Print Politics

Glossy Booklet Printing a Must on Campaign Trail

An analysis of Obama's Iowa campaign booklet.

After looking at Ron Paul's New Hampshire booklet direct mailer a few weeks ago, it seemed like it would fun, and only fair, to look over the candidate booklets that are turning glossy, full color printing into a necessity for candidates this campaign season.

Since it seems to have had such a big impact in Iowa, I decided to take a look over the Obama campaign's Iowa direct mailer. The booklet has 19 pages of content, PLUS an attached DVD. The DVD basically does the same thing as the booklet, while adding enough unique content to keep things interesting.

Storyline Concept

Instead of focusing the booklet directly on policies or promises, Obama's Iowa campaign designers set their 19 pages of content up around Obama's life story. Through images and memorable quotes from Obama's history, the voter is taken on a narrative journey leading up to the immediate state of his candidacy. We see how he came to this point, and how his life has set him up to be the best possible leader.

As we've already seen in Iowa, the focus of the story boils down to how Obama is going to change the nature of politics in this country.

The whole 'life story' strategy is fairly well done. However, it could have been done a bit better. The booklet starts strong, but by the end, the focus becomes a cut and dry recitation of all the great things Obama is going to do as President. This means that any reader who was sucked in by the story at the beginning of the booklet, is probably going to be bored by the bland and lengthy exposition of the conclusion.

The booklet designers would have done better to set the promises and policies of the booklet's conclusion within the framework of the story. Maybe they could have let Obama's story continue on into a hypothetical future, in which he's President, and the country in changing because of his ideas.

Besides the storyline concept, any campaign could take a page from this booklet in terms of its use of imagery and typography.


Each page of the booklet features a single, full color image from Obama's life. There's a picture of him as a child; images of him interacting with voters; and of crowds waving his political printing.

This focused use of imagery is much more effective than the layered mishmash of pics that often grace these types of booklets. Clearly, the designers were committed to the very excellent concept of: one page, one idea. The large, friendly images in this booklet convey a clear idea without overwhelming the eye with too much information.


Although Obama's booklet suffers, particularly at the end, from just a wee bit too much copy, the use of typography throughout is excellent. Most pages contain a quote, a headline and a subheader, a few paragraphs of small copy, and a large, transparent word, placed as part of the background.

The background words are generally used to convey a concept, such as 'CHARACTER,' 'LEADERSHIP,' or 'COURAGE.' These set a tone for the entire page that tell viewers how to 'read' the background image, even if they only scan the accompanying text.

First and foremost, however, the eye is immediately drawn to the headers and subheaders, which are done in boldly contrasting white and sandy brown, and quickly reinforce the background word. These few words – the only ones on the page done in a sans serif font – instantly convey the message of the page without asking the viewer to do any reading work at all.

The quotes, offset from the main paragraph copy, convey a sense of space, which is good, because they are sometimes overlong. The designers seem to have been acutely aware of this, however, and the design compensates by having key words and phrases in each quote stand out with bold styling and extra-large font sizes.

By the time the eye takes in the single images, the background word, the headers, and the emphasized terms within the quotations, a message has been sent. Regardless of the readers' commitment to the content, a brief leaf-through of the booklet sends a solid message.

As a direct mailer, or as a door-to-door print promotion, this booklet gets the job done. By following some of the strategies used by the designers of the Iowa Obama booklet, any campaign can make the most of their full color printing investment.


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