party of Ireland shows a handshake.
The logos of the five German parties are:
- Christian Democratic Union: a slanted "forward-moving" CDU; red on a white-background
- Social Democratic Party: SPD; white on a red background
- Free Democratic Party: FDP; blue on a yellow background, with "Die Liberalen" ("The Liberals") below
- Alliance 90/The Greens: a yellow sunflower on a green background, with the parties' names in white
- The Left: black letters on a gray background, with a red triangle above the "i"
Hopefully, the federal legislative elections scheduled for September will be more exciting!
Friday, March 29, 2013
Which are the two best posters from U.S. presidential election campaigns (excluding ones for the primaries)?
My criteria: artfulness, effective messaging, and overall design.
Here are my selections:
1. Unknown Artist, Poster of Republican William McKinley, holding a U.S. flag and standing on a gold coin (symbolizing "sound money"), held up by group of men, in front of ships (for "commerce") and factories (for "civilization"), ca. 1896-1900. This beautiful color lithograph targeted both businessmen and laborers, as well as associating the candidate with both symbols of patriotism and fiscal soundness. In the background, the Sun rises, with its rays enhancing the positiveness of the message.
2. Rafael López, "Estamos Unidos" ("We are United"), Poster for Artists for Obama, 2012. This gorgeous poster features a layered oil painting, with the candidate gazing thoughtfully into the distance and shown from below (a common pose, which makes him seem more imposing), and a simple slogan and colors to appeal to Latino voters.
Of course, there are many other worthy designs. See 56 others by clicking here. What are your favorites? And which posters should be added?
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Design for Obama—a Web site started in 2008 to promote Barack Obama's campaign for the U.S. presidency—is up again.
The site was created "as a dorm-room experiment to create a space for artists to function as artists in the political process and help elect Barack Obama," according to the creators.
Many of the 2008 posters are included in a book, Design for Obama: Posters for Change: A Grassroots Anthology," written by Steven Heller, and edited by Aaron Perry-Zucker and Spike Lee.
Dozens of high-resolution posters (one of which can be seen to the right) have been contributed, to be printed and displayed at rallies and anywhere that people want to show support for Obama. Gallery shows will follow.
Friday, August 31, 2012
So far, it seems that neither major party candidate for the U.S. presidency has inspired many artists to include their images in posters promoting President Barack Obama or former Governor Mitt Romney (There are a number of posters that show the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, however). For Obama, this is a remarkable departure from 2008, when a multitude of graphic designers and painters created posters that depicted the then-Senator from Illinois in a very positive manner. Among the dozens of pro-Obama posters produced four years ago, the most popular were Shepard Fairey's "Hope" and "Change" creations, which were inspiring, patriotic, and conveyed, as Fairey stated, "noble confidence,... a suggestion of looking into the future."
One poster, designed by Andrew Redford Young in 2011, does show Romney in an inspirational and patriotic way. Like Fairey's posters, it bathes Romney in red-white-and-blue, idealizes his features, and has him gazing into the beyond with confidence. Additionally, Young gives Romney a hint of a smile, accompanied by the simple slogan, "Jobs."
Now that the Republican National Convention is over (soon to be followed by the Democratic convention), it will be interesting to see what, if any, imagery includes the candidates in poster designs.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Nowadays, Illustrator, Photoshop, and other software programs make producing a poster relatively simple. Good design, of course, is still important. And some fairly good designs for two presidential candidates have emerged—the result of two poster contests conducted by the Barack Obama (Democrat) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian) campaigns this year.
The dozen finalists in the Obama-sponsored Art Works Poster Design Contest can be seen here, with the three winners' designs available for purchase. The designs range from mainly text to symbolic patriotism. I particularly like the design by Jeff Rogers, which uses red beams for the stripes in the American flag (which can be seen to the right).
The ten winners of The Gary Johnson 2012 Poster Contest can be viewed here, with seven featuring the candidate (one of these is shown to the right) and two dominated by symbolism (a victory hand gesture and the Statue of Liberty).
Sunday, January 1, 2012
In the coming 2012 U.S. presidential election, it is likely that several minor political parties will run candidates. The Libertarian Party will probably nominate Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, as its candidate, and Americans Elect, may have Buddy Roemer, a former governor of Louisiana, heading its ticket.
Minor parties have been around for a long time in the United States. And they have sometimes had an impact on elections and policies.
In this blog post, I'll focus on the two minor parties in the 1888 election and one in 1892. They all issued interesting posters, too.
The Prohibition Party, which had been established in 1869 to pressure state legislatures to ban “the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages,” had done poorly in four prior presidential elections, getting less than 1.5 percent of the popular votes in each of them. It did a little better in 1888, with its ticket, headed by Temperance leader Clinton Fisk, receiving 2.2 percent. One of its posters illustrated the party’s moralistic principles in a unique way, suggesting that prohibition would lead to a better, religious America (an insane asylum, grave, and distilleries are seen in the foreground; a church and Sunday school in the background). Although the Prohibition Party did not gain many votes nationally, it did influence state party platforms, and eventually helped encourage support for the Twenty-first Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.
The Union Labor Party was formed in 1888, and got only 1.3 percent of the popular vote, doing best in states with few industrial areas, most notably Kansas (11.4 percent), Texas (8.2 percent), and Arkansas (6.8 percent). Its platform attempted to appeal to both American farmers and laborers by opposing land monopoly and calling for a limitation on land ownership, nationalization of communication and transportation systems, the free coinage of silver, equal pay for men and women (as well as demanding women’s suffrage), a service pension bill, a graduated income tax, the direct election of U. S. senators, strict enforcement of laws prohibiting the importation of foreign workers, and the passage of specific legislation to prohibit immigrants from China. The poster for the Union Labor ticket (shown above), headed by Alson Streeter, was beautifully done by the Chicago firm of Kurz & Allison, and obviously targeted laborers and farmers—showing them, their implements, and featuring the slogan, "The Product of Labor Belongs to the Producer."
The People’s (or Populist) Party (established in 1891) did quite well. It made many of the same proposals that had been in the Union Labor Party’s platform in the previous election, and issued conventional posters (with symbols of workers and the slogan "Equal Rights to All; Special Privileges to None"), but its ticket, led by James Weaver, was more successful in delivering its message, getting 8.5 percent of the popular vote (and 5 percent of the electoral vote), probably due to the increased economic difficulties of many farmers. Its fiery platform charged that governmental policies had “bred” “two great classes—tramps and millionaires,” with “the fruits of the toil of millions…badly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few….” In 1896, the Populists nominated the Democratic Party's candidate, William Jennings Bryan (who espoused many of their principles).
Sunday, November 29, 2009
In the video posted below, Bill Whittle, on Pajamas TV, makes some good points (made by many, including this blogger) about the importance of branding and graphic design in politics, rightly pointing to the Obama logo as brilliant, but also overdoing it by calling the logo and its use symptomatic of a "cult of the personality."
There is no doubt, however, that the team commissioned by the Obama campaign developed a distinctive logo, which helped establish a brand of "hope" and "change" for the candidate, and succeeded—just like the logos for Nike and Apple—to gain recognition and which communicated the "essence" of the "product."
[Thanks to Sean Quinn for alerting me to this video.]
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Between 10 and 5 is a blog that showcases South African graphic design work from agencies, freelancers, illustrators, and artists.
Check out the political posters, and their slogans ("hope" and "change" were prominent), displayed recently by clicking here.
Monday, January 19, 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."
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The design team that developed the Obama ’08 campaign logo team started its work at the end of 2006. Led by Sol Sender, the team of designers generated many different logos in two weeks, including the one chosen, which became perhaps the most famous political logo ever: an "O" with a rising sun and red-white-and-blue fields. The Obama logo debuted in February 2007, when the Illinois senator announced his candidacy.
Here's a video piece that features Sender discussing the development of the logo. Also included are designs that were not selected. Of the three finalists, the one selected was by far the best, I feel! What do you think?
Sender now works for VSA Partners, a design agency that creates brand strategies, visual identities, marketing communications, and more.
[Thanks to Cathy Michael for calling my attention to this information.]
Friday, November 14, 2008
As far as I can tell, the Obama campaign was the first ever to sell t-shirts with the candidate's portrait on it. And there were a lot of different designs that featured his image, often sold independently.
Presidential campaign t-shirts have been around since 1960, when John F. Kennedy's image as a war hero was promoted by a t-shirt design with a PT-boat on it to celebrate the Democratic candidate's valor during World War II, when a Japanese destroyer sank his vessel. But Kennedy's portrait was not displayed.
Monday, November 10, 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.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
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).
Friday, October 10, 2008
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).
Monday, September 29, 2008
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.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
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.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
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.
Thursday, September 4, 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.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
The Clinton campaign used a fairly conventional logo design. It was patriotic, using a simplified, stylized flag. The type is serifed and classy, but not very modern in feeling, and there is good contrast. It is the only logo I have seen that employs just the first name, but that is to differentiate her from her husband, the ex-president. It also may have served to make her more "personable." As The New York Times pointed out, the "l"s and the "i" could be the number 1.
Her logo reminds me a little of the 2004 Kerry-Edwards design, with a similar font used and a flag (although less stylish) also shown waving, against a blue background that is close to that of Clinton's. The Kerry-Edwards campaign added a slogan, “A Stronger America,” in an attempt to show that the Democratic candidates would be tougher against terrorism.
The Clinton design is more effective, because it is stronger, simpler, and more unified, with the "y" in Hillary joined with the flag.
Monday, September 1, 2008
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”).
Thursday, August 28, 2008
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.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
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.]
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The basic McCain design has good contrast and it is dominated by the candidate’s name. Notice the star and the gold line that symbolizes John McCain’s military background. Unlike most U.S. election campaign designs, this one lacks the usual red, white, and blue colors.
The candidate's name is in bold Optima, a popular sans-serif font that was also used for the names displayed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., as Michael Bierut and Ellen Lupton noted in The New York Times. John McCain, of course, is perhaps the most famous Vietnam vet. Optima is a strong typeface, especially when in bold. That is what the McCain campaign is trying to communicate about him: that he is a leader who is principled and tough. Good logos are part of good image management, and the McCain logo succeeds well enough. If all three of the colors of the flag had been used, it would be even better though.
Friday, August 22, 2008
In recent American elections, all parties have usually employed stylized designs that are often little more than giant corporate-type logos, devoid of photographic portraits and issues. Successful brand management for a candidate or a political party, as manifested in posters and other media, is characterized by simple visual imagery that is both powerful and appealing along with simple slogans and logos that resonate with the voters and their emotions.
The Obama campaign's logo is distinctive and designed to strike an emotional cord with his supporters. The Blue "O" stands for the candidate, and with the red stripes symbolizes the flag and patriotism. The red-and-white stripes further represent farmland, identifying the Illinois senator with the "heartland" of America. The white center of the "O," rising over the horizon of the stripes, appears to be a sunrise, denoting “a better tomorrow.”
The Sun has been used in many election posters in a number of countries, including France, Germany, Great Britain, Iran, Italy, Japan, Poland, and Taiwan.
For example, a 1932 Republican poster in the U.S. election contest between Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt displayed a large cartoon of an elephant pushing a truck labeled “US & Co.” toward the rising sun, while the Democratic donkey was illustrated running away. A 1972 poster for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern showed the sun breaking through the clouds, along with the slogan “A little light in a cold world.”
British Liberal posters in the latter part of the nineteenth century depicted past prosperity, when their party was in power, as rays of sunshine, in contrast to the gloomy economic situation under the Conservatives. A 1991 Solidarity poster featured a flower with the sun in its center, along with Solidarity's famous logo, symbolizing a new beginning and oneness with everyone and everything.
Friday, August 22, 2008
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.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
In 1972, some of the posters for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern's campaign were intended to be inspirational and appeal particularly to younger voters. N. Schneider designed a series of posters for the McGovern for President Committee, all of which were colorful, exuberant, and stylized: one was dominated by a drawing of a leafy tree, accompanied by the phrase “A time to grow in a world of permanent change.”
In 2008, artists are also working to create imagery that symbolizes the themes of Barack Obama. One, Scott Hansen, also used a stylized tree in a poster for this year's Democratic candidate for president. The tree grows out of the Obama logo, with people joining hands around it. As in McGovern's campaign, "change" is a key word, along with "hope" and "progress."