Print Politics

2008 Presidential Election Campaign Printing: A Retrospective

Don't read this – go vote!

Looking back over the Hotcards blog, I see that I started to write about the election campaign printing happening in this Presidential race in May of 2007. That's a long time to be writing about this campaign, y'all! And maybe it's even felt long for the candidates.

All I know is that we've seen a lot of campaign printing over the last two years. Here's a look at some of the best, and the worst.

Even as far back as May 2007, it was obvious that the Obama camp was trying to do something fresh and new. Their branding was strong, and they were committed to appealing to a young, design-conscious audience.

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McCain, a 100% long-shot candidate at the time, also had a fresh approach to his print designs. His campaign initially employed a black, white, and gold color scheme, along with a minimal militaristic design scheme that was as unusual as it was uncompromising.

John McCain2019s Campaign: Design Analysis : Hotcards

But McCain didn't stay black and white for long. While Obama's color scheme has remained consistent, the McCain camp quickly switched to a more colorful print design palette as his campaign floundered early on.

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While the vehicle wrap printing that created the Straight-Talk Express was a good investment for McCain, the center of Obama's design strength was his great logo design – the round Obama O that was as well-crafted as the candidate's speeches.

I love my Obama Os! : Hotcards

While we don't see those Os too much anymore, the round poster printing has translated into crowds now raising their hands in distinctive 'O' shapes.

Of course, one of the most distinctive features of Obama's campaign is the way it has inspired voters to participate in the electoral process. The best examples of this are probably found in the movement amongst artists and designers creating posters and apparel in support of their favorite candidate.

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It's a testament to the commericial appeal of Obama as a candidate that people will likely be wearing the Obama t-shirts designed by GIANT artist Shepard Fairy long after the election is over.

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While the imagery has become iconic, and the speeches played again and again on YouTube, neither candidate has come out with a truly memorable slogan. The Obama camp has put some good slogans out there – “si se puede,” “Keeping America's Promise,” “Change We Can Believe In,” and of course, “Hope,” but these phrases have been too numerous and changing to really lodge in the collective consciousness.

Ohio Primary Campaign Printing : Hotcards

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At least the Obama camp has a few memorable slogans. Besides 'gems' such as 'Straight-Talk' and 'Maverick,' the McCain campaign really didn't settle on a slogan until McCain chose his running mate. At that point, we began to see the rather heavy-handed 'Country First' slogan appear on McCain/Palin campaign sign printing.

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As you can see above, by the last few months of the campaign, McCain's print department had their design philosphy down. However, they spent an amazing amount of time jumping from style to style, particulary after McCain won the primary election.

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The short-lived green color scheme only lasted until the financial crisis bumped the environment out as the major issue of this election. Oh well, the moment for green printing will come again!

One major factor that had zero impact on campaign print designs was the addition of the candidates' running mates. After much speculation, Obama picked someone boring, and McCain picked someone…interesting. But despite their differences, and the hoopla surrounding their candidacy, the names of both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin were added to election campaign signage with little fanfare.

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Unless you're really into kerning, there's not a lot that makes the Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin signs stand out from what they were before running mates were added to the ticket. This might have signaled a rather inglorious end for the campaign print designs of '08 – if it wasn't for the voters themselves, who have continued to design print with passion and style right up to the end.

In these last days, we haven't seen much independent printing being done in support of McCain or Obama, so much as designers creating posters and videos simply asking people to VOTE! which is, if anything, even cooler than designing signage for a particular candidate.

Design Trends In Political Printing : Hotcards

So that's your election campaign printing retrospective – two years summed up in one blog post. Personally though, I hope you're not even reading this. I hope you're out voting, I hope you're getting your friends to vote, and most of all, I HOPE that the best candidate wins.


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