Campaign Sign Snark 2010: John Huppenthal

By Jenn

For many voters, their first and most viceral exposure to a candidate is via the campaign signs posted on street corners and abandoned lots. These signs are the face of a campaign, and are responsible for generating a voter's first impression of a candidate. Campaign Sign Snark is an ongoing feature that will comment exclusively on these signs from a purely design and aesthetic standpoint, uninfluenced by the candidate's politics, platform, and personality.

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Aesthetics: No clashing colours. No hideous logos. Nothing is wrong with this sign — except the giant Glamour Shots family photo that's taking up 50% of the entire thing! Apparently, John Huppenthal thinks every morning commuter, still wiping the sleep from their eyes at 6:30AM, wants to be exposed to the sweetly, saccharine cheerfulness of his entire family.

Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with John Huppenthal's family. They are, in fact, the picture of Leave it to Beaver domestic bliss. Which is great, I guess, if you're a Huppenthal.

But why-oh-why do we need to see this image on every street corner? There's something just a little bit creepy about Daddy Huppenthal trying to win my vote… with pictures of his wife and his two attractive daughters. It's a little like that guy who pulls out his wallet photos in every conversation. Personally, I feel for the little Huppenthal-ettes. I mean, imagine being in high school, and having to tolerate your face plastered all over the city for your classmates to admire, or joke about. And who was the cause of all this social anxiety? Dear, sweet, daddy. Cue the therapy bills.

From a purely aesthetic standpoint, little Huppenthal-ette on the left has a shirt that is the same colour as the background, which can make a person look disembodied from far away. Also, the American flag background behind the family photo is overkill. I mean, we get it — you have a family and they are American and wholesome. Your cookie is in the mail.

Effectiveness: The sign is gigantic, which is great for legibility. White on blue provides good contrast under all lighting conditions.

The one problem? Daddy Huppenthal apparently thinks all Arizonans have a degree in speed-reading: there's simply no way for a voter to read, and process, all the type on the sign within the space of a single red light. We live in a digital age. Platform points belong on websites. Campaign signs need to keep things simple.

As for the choice of the family photo: my guess is that Daddy Huppenthal was word associating "school = kids = family". The sign is predicated on the assumption that voters choosing their next school superintendent want a candidate who is responsible, and who cares about kids. If that assumption proves accurate, than this sign is an effective, if decidedly unsettling, tactic.  

Rating: 4 out of 5 for effectiveness and legibility, but 142 out of 10 on the creep-o-meter for enforced voyeurism of the Huppenthal family album.

The Voter's Take-Home Message: "I'm a man and I have successfully procreated! Vote for me!"


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