Campaign Signs: Designing Vomit (A Series?)

Campaign signs aren’t exactly objects of visual design excellence. In fact, it seems little thought is put into them at all, though I know from experience that isn’t true. But so much money and time (especially for Democrats, who are required to use union print shops) are invested in campaign signs that it’s frightening how little attention seems to be paid to their aesthetic value. There’s a saying in campaign circles about candidates who lose or have little chance of winning but a large campaign sign presence (and who doesn’t?): “If only signs could vote.” If they did, the polls would be filled with ghastly, radically disfigured voters.

What’s the most attractive campaign sign you can think of (aside from your own campaign’s or one on which you’ve worked)? Probably President Obama’s first campaign. His is the last I can remember having a well-designed campaign brand — and I call it a brand because it was also consistent across platforms. Campaigns are awful at consistency (as much design-wise as policy-wise). This is so true that Texas state Rep. Garnet Coleman, for whom I consulted at the time, thought the Gotham font family was actually named (and designed for) Obama.

It was so successful we even saw corporate brands and others co-opting some slight variant of it.

Since the election cycle never seems to end, I think criticism of campaigns’ visual design has a long-term place in design literature. At worst, campaigns ignore ridicule and recommendations. At best, we start seeing campaign branding that is at least marginally better than that currently clogging our roadsides.

The first in our series? Burnet County District Clerk Casie Walker. I know absolutely nothing about her or her campaign, aside from signs on the side of the US-281 and TX-29. At first glance, I thought she was using Comic Sans. That would have been beautiful in its own way, but instead she did the below:

Casie Walker Campaign Sign










I admit that I respect her font consistency elsewhere on the sign. But there’s a thin line separating genius, bravery and stupidity. I’m not certain where Casie falls in that, but I damn well may have to vote for her just in case it’s genius or courage.

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