About this blog
A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters
Tagged as “Obama”
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.
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.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Ron Keas has produced what he proclaims to be the "world's first political campaign poster in 3-D." And it promotes the re-election of President Barack Obama.
It incorporates his oil painting of Obama and adds the Lincoln Memorial and one of the President's campaign slogans, "Forward."
With special glasses (available for purchase on Keas's Web site), you will see the effects.
Friday, May 4, 2012
I've already blogged extensively about political campaign slogans, which began in 1840 in the U.S. to support the Whig ticket of William Henry Harrison (“The Hero of Tippecanoe”—during the War of 1812) and John Tyler: "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too." Other good slogans followed, both at home and abroad. In the U.S., there have been some clever ones, including the Republican Party's "We Polked you in 1844; we shall Pierce you in 1852," "Lincoln's "Vote Yourself a Farm" (1860) and "Don't swap horses in midstream" (1864), Harding's "Let’s be done with wiggle and wobble" (1920), and Coolidge's "Keep Cool With Coolidge" (1924) [for some more, see this BuzzFeed Politics blog post]; and in other countries, there were the African National Congress's "A Better Life for All" (South Africa, 1994) and the National Action Party's "Enough Already!" (Mexico, 2000).
In the 2008 U.S. presidential contest, Republican John McCain's campaign was characterized by several slogans—one of which was "Country First," which was partially a tactic to distance McCain from President Bush and the Republican Party; partially an attempt to stress McCain's heroism during the Vietnam War; and partially a veiled effort to cast suspicion on Obama's patriotism (as I stated then). Democrat Barack Obama's main slogan, "Yes We Can," was probably more effective, as was his "Change we can believe in"—both being so positive and inclusive.
Back in February of this year, Jeff Mason speculated about the President's new slogan, saying that the Obama campaign was "roadtesting" several, including "Winning The Future" and "Greater Together."
Clearly, there still are economic problems that need to be addressed, and the new slogan would have to connote "resolve" and "leadership." Does "Forward" (which debuted in a seven-minute-plus video to promote President Obama's re-election) do that? Perhaps so, but probably no one slogan would be perfect. Here's what Obama said a few months ago: "Inspiration is wonderful, nice speeches are wonderful, pretty posters, that's great. But what's required at the end of the day to create the kind of country we want is stick-to-it-ness. It's determination. It's saying, 'We don't quit.'"
What about the past buzz words, "hope" and "change"? On those, David Axelroad, the president's key campaign adviser, stated: "This election is also about hope and about change. That doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be in the slogan."
How about Mitt Romney's slogan, "Believe in America"? To me, it appears that his campaign strategists are trying to emulate Ronald Reagan and his 1984 "Morning in America" campaign.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Mark Jones, on a Reuters blog that focuses on Britain, speculates that social media could mean the death of election posters and billboards.
The use of new social media technologies was expanded by the Obama campaign in the U.S. in 2008. Many marketing people thought that these would be more effective than older media—even TV—in influencing voters, particularly younger ones. The Obama campaign had desktop wallpaper, blogs, posters and signs, logos, flyers, badges, widgets, IM buddy icons, and mobile ring tones available on its Web site, and people who signed up could receive campaign updates and notices about events on their cell phones (accompanied by an image of the candidate and his logo) or they could find them on Twitter. In addition, one of the first iPhone applications was developed for the Obama campaign, with which users could obtain news about the candidate, video spots, and photos. Additionally, the Obama Web site sold lots of posters via its online store, and there were dozens of Web sites that put up poster designs.
But social media were important. Chris Hughes (a founder of Facebook) developed the Obama Web site as a social network, and there were also Facebook and MySpace groups. Almost 60 percent of under-30 registered voters visited candidate Web sites, social-networking sites, or blogs in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center, and this age group was much more likely to turn out for Obama.
Political posters and billboards get a lot of media attention in Britain, but even there they may be used less in the future. However, nowadays, poster designs are often meant to be downloaded from Web sites, and electronic billboards are becoming more commonplace. In the past year in the U.S., for example, Coca-Cola put up ads on these digital outdoor displays in 27 markets, according to Natalie Zmuda in Advertising Age.
In close elections, posters have made a difference. Some interesting research, conducted before the 1996 parliamentary elections in Great Britain, suggested that poster campaigns persuaded swing voters, in particular, to change their political preferences. Researchers found that a Conservative Party's “New Labour, New Danger” poster, showing two red eyes peering out from behind a red curtain, was effective with focus-group members, 25–34 years old of age, who lacked strong party allegiances.
Overall, posters and billboards may have had some influence, according to researchers. Voters surveyed in the United Kingdom during the 2001 election campaign indicated that billboard advertisements had affected one in ten persons—2 percent reported that the ads had a “great deal” of influence on them and 8 percent indicated a “fair amount.” In comparison, the percentages for televised broadcasts were 6 percent and 16 percent for the same response categories. In addition, the survey data from 1992 to 2000 in Japan revealed generally similar findings about the influence of election posters in that country: when participants were asked if the medium assisted their voting decisions, the percentages ranged from 5 to 9 percent for posters (about the same as for newspaper advertisements)
Of course, these percentages could be lower in the years to come.
For more on the use of posters in British election campaigns and on the effects of posters on voting behavior, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Friday, February 12, 2010
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.
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.]
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Three books with posters that promoted Barack Obama for president of the U.S. last year have just been released:
- Hope: A Collection of Obama Posters and Prints by Hal Elliott Wert. With more than 170 posters (many little known) from Wert's collection and a foreword by Ray Noland, the street artist who created "The Dream." Wert is a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute.
- Design for Obama. Posters for Change: A Grassroots Anthology, edited by Spike Lee and Aaron Perry-Zucker, with an essay by Steven Heller. A selection of posters from designforobama.org. Heller is Co-chair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Designer as Author Program and writes a column on visual design for the The New York Times Book Review. You can leaf through the book on the publisher's Web site.
- Art for Obama: Designing Manifest Hope and the Campaign for Change, edited by Shepard Fairey and Jennifer Gross. Fairey, of course, is the controversial street artist who created the most prominent image of Obama. This collection reportedly has many collages, paintings, photo composites, prints, and computer-generated designs, with many by little known artists, as well, but also posters by Ron English and Fairey.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Steven Heller, writing in his Daily Heller blog, has an interesting piece on posters to promote the Tea Party movement, as well as on anti-Obama designs (many of which are from The People's Cube Web site), which include Pelosi, Reid, and Obama as "The Three Stooges"; the "Tree of Liberty" symbol and the message "don't give me DEBT"; and Obama as "El Presidente of the Banana Republic of the United States."
Just as propaganda of the left can smear the opposition and distort positions, so, too, can propaganda of the right. As Heller states:
The transposition of Obama as a Soviet/Red...and the smearing of the Democratic party as Marxist...shows a decided lack of imagination and historical knowledge. First, socialism as a practice (i.e. Sweden) and Soviet Communism (remember the breakup of the Soviet Union) are quite different political beasts. Representing the Obama administration with the hammer and sickle is as stupid as smearing it with a swastika...Just as George W. Bush was not a Nazi for starting the Iraqi War, President Barack Obama is not a "commie-fascist" for advocating a government-subsidized health care plan.
Check out the poster designs on The People's Cube, and comment on the designs and messages.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Shepard Fairey is at it again, taking an Associated Press photograph of Barack Obama, and creating a new image of the president, which is displayed on the cover of the August 20th issue of Rolling Stone magazine.
Fairey’s three 2008 poster designs—sloganed “Hope,” “Progress,” and “Change”—were the most influential and iconic of the hundreds created in support of Obama, with the “Hope” poster the most ubiquitous. Fairey, a guerrilla street artist who has been frequently arrested for tagging private and public property with graffiti without obtaining permission, transformed a news photograph, taken of Obama during the campaign, into a stenciled portrait, accompanied by the “Hope” slogan, which also appeared virally on countless car bumpers, coffee mugs, T-shirts, and Web sites, with more than 300,000 copies of the poster sold. Others used computer plug-ins and tutorials to create their own versions of Fairey’s design.
His red-white-and-pale-blue work on the cover of Rolling Stone depicts Obama as deep in thought, with what appears to be a halo of stars and a seal around his head. The seal reads "Will he take bold action or compromise too easily?" According to an article in the NY Daily News, the artist stated that he did not mean to show a halo; rather, there is just a presidential seal behind him. Fairey also said that he did not mean to be critical of the president: "It's one thing to be running for president and it's another to be President and I think this new illustration that I did hopefully captures the complexity and the weight of his new role," he declared.
[Thanks to Rebecca Borowski and Gordon Stewart III for alerting me to the story in the NY Daily News.]
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Les Otten, a Republican running for governor of Maine (election to be held in 2010) has a logo that is similar to the very successful logo devised for Barack Obama last year.
It has the red-white-and-blue color scheme of the Obama logo, with green mountains and a leaf added. This makes a lot of sense in Maine, with its great natural resources. Check out Otten's Web site (also similar to Obama's), on which he advocates for the government to subsidize alternative energy options: http://lesotten.com/
[Thanks to Steven Heller, who discussed Otten's Web site on his blog, The Daily Heller, and to Laura Larrimore, who alerted me to Heller's blog entry]
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Political Web sites all over the world have copied Barack Obama's very successful site—in their designs, color schemes, features, and more! Regardless of their position on the political spectrum, parties and candidates have found that Obama-like sites are effective ones.
Shane D'Aprile, in an article for Politics magazine (April 2009, pp. 26-32; 34; 36-37), mentions some examples of such sites:
- Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel): Obamaesque red buttons on a blue background; "Likud-TV" instead of "Obama TV"; and social-networking ("Netanyahu Everywhere" rather than "Obama Everywhere"). (http://en.netanyahu.org.il/)
- Fianna Fáil (Ireland): Lots of green, but also Obama-type interactive buttons for volunteers, with the site designed by Blue State Digital (which also designed the Obama site). (http://www.fiannafail.ie/content/index/)
- Democratic Alliance (South Africa): A logo that has a sun and stripes on a home page with a slogan "change"; buttons to donate, volunteer, etc. (http://www.da.org.za/)
- Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (El Salvador): More stripes and buttons to donate and view videos. (http://www.fmln.org.sv/)
Other groups—in India, Great Britain, and Germany—also have borrowed Web ideas from the Obama campaign. According to Ron Dermer, an adviser to Netanyahu, "imitation is the greatest form of flattery. We're all in the same business, so we took a close look at a guy who has been successful and tried to learn from him." (quoted in http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/15/world/middleeast/15bibi.html)
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Guerrilla artist Shepard Fairey's posters, done in support of Barack Obama's candidacy for the U.S. presidency, won the Brit Insurance Design of the Year 2009 contest, which was organized by the Design Museum of London.
Fairey's posters triumphed over 90 other designs.
Fairey was praised by the judges for designing posters that “breathed new life into a form that had lost its purpose,” and because the posters “came not from a marketing campaign, but as a self-initiated fundraising campaign.”
Some other awards—in individual categories—included the following:
Interactive: Make Magazine, which covered home kits to make technology projects easily.
Fashion: Italian Vogue’s “Black Issue,” which pictured four black models on the cover and was devoted exclusively to successful black women.
Product: Singgih S. Kartono, who designed the Magno Wooden Radio, which was made of local, sustainable materials in an Indonesian village.
Architecture: Snohetta, for designing Norway's New Oslo Opera House.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Saks Fifth Avenue hired guerilla artist Shepard Fairey recently to design advertisements, catalog covers, and shopping bags. Fairey became famous as the designer of several posters of Barack Obama during his run for the U.S. presidency, one of which was sold on Obama's Web site.
As with the Obama poster creations, Fairey's commercial work is influenced by Soviet Constructivist Art from the 1920s and 1930s, especially the work of Alexander Rodchenko, who combined photographic images, slanted perspectives, and bright, primary colors. He also borrows from the Bauhaus School, whose artists frequently used diagonal lines and lettering. These influences are evident in Fairey's ad for a slouchy bag, for example, which features an angled model with a raised fist—indicating that she is for the "rights of the people" as well as "arming" herself with a slouchy bag—along with red areas and white diagonal lines.
All of Fairey's work is propaganda, but in the best sense: it's goal is to influence an audience's emotions to promote a product, often inspiring viewers. According to Terron Schaefer, senior vice president for marketing at Saks, as quoted in The New York Times: "What we do very day, really, is propaganda." All advertising can be considered propaganda, of course. But I think that Fairey's comment about his work for Saks (also quoted in The New York Times) is more on the money when he stated that his goal was just to get attention.
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.]
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
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.
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.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
This year has seen yet another record for campaign expenditures in the U.S. The projected total amount for the presidential and congressional campaigns is $5.3 billion, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. This money has been spent mainly on political marketing—including TV, radio, and Internet spot ads, and direct mail—but also for the conventions, canvassing, polling, and telephone calls.
Almost one-half of the above amount—a record $2.4 billion—has been spent on the presidential race. But, as USA Today's Fredreka Schouten noted, this "is less than the $2.6 billion Coca-Cola spent on advertising in 2006." Of course, it is also 50% more than the $1.6 billion expended on the presidential race four years ago.
It also should be mentioned that the Democrats raised almost 60% of the total this year, whereas fundraising by the two major U.S. political parties was approximately the same in 2004. Over 90% of Barack Obama's $639 billion has come from individual contributors, according to the Center, whereas only a bit more than 50% of John McCain's $360 billion has been given by individuals (23% are federal funds; 22% are "Other").
The minor parties? Well, independent Ralph Nader obtained only $4 million (of which 22% were from federal funds); Libertarian Bob Barr had about $1.25 million (with no federal funds); Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin raised $239,000 (with no federal funds); Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney had a mere $188,000 (with only about $5,000 from the federal government).
Interesting, independent "527 groups" devoted to federal races have raised less money this year: $424 million (a decrease of 12% from 2004), reports Ms. Schouten.
How much does all this spending help candidates? There is some research to indicate that it does help somewhat. For instance, money spent on campaign advertising in British elections has been found to be generally effective, particularly for out-of-power parties against incumbent ones. This may prove to be the case in this year's U.S. presidential election.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
The final "surge" is on in the last four days of the election campaign!
Labor unions almost always work to elect Democratic presidential candidates in the U.S., and this year is no exception. The AFL-CIO, for example put together a huge campaign for the final four days—the largest in its political history—with more than 100,000 workers in 21 "battleground" states calling on almost 4 million union households, dialing 5.5 million telephone numbers, and disseminating over 2 million leaflets at workplaces in support of Barack Obama, wrote Jonathan Martin (http://www.politico.com).
This summer, the AFL-CIO sent cards (see the illustration on the right) to 600,000 union members in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with their purpose to counter "myths and rumors about Sen. Obama," according to union spokesperson Steve Smith. The questions included the following about Obama (with all of the answers "Yes"):
- Does he wear a flag pin on his lapel?
- Is he a Christian?
- Was he born in America?
- Does he place his hand over his heart when he says the pledge?
- Was he sworn in on a bible?
Another printed piece focused on health care and the economy. (see Marc Ambinder, The Atlantic)
As for the Republicans, the Politico's Martin reported that John McCain's campaign and the Republican National Committee are sending out robocalls and radio spot ads, featuring retiring Senator John Warner, to Virginians in that key battleground state. The messages emphasize defense. In the radio ad aimed at the voters in the Tidewater area (with its gigantic naval base), Warner says: "Barack Obama's liberal colleagues in Congress announced they will cut defense spending by 25%. Fellow Virginians, cuts in the defense budget will weaken Virginia's economy, weaken national defense."
Friday, October 24, 2008
Presidential campaign billboards have been placed in video games for the first time by Barack Obama's team. The inserted ads appear in the game Burnout Paradise, and "racers" speed by billboards that say "Early Voting Has Begun" and "Vote for Change.com."
The billboard also can be seen in a number of other video games, including Need for Speed, Skate, NASCAR 09, and NBA Live 08, as well as online versions.
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).
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
According to The Spot (a blog about political ads by the Campaign Media Analysis Group, a division of TNS Media Intelligence), special interest groups are girding up to release TV spots in targeted states. These 527 and PAC groups may "prove to be a significant force, largely because they are more willing than candidates to include incendiary information and images in their ads," states the blog.
In the last week, these groups distributed ads that focused on abortion, rape, Obama's association with Tony Rezko, Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, McCain's bouts with cancer, and more.
Planned Parenthood, the Committee for Truth in Politics, the California Nurses Association, and the Judicial Confirmation Network sponsored ads that ran over 1,000 times during the week—costing almost $375,000.
Here are two of the ads:
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Along with Apple, Coors, Nike, and Zappos, the Obama and McCain campaigns have been nominated as finalists for Advertising Age's "Marketer of the Year" Award, 2008.
Obama's campaign used innovative marketing techniques to brand the Democratic candidate as the agent of "hope" and "change," and mobilized young people to support him.
McCain's campaign reinforced the Republican's brand as a "maverick" and a "hero," and partially grabbed "the mantle of change" from his opponent, according to Advertising Age.
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.
Monday, September 22, 2008
In early nineteenth-century America, negative advertising and distortion of candidate records were all practiced in politics—in partisan newspapers, broadsides, and posters. Today, this is mainly conducted on the Internet and with TV spot ads.
Vinny Minchillo (Chief Creative Officer, Scott Howell & Company) says that presidential advertising is like auto advertising. Here are the similarities, according to him (in Advertising Age, September 19, 2008):
- "Both decisions come with a commitment of two, four or six years"
- "Potential customers are engaged for a short period of time"
- "People actually do their homework before committing"
- "People want us to believe they decide based on facts, when it's really an emotional decision"
- "There's plenty of negative advertising"
The key for shoppers—for presidents and cars—writes Minchillo, is to "make a connection to the brand that is both logical and emotional." There are a number of important questions asked by these shoppers, but perhaps the most important ones are "How will this car make me look?" and "What will my friends say when I reveal my candidate choice?" Minchillo states that Obama—"a stunning orator and tremendous narrator"— is a "Ferrari"; McCain—"with tons of experience and decent qualifications"—is a "Toyota Camry."
Then there is the "comparative advertising" between "products." Although surveys have indicated that many voters dislike negative political ads, researchers have shown that they are often effective. Two of the most successful were the Willie Horton spots in 1988 and those by the Swift Boat Veterans in 2004.
The most malicious video spots are not even shown on television; rather they are posted online. Both TV and online spots have been financed by so-called "527 groups." These groups can raise unlimited funds independent of the authorized groups supporting candidates and parties, but must disclose donors. One 527 group, calling itself the "Brave New PAC" targeted John McCain with a spot attempting to tarnish his "hero" image as a Vietnam POW. Here it is:
An anti-Obama spot, posted by "Our Country PAC," called into question the Democrat's "patriotism." Here it is:
These are just two. You can find many more out there.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Yard signs hold a prominent position in twenty-first-century election campaign packages, although not much is said about them. Both the Obama and McCain campaigns are selling these signs (also called "lawn signs") on their Web sites. Both sides have added the names of the vice-presidential candidates to them in the past month or so.
Yard signs are often similar to the posters and bumper stickers produced. They are part of coordinated campaign packages, with their components (magnets, tee shirts, etc.) exhibiting the same logo-type design. They have much in common with TV political spots and product commercials: their messages have almost always been reduced to a few, carefully selected, pretested words and images that encapsulate why people should vote for a candidate or party, as well as—after much repetition—building “brand familiarity.”
Frequently a slogan or logo is included, which can further motivate voters to support a candidate. These play on emotions—an advertising practice, along with repetition, that works. Successful brand management for a candidate is characterized by simple slogans and logos that resonate with voters. The Obama campaign's logo, for example, is designed to get voters' attention and to make them feel good about the candidate, with its imagery evoking feelings of patriotism, the "heartland," and optimism.
Yard signs establish the presence of a candidate in a community and are mainly aimed at supporters— to increase their sense of urgency to work for the ticket and get other partisans to do so. In nineteenth-century American campaigns, parades with banners helped gain attention for candidates and stir supporters; today, yard signs help to accomplish this.
Since the 1950s, antilitter legislation in the United States has been a key factor in the heavy use of election yard signs, while limiting the display of posters and billboards in public places.
The display of yard signs often continues after the voting has occurred. This might reinforce citizens’ identification with parties and help them in the next round of elections. Researchers have found that a “basking-in-reflected-glory” effect can occur for posters and homeowners’ lawn signs. This phenomenon lasted for one week after the 1999 general elections in three urban areas of Flanders: a significant relationship was found to exist between the performance of the winning or losing party and the exhibition of those parties’ printed material. Homeowners were more likely to display the posters and lawn signs that favored the victors and to remove those for the defeated parties.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Guerrilla pop-artist Ron English has produced illegal billboards ("Phatfood," "The Cancer Kid," and "Fox News. We Deceive. You Believe."), as well as posters that have been exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Paris and the Whitney Museum in New York.
English claims to have "pirated" numerous billboards over the last two decades, substituting his "subvertisements" for the existing advertisements. He is also the author of the 2004 book, Popaganda, The Art and Subversion of Ron English.
For this year's U.S. presidential campaign, he created the "Abraham Obama" poster—a fusion of the faces of Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. He then made a nationwide tour, putting up "Abrama" murals in Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and finally in Denver, the site of the Democratic National Convention.
Some have found English's creation to be "awesome"; others have thought it to be "offensive," favoring "symbolism over substance."
What do you think?
In any case, take a look at the video of the "Abraham Obama" billboard being pasted-up in Boston:
And there's a news report on the controversy surrounding English's guerrilla-marketing campaign. Click on the link below, which will take you to YouTube (since embedding was disabled for this clip):
English has a great Web site, on which one can find dozens of examples of his "popaganda." Check it out at:
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
"Yes We Can"—Possibly derived from the United Farm Workers' slogan of 1972. The union's leader, Cesar Chavez, stated "Sí, se puede" ("Yes, it can be done"). Two years later, Philadelphia Phillies' second baseman Dave Cash came up with the "Yes We Can" slogan in support of his team, fighting for the pennant. Later, it appeared on the British children's TV show Bob the Builder, whose viewers heard the question "Can we fix it?" and the response "Yes we can!" Nevertheless, it is a very effective political slogan: positive and inclusive.
"Change We Can Believe In"—This slogan reinforces Obama's call to withdraw combat troops from Iraq, at first perhaps to differentiate his position from that of his Democratic primary opponents, particularly Hillary Clinton. Now it competes with McCain's call for "change."
"Reform, Prosperity, Peace"—Very similar to others in political history, including Wilson's “Peace With Honor” (U.S., 1916); the Bolsheviks' "Peace, Bread, and Land" (Russia, 1917); Cox's “Peace, Progress, Prosperity” (U.S., 1920); Willkie's “For Peace, Preparedness and Prosperity” (U.S., 1940); Truman’s “Secure the Peace” (U.S., 1948); Eisenhower's "Peace and Prosperity" (U.S., 1956); Koizumi's “Kaikaku” ["Reform"] (Japan, 2001). It attempts to communicate quite a lot: that McCain is for "change," "economic growth," and wants to get out of Iraq, but with "honor" (He could use Wilson's slogan, too).
"A Cause Greater Than Self"— a call to service for the country. This is a natural slogan for McCain, who has been in the U.S. Navy and Congress most of his adult life. In his memoir, McCain wrote, "Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you, but is not defined by your existence alone."
"Country First"—Partially a tactic to distance McCain from President Bush and the Republican Party; partially an attempt to stress McCain's heroism during the Vietnam War; partially a veiled effort to cast suspicion on Obama's patriotism.
"A Leader You Can Believe In"—McCain's campaign took the Obama slogan, changed it to emphasize a perceived strength for McCain, and made it, at the same time, into a negative attack on Obama.
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.
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.]
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.
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."