As the sheer volume of content produced by campaigns has exploded over the past two cycles, creative directors and graphic designers now fulfill increasingly critical roles in political organizations. Yet they’re often the professionals we hear from the least.
That’s the biggest reason C&E created its design and branding Q&A series this year (interviews are featured in every addition of our Creative Newsletter). What’s below is some of the best advice that came out of this interview series in 2021.
C&E: What are the dominant trends in political design at the moment?
Megan Magray, Co-Founder, Agitprop Collective: There are two ends of the spectrum. First, there’s old, classic political design. Then there’s this other end where we’re pushing the boundaries and we’re creating a brand for a candidate and it goes too far into trying to tie this start-up-y, digital-first Instagram style to a candidate. Maybe it appeals to a certain segment of voters, but I think it can be off-putting to people who aren’t used to seeing that.
I try to stick to my, sort of, central design values: We’re working towards something that is clean and optimistic and open and bright.
We’re working on this campaign together because we really, really believe in what we’re doing. The constant tension for 99 percent of grassroots campaigns is, ‘we want to fit all of this text on this mailer,’ and everything is happening in a chaotic way and very last minute. We’re trying to ensure our material is not only accessible, but culturally competent. There are a lot of things to balance but at the end of the day it’s really about using design to advance the communication of your candidate’s values, not as a way to define them.
C&E: How do you make design and branding personal for candidates?
Robert Arnow, Creative Director, Incitement Design: In my experience, the candidate exerts a lot of control. If they’re not open minded and they’re not creative, their personality will come through in the final product. Although we’d like them to take more of a back seat to it, and let us take more of a lead, they often feel like they need to be connected to the final product in some way.
We talk through it with them in an organic way, and try to get a sense of what the vibe of the candidate is. I want to find out what parts of the campaign they really want to emphasize. I want to understand their campaign strategy and help them crystalize that. Mostly people are trying to emphasize something, but sometimes they want to de-emphasize something. Like if they’re really young, they may want to de-emphasize that.
Most of the time, though, the idea is to really talk to the client to try to help them crystalize the most central feeling or vision or aspect of their campaign that can then be communicated into something visual.