The Design of Politics

I’ll admit it. If there are two people running for a local office like “judge #5” and neither of them submitted a bio to the voter’s guide and their issues are identical, I base my vote off of which candidate has the better website. Is this the most ethical approach? Absolutely not, and I don’t completely agree with it myself. But if it’s midnight the night before the ballot deadline and you’ve spent hours researching more consequential positions that are being voted on as more than a formality, why not vote for the person who put more effort into running? If the website is hard to navigate, hard to find information on, generally sloppy, or worst of all nonexistent, I assume that the candidate does not actually care about if the voters know who they are or what they stand for. Clearly, design can really influence the way voters think about a candidate whether or not those voters think that they are above such things. Although I can admire a beautifully made campaign wordmark (or find glee in recognizing a default font in an opponent’s) I am not so much interested in this corporate world of political design. At this point, every political candidate large or small should have at least one designer’s eyes on their materials before they even announce running. This is not the case, but it should be due to the nature of politics.

1967 Weisser print from Center for the Study of Political Graphics

I, however, find much more inspiration in the grassroots world of supporter design. So many talented artists use their abilities to support or tear down certain candidates. I’m sure that this goes back much further but when I think of colorful, artistic, political design I’m pulled to the 60s and 70s. So many protesters stick to the effective black text on scrap cardboard method but as the counterculture movement flourished, so did artistic protest signs. This is much more common in current day, I think because if your sign is clever and pretty people will be more inclined to photograph it, which will end up spreading it around Twitter, which ultimately gets your message much more wildly seen.


Like most revolutions, this concept seems to be rooted in youth. Maybe we were forced to make one too many poster boards in school but now if you look at a climate change rally, almost every sign has a clever phrase or a creative design. Obviously, these youth aren’t professional designers, but they are creatively-fueled and know the power of imagery in the digital age. This translates quite well to a physical medium- going back to the knowledge that creative signs get photographed and put online anyways. If you show up physically with a good sign and then it also makes rounds on Twitter, it is essentially like making your point twice. Although a sea of black text on white paper can be compelling in a black and white photograph, it is much more inspiring to me to see so many people realize how impactful good design can be when dealing with these issues. I know any person who’s spent time making Instagram graphics hoping to inspire social action or put a few hours into making a good protest sign will be much more likely to value graphic design as a whole. This is both good and bad for the next generation of designers because anyone with a Canva account thinks they can spark justice however those less creatively inclined would still recognize that a designer is needed to accomplish their goals. I think this makes the future of political design overall look a lot brighter than default white serif type on a red hat, which means that we can expect a lot of interesting political design movements to come as the people representing the world get younger.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *