Print Politics

Political Printing Gets Serious

As the primaries loom, campaigns are changing their design tactics.

Ron Paul supporters may be on the way to launching the biggest campaign advertisement of this election season, but this past weekend, Barack Obama drew the largest crowds we've ever seen at a primary candidate rally – with a little help from Oprah Winfrey, of course.

Iowa and New Hampshire saw Obama rally crowds of 18, 000 and 29, 000, respectively – ridiculously huge numbers, considering that some candidates draw a few hundred supporters at a go. You'd think it would be almost impossible for an Oprah-hosted rally of this magnitude not to take on a festive mood, but the days of light-hearted campaigning are over. The tone set by these rallies came across loud and clear: enthusiasm is great, but our purpose is mightily serious.

That the time for giggling and fence-sitting is through was made apparent this weekend by a distinctive shift in the style of political printing on display at the Obama/Oprah rallies. The rally sign of choice is now dark blue, the dominant feature being the words, “Change We Can Believe In.”

The “Change” political printing shows the Obama campaign's shift in mood and focus in several distinct ways:

  • The brighter blue of early sign printing has been replaced by a sober navy blue.
  • The colorful Obama O that dominated earlier designs has been relegated to a tiny marker in the lower left-hand corner of the design, favoring a two-tone vs. multicolor scheme.
  • The fanciful serif font of previous political printing has been discarded in favor of a bold, no-nonsense sans-serif.

All these design choices come together to create rally signs that are more serious and less festive than those waved in the early days of Obama's campaign. The contrast could be seen in particular when looking out over the crowds at the weekend rallies. Many supporters came with a mishmash of previous generation political printing, which stood out, colorful and bright blue.

The signs being waved strategically by the crowd seated behind the stage, on the other hand, were of the more serious “Change We Can Believe In” variety. These signs were deliberately placed by rally organizers to get the most attention. And like the speeches made by Obama and Oprah, they were designed to be enthusiastic but serious.

Now that the attacks and mudslinging have begun, the time for fun on the campaign trail has ended. With the first primary caucuses just weeks away, candidates can no longer afford to let voters feel like they can vote or not vote, participate or not participate, and political printing is beginning to reflect this.

It's hard to believe that it's only primary season! Still a long way left to go before the White House.


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