In the Wake of the Midterms, What Part Did Political Graphic Design Play?
We’ve seen a lot of politically-charged graphic design this year—whether it’s the Hope to Nope exhibit, the inflatable Trump baby balloon, the For Freedoms political billboard project or a scathing political satire exhibit. All of this, and more, have certainly taken center stage with the midterm elections that happened on November 6. But with all eyes are on political graphic design, who is behind influencing voters with design?
It Can Be Pretty Partisan
One such political design firm is Three(i) Creative Communications, which is based out of Memphis. They have worked on the visual material for candidates on the local, state, and federal level, including the campaign visuals for Shelby County mayor Lee Harris, as well as California congresswoman Maxine Waters, as well as Tami Sawyer, a county commissioner in Tennessee.
The firm always works with politicos who are in line with their own outlook. “Our mission-driven communications firm believes in supporting political organizations that lean towards the left,” said Domenica Ghanem, the firm’s content director. “Our team is made up of young progressives, and pride ourselves helping candidates who share our values, so when it comes to supporting political campaigns and organizations, we’re pretty partisan.”
While they’ve taken a hand in helping propel votes for candidates, they don’t necessarily believe in influencing the choice of voters. “We don’t really see it as ‘swaying,’ we see it as effectively informing voters,” said Ghanem. “Despite what some may think, voters care about the issues, so we use messages that get at the heart of the issues they care about and the values they hold.”
Simply put, their strategy includes highlighting their client’s strengths. “We break through the noise and the mudslinging, and simply explain how our candidates best meet their needs because they care just as much,” she said. “It’s about building a relationship between the people and who they want representing them and, we’re reaching them everywhere they actually are—through print, web and mobile.”
They’ve also supported non-profits and social justice movements, like the National Urban League, 4 Black Lives, The Know Your Neighbor Campaign, a White House initiative, as well as CNN Political Strategist and the Greater Washington Urban League.
Keying Into Demographic Details
There are many dos and don’ts of political graphic design, among them, Ghanem advises. “Do your research on the audience, understanding the audience is key when deciding fonts, colors, images and sizes,” she said. “What works for African Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 in Memphis is totally different from what works for white people between the age of 45 and 60 in Nashville.”
She also advises to keep it simple. “Don’t be too wordy,” said Ghanem. “A common mistake is people having too much text on signage and mailers. Sorry to say, but people are not reading all of that. And if they don’t get to your call to action at the end of all that text, you’ve just lost the vote.”
That Design Is Taken
With so much political signage, billboards and even memes floating around, certain parties have come to define certain typefaces and fonts, even certain Pantone colors and styles. “Red and blue will always separate the two national parties, but over the past 10 to 15 years, we’ve seen a shift from branding being less about party and more about the candidate,” said Ghanem. “What works for a DC progressive may not work for a Shelby County progressive—the typeface, fonts and styles are now more catered to the message of the candidate, and how they want to be seen.”
Some examples include the web design and branding for Latino Victory, a political organization to raise awareness on Latino candidates, and used motion graphics. “We made resources like endorsement questionnaires and candidate profiles easily accessible,” said Ghanem. “And importantly, we made sure that people knew the mission of the organization as soon as they entered the site—to build Latino political power and representation.”
Online Reach in Mind
According to Kenneth Worles Jr., the founding designer of of Three(i), making the most of election day campaigning is key. He advises that the average winning Senate candidate spends roughly $10m on elections – but Election Day, or the critical days leading up to it, are absolutely crucial. Worles stresses the importance of reaching younger voters via Instagram stories, but also, having a consistent online presence.
“You should have at least three emails scheduled for Election Day, morning, noon, and evening, this is also the best time for you to use a Facebook messaging or text messaging service if you have it, especially if your voting demographic is young,” said Worles.
He notes that 90% of users check their cell phone within three minutes of receiving a text, an opportunity that sould not be ignored. “Tho
se are invaluable open rates,” said Worles. “Your social media should be on fire—and you better be using that #ElectionDay hashtag. It’s the time to share testimonials; photos and Instagram Live videos of people excited to vote for you are easy and essential. Have a volunteer promoting the social media hype around your campaign. Create a shareable graphic for supporters to use on their own pages.”
The Next Wave of Political Graphic Design
Ghanem agrees. “I think political campaigns will be moving more and more toward creative text message marketing and social-influencer video marketing,” she said. “We’ll see more campaigns tap into both of these, seeing that the results are so impressive.”
What they’re exceptionally proud of is the campaign work done for Waters, which captures the essence of the candidate. “She’s an amazing public official, and has built a national brand on being for the people,” said Ghanem. “We worked on the branding for her current campaign, and our goal was to amplify the message of continuing to make all California residents her priority, and never backing down from what she believes is right.”
All images courtesy of Three(i).