Print Politics

“Singing Songs and Carrying Signs”

Music + Politics = Cool Posters

Politics and music have always had a close relationship. Even hundreds of years ago, music was used as a tool by emperors and conquerors to whip the populace up into a frenzy of patriotism, or even to intimidate an enemy force during war.

In the context of more modern times, folk music has been an important part of the Civil Rights movement, and of union politics. Many songs have been written and sung and many instruments jammed upon during strike actions to buoy up spirits on the picket line.

Today, politicians select campaign songs to express themselves, and rock stars use their influence to get their fans thinking politically. It's at this point when another form comes into play, connecting music and politics through the art of poster printing and design.

Poster printing is used heavily in the promotion of both election campaigns and concerts, but it's particularly interesting to see what happens when the two come together.

This happened on the music side of things during the 2004 election cycle, when many musicians got together to create the Vote for Change concert series. Amazing poster artists like Artillery contributed their designs to this project, creating a fantastic hybrid of the concert poster and campaign poster art forms.

As you can see, all the coloring and symbology of the political poster is at play here, but its usual rah-rah connotations are subverted by the classically rebellious rock poster ethos. Very cool.

While we haven't seen much independent campaigning from musicians at this point in the race, candidates are making their own alliances with the world of pop music. Hillary Clinton's campaign, for example, is planning a huge Elton John concert in New York on April 9th. Although I haven't been able to find an actually poster for the event, designs on the Clinton website offer a pretty good sense of what one would look like.

While this is clearly coming straight out of the Clinton camp graphic design playbook, Elton John's sense of fun and theatricality can also be seen in the style of the lettering, and the busy layering of fonts. Hmm, do you think Clinton's people and Elton's people got together on this, or did Hillary's designers try to capture pop's esprit on their own?

As you can see from this photo, McCain is another candidate enjoying support from the world of pop music. And you thought the young people would never come out for him! The design may be crude, but these girls sure do have the spirit! I think I'm detecting a merging here of the 1970s DIY punk ethic with the homemade folksy charm of a campaign sign-making party.

Seriously though, I'm not trying to give McCain a hard time. It's just really difficult to find examples of posters and other print designs being create for his campaign. Hey, if you don't think your fav candidate is getting the print design play he or she deserves, then get to work!

Oh, and speaking of which, you didn't think I'd leave you without a little taste from the Obama side of things, did you? One of my favorite music blogs, Turbo City, posted this image the other day from the “BaRock Easton Registration Drive.” This straight outta PA poster design combines elements from very of-the-moment concert poster styles with an eye to the kind of voter-created images we've been seeing in abundance from Obama supporters. Makes me wonder if one of the legacies of this campaign season is going to be a style of design considered distinctive of the 'Obama Era.'

Seen any cool political concert posters around lately? Let us know about 'em! I'm sure there will be plenty more to showcase as we approach the White House.

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Post title comes from the Buffalo Springfield song 'For What It's Worth.'


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