As you drove into work today, Election Day, perhaps you paid special attention to all the lawn signs along the way. Or maybe you didn’t—which wouldn’t be surprising. When there are seas of signs (let’s call them marketing messages), all congregating in one spot, it’s hard for us to decide which are worthy of our attention and which are not. This is why design is so important.
There are signs with bright colors, big white type and small messages. Then there are the signs we notice: simple and stark with a white background and a high contrast color for the message. But these may be the signs on your neighbors’ yards, people running for Planning and Zoning. National campaigns, with more dollars to spend, tend to be bigger, bolder and better designed.
Candidates understand they need to be a brand, one that stands for something. Presidential slogans date back to the 1840s, with “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” rolling off the tongue, and have evolved over time to catchphrases such as “Keep Cool with Coolidge” and the memorable “I like Ike” slogan. It wasn’t a logo, but it felt like one. Slogans and logos are a big part of national campaigns. Hillary Clinton’s logo for 2016 was criticized for being too corporate, especially as compared to Barak Obama’s logo which was friendly, yet strong and forward looking. Both Clinton, Obama and many other candidates use patriotic red, white and blue, something new candidates are starting to steer away from (Warren and Ocasio-Cortez are recent examples).
Websites are also a very important part of a candidates’ brand, just as for any company. Joe Biden’s website homepage is bright and clear, an excellent example of how white space can focus a user on a message. Elizabeth Warren’s website uses video in the background but fails to show us what they are selling (her) by using a dark overlay. The design of these two websites next to each other, as well as Donald Trump’s, are a great example of how a website can set a perception of a person or company just on the home page.
With another year of hardcore campaigning in front of us, time will tell who will come out on top, but we can guarantee design will play a huge role in every campaign, just as it does (and should) for every company.