Election 2010 signage (Photo by Mari Baskin)
Signage knows no shortages in Chicagoland. Every day citizens visually commandeer their way through a myriad of signs in all sizes, shapes and colors. There are the utilitarian road signs that direct, the flashy retail signs that entice, and the highway billboards that distract. In the weeks leading up to Election Day however, a different breed of public communication appears: the temporary political sign.
What color should an American political sign be? The obvious response is red, white and blue. But as political signs are apt to be placed within a sea of visual sameness, how much attention can one red, white and blue sign get? Or a red and white sign? Or a blue and white one? With millions of colors from which to choose, surely an attention-getting color palette exists.
In the relationship between color and politics, red equals Republican and blue equals Democrat. Does red and blue combined equal bi-partisanship? Green has a connotation of its own, too. Green implies a dedication to environmental principles. Yet with all the recent news about Wall St. and banking, green means money, too. Nope, green is not the color du jour for this political season unless the candidate represents the Green Party. Turquoise has been crowned by Pantone as the color of 2010, “a color of deep compassion and healing, and a color of faith and truth,” hardly a color in predominant use by politicians campaigning for election.
Beyond color, how can a political sign get attention? Popular practice is either to make the sign bigger or to put up more of them, like hurdles at a track meet. Not only is the infectious design snicker – if you can’t make it good, make it big – employed here, but also the favored – if one is good, two or three or four are better.
The attention-grabbing, memory-making missing visual ingredient to most campaign signage is imagery. Not elephants and donkeys, but original meaningful graphics that correspond to the message of a specific candidate. Catalogs offering stock signage options reinforce the underlying belief of many voters who rely on the signs they see to stand in for the policies they do not take the time to investigate, that the visual sameness portrayed in the signs on every corner represents more of the same from one candidate to the next. Apathy towards our election process requires inspirational imagery to instigate a sea change.
Illinois candidates from all parties have proudly campaigned on a platform of reform.
Let’s see how quickly they clean up the political signage after Election Day.