I thought it would be amusing to take a look at some of the simplest form of political messaging in the CD 8 race: street and yard signs. I believe political signs mostly reassure supporters that your campaign is heathly and viable. Yet doing them badly may be worse than not doing them at all. You can convey a surprising amount of information to viewers, but if you send the wrong messages – well, you can cause a lot of problems for your campaign.
Let’s start with a look at Patty Weiss’ signage:
I like Patty’s street signage quite a bit. The best part of it is the counter-intuitively effective use of white space. Too often campaigns view white space as a missed opportunity, and clutter their visual presentation. In Patty’s case, her strongest asset is her high name-recognition. She effectively highlights her whole name most prominently by using a high contrast blue, giving equal weight to her first and last name: very different from what most canidates do. Only her name is in blue and it floats elegantly in a sea of white (which, perhaps not so coincidentially, is what her name means).
The subliminal message given by this clean expanse of white is that Weiss is pure, unsullied, uncorrupted by politics. Part of the emotional appeal of the signage is the suggestion that Patty is pure of motive, clean of conscience, and has no hidden motives.
The font used for her name is reminiscent of a Times newspaper type – providing a subliminal link to the reason for her familiarity to the public. Often designers like to slightly customize the appearance of the candidate’s name in subtle, or not-so-subtle ways. In this case, the self-ligatured ‘W’ and the rondel at the end of the ‘Y’ forming the dot of the ‘I’ provide a signature look that could be trade-marked if desired.
The large amount of white space in the bright Sonoran sun makes Patty’s signs quite striking along-side the over-saturated hues of some other signage. To complete the sign, lower-contrast red is used to identify her party, the office sought, her campaign web-site, and legal requirements. The result is a standard patriotic red-white-&-blue color scheme without being too obnoxious about it. I didn’t see a union bug.
Patty’s yard signage is slightly different:
This version introduces a saturated blue background with red banners and changes all type to white. The result is much more visible in lower light conditions, at the cost being rather like almost every other Democrat’s signage in recent years. It reminds me quite strongly of the Kerry/Edwards signage, though I much prefer the red and blue hues Weiss chose. Oddly, there is a union bug on this version.
The main problem I forsee with Patty’s signs is when the her name logo is reduced for things like buttons, stationary, cards, and mailers, it might tend to look rather unimpressive and prosaic; rather like just two lines of fairly willowy and undestinguished lines of offset, vauguely New York Times looking font. Nor do I see a way of putting it all on one line without losing the wit of the ‘Y’ and ‘I’ connection. One the whole, however, Patty’s stuff isn’t fugly at all.
I’ve seen this format used for yard and window signs as well as hand placards. The overall impression is of a tastefully subdued standard color pallete, competence, and understatement. In all, I think Patty’s signage is probably the best I’ve seen so far in CD 8. I can’t compare it to Gifford’s signage because I haven’t seen any yet, and her spokesman says, "We’ve been focusing on talking to voters — our signs will be up soon but that hasn’t been our priority yet." I think they’ll likely be done quite well. I know that Giffords has contracted with local graphic artists Judy Nagel and Steve Farley, and if either of them created the designs, I’m sure they will be competently done.
Jeff Latas’ signage is up next:
While Latas’ signage is single color, that can be a strength when using a logo. The center of the design is ‘LATAS’ and his star and wings logo. This logo is very good. It comes across very well in a single color, making use of it in a variety of contexts and media very easy. It is evocative of Latas’ strongest competitive advantage: his military history as a fighter pilot. The combination is immediately recognizable and easily understood.
The rest of the signage is workmanlike with simple and effective communication of office, party, and web-site. There is no union bug visible. I’ve yet to see larger format Latas signs, it could be a cost saving measure to only have one size; but despite their small size, the very effective logo actually makes these smaller signs compete fairly effectively with larger signage.
I have yet to see any Rodriguez signs or Shacter signs, and I already critiqued Johnson’s signs in a previous post. I will update this diary if and when Giffords, Rodriquez, or Shacter put up signs in my area (near Campell or 1st and Prince is best, guys!).
Now to the Republicans.
I’ll lead off with Steve Huffman:
Huffman also uses a good deal of white space, like Weiss. Maybe ‘Huffman’ means ‘Whiteman’ in Huffman’s native toungue? The color pallete is a lighter hue of the standard red-white-&-blue of the American flag. The sole adornment is a single red star casting a white drop-shadow on the ‘H’ in the name, which gives the typography enough distinction for a trademark. I don’t know when exactly a red star stopped having negative connotations in American politics, but apparently it did.
The choice of font gives an impression of solidity to Steve’s name. "Who’s that?", you might ask. I don’t see any ‘Steve’ around here. Well, I guess voters are not expected to be on a first-name basis with Mr. Huffman. Maybe it just looked awkward to have a first name.
His sans-serif, no-nonsense, uniform-thickness characters certainly scream conservativism. But the impression is belied slighly by the elegant arches in the ‘MAN’. It puts a slightly feminine touch to the decidedly masculine portion of his name. Likely, it is unitentional. There is yet another surprise, however – the curving sides of the ‘A’ make it look quite decidedly like a bullet, right down to the blunt tip of an anti-personnel round. Coincidence, or subliminal law and order messaging?
The rest of the sign is fairly unremarkable, except that for some reason, though he proclaims the office he seeks "U.S. CONGRESS" (in case you thought perhaps he was running for the Congress of some other nation), and his party "Republican" (for some reason it’s the only word on the entire sign that doesn’t shout at you in ALL BOLD LETTERS, including the legal disclaimer), Steve decided to leave off his web-site address. While I suppose that HUFFMAN2006.COM isn’t too hard to figure out, Steve also uses STEVEHUFFMAN.COM, though you wouldn’t be able to figure that out from his sign, since he declines to give you his first name. Needless to say, no union bug.
In summary, Huffman’s signs are surprisingly inept for such a well-financed and experienced candidate. They look fairly good, but the hue shift away from standard flag colors seems cartoonish and strident. The text styling sends odd mixed messages. The big red star may seem somewhat redolent of communism and totalitarianism to older voters who remember the Soviet Union. And the fact that the candidate seems to feel he doesn’t need a first name or a web-site is just odd.
Next up is Randy Graf. I’ve seen a lot of these signs ‘in the wild’, but I snapped this one at a forum, which is why it’s on the ground.
This is the yard sign size. I’m assured that the larger street signs will be substantially similar. The design puts first things first. The name is clear and visible from a considerable distance. Red often doesn’t contrast well on white, so they added a black drop-shadow to help increase the contrast. Very nicely done. However, a custom stroke could have been used to give a higher contrast all around the characters of his last name and to give them enogh distinctiveness for trademark. It might also have made his logo look vauguely reminiscent of a sports team, which I think would not have been objectionable to Mr. Minuteman.
‘U.S. Congress’ makes another appearance. Perhaps it’s so all those illegals Randy thinks are voting here won’t get confused and think he’s running for the Mexican Congress? The first name and web-site are all present, accounted for, and legible. The flourish that I like quite a bit is the little elephant in the corner rather than the name of the party – that’s for Graf’s illiterate supporters. I was quite surprised not to find a little Revolutionary War Minuteman standing resolutely on Graf’s signs, I guess he must downplaying his connection to that embattled militia group.
Now for the problem. What the hell is that thing on the left side of the sign? Surely that can’t be an American flag, though it kinda looks like one. It does have a field of five pointed stars arranged as they are on our flag. And the pattern of stripes is correct; the bottom of the canton aligns with a red stripe. There are only 8 stripes visible but there could easily be 3 more off the top and 2 more off the bottom. And can it be any coincidence that 13 of the 50 stars are visible? Graf does consider himself some sort of ‘originalist’. The only thing I can think is that it IS an American flag that has had its lower right quarter ripped away so that it doesn’t cover Graf’s name. Seems strange that a candidate who professes his patriotism so loudly displays a desacrated American flag on his signs.
Not only has this flag been mutilated, it throws the entire composition off. So much of this sign is given over to displaying a mutilated American flag that ‘GRAF’ is pushed awkwardly off to the right where it crowds uncomfortably up against the edge of the sign and actually touches the legal disclaimer. The legal disclaimer is printed sideways and there is no union bug, of course. Overall, Graf’s signs are effective, though a bit awkward visually. If you overlook his public mutilation of the American flag, his signs are pretty good.
Now for Mike Hellon’s signage:
This is just a placard, I don’t know if his street signage will be the same. I assume that it will at least contain the legally mandated campaign information, which this one doesn’t. The design is attractive, if somewhat uninspired. I like the way that the blue and red fields imply a certain political balance – though I think that is just the impression given by the sign, not a feature of the candidate.
I question whether, like Patty Weiss, there is any justification in taking the space to give equal weight to Hellon’s first name. No one outside a small circle of party insiders knows Mike Hellon’s name, and Hellon is an unusual enough name not to cause any confusion. I like the phrase ‘Republican for Congress’, it almost passes for English. Mike might want to consider putting his website on his signage, lest he end up with signage as poor as Huffman’s; It’s already the most boring of the bunch, which, considering the candidate, I suppose that isn’t really surprising.
Now for Mike Jenkins:
The use of the number 4 in place of word ‘for’ is soooo 2004. I know of what I speak, having run a website ‘dean4az’ at one time. You know those pictures of you with the liesure suit, white shoes, and Jewfro? This is sort of like that. Nor are adult men seeking office of grave responsibility and extraordinary power aren’t allowed to sound like teenage girls texting their boyfriends. Given that this unfortunate phrase, ‘Jenkins4Congress’, is also his website, the sign has a certain elegant economy. However, the standard top level domain that comes to mind is .com, and Jenkin’s site is .org. For some reason he didn’t spring for the $15 to obtain the .com domain as well, so people trying ‘jenkins4congress.com’ get a server not found message. Not very reassuring.
The design is ‘noob with a graphics program’ quality. The execution is sophomoric. Everything you would expect from an amateur and more. Next!
Whoops. No next. Antenori’s signs I have yet to see, nor have I seen those of Libertarian Dave Nolan, or Independent Jay Quick. If you see any of these candidates’ signage in the wild, take a nicely lit, tight shot for me, or let me know where it is, if it is near mid-town. I will update this post as new entries come in and bump it back to the top. That is, if anyone out there cares. If you like this post and want me to keep it updated and/or do this for other races, leave me a comment to encourage me.