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CNN/YouTube Republican Debate

The line between political printing and video begins to blur…

Over the last week, I've been poking around on the websites of Presidential primary candidates, both Democrat and Republican. I've been searching for more direct mail booklet designs to critique. What I've discovered is that, although not every candidate has a booklet PDF on their website, every candidate does have a ton of political print designs available for their supporters to buy and/or download.

It's interesting to see how the internet – a medium that represents the frontier of communication, networking, and campaigning – isn't working to reduce the amount of political printing we are seeing in this campaign, but rather to increase the range and distribution of print materials.

The Mitt Romney campaign, for example, has got a page of various handouts that supporters can download and have printed to distribute to their friends. Fans of Mitt can also download a little email signature that looks like a yard sign. And on top of all this, Romney's website has got a store – uncomfortably title the “Mitt Market” – where supporters can buy a variety of signs, sticker, banners, and buttons. It's amazing. Online campaigning has, if anything, made political printing more prevalent and accessible than ever before.

Which brings me to the debate.

The line between the page and the screen was blurred even further Wednesday night at the CNN/YouTube Republican Debate, which was, in the end, attended by all candidates, and proved to be the most watched debate of this campaign season.

A few months ago, we did an analysis of the design at the Dem Debate. Then, I pointed out how the auditorium had been styled to appear stacked to the ceiling with LDC screens. The screens were, however, actually signs covered by plastic panes, and backlit to look like screens.

At the Republican debate last night, the signs-that-look-like-screens were back, but this time, they were accompanied by on-screen graphics designed to look like signs! Along the bottom of the screen, tracking questions and speakers, were a series of graphics that represented little billboards!

This design decision just goes to show what an integral part of campaigning political printing is. The billboard graphics, like the Mitt Romney yard sign email signature, both say to me that print and online advertising are not at odds. Rather, they are partners in the effort to provide voters with a cohesive and immersive campaign experience.

All of which is, I must say, pretty freakin' cool.


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