Print Politics

Design Trends In Political Printing

Get Out The Vote will woo designers, at least.

The AIGA Design For Democracy initiative has been working since 1998 to find ways that good design can make the voting process simpler, more appealing, and more accessible. Design For Democracy is one of the best examples out there of designers getting involved in politics, but I wonder, are they reaching an audience beyond the design community?

As part of this year's Get Out The Vote effort, AIGA members were invited to create non-partisan campaign posters encouraging people to vote. Design For Democracy then selected and printed 24 poster designs that were widely distributed in the hopes of increasing voter participation.

Images after the break…


The 24 selected posters are available on the AIGA website to anyone who would like to download and print them. Also present and accounted for are all 267 submissions. Comparing the masses to the 'winners' is an interesting exercise in measuring design trends. And it begs the question: will these posters – created by designers, vetted by designers – appeal to a broad community or voters, or just to other designers?

One pervasive trend visible in the top 24 is a penchant for disarmingly simple shapes. Often the images seem to have been torn out of construction paper or scribbled in crayon, very expertly, of course. This is simultaneously a testament to the appeal of the DIY ethic in design, and to the ability of Corel Painter to make us all look like we're still toiling away on handmade designs in our freezing NY artist's studios.



Another trend is the tendency towards soft pastels and a color palette reminiscent of vintage poster design. Designer Bob Staake has a great collection of poster printing made in Europe between 1930 and 1960 that shows the obvious inspiration for this style.



Finally, and not surprisingly, many of the top 24 rely heavily on typography to create images and shapes that send a message. Yup, there's little debate around this one fact: Designers love typography.



And all these things are very cool for those aware of the history and dialogue of design, but will these charming, understated techniques get through to the average voter, or will many people just stare right through what may appear to be obscure 'art' posters?

To be fair, quite a few of the winners don't follow these trends at all, opting instead for design that is shocking, challenging, and even aggressive. Obviously, this style of design attracts attention, even though it's not what you might call 'pretty.'


Wow, that is seriously unpleasant. But in an effective way. When it comes to appealing to voters, and to creating any type of effective print design, I believe a balance needs to be struck between being well-designed, and being accessible to those not involved in 'the conversation,' as it were.

Effective print advertising often requires the designer to be the consummate dichotomist. Use unexpected colors, but make sure your palette is clear, and not overly complex. Use large lettering rather than abundant copy, but endeavor to say a lot with a little. Offer a visual experience that reminds the viewer more of art than advertising, but put across a strong, compelling message.

We constantly have to ask ourselves what's more important: the end goal or the esthetic? The top 24 Get Out the Vote poster designs offer a few examples that do it all, but most seem designed mainly to appeal to other designers. Will they inspire voters at large? I'm not sure, buthey will look good on your wall, even after November 4th has come and gone.

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