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Election Day 2010: More signs mean more to clean up

political signage
  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.

   Obama 2008 campaign logo and stock signage examples                                                      

For more info: visit the U.S. Census Bureau for the Illinois County Selection Map
Dear Readers: Where in Chicagoland do you find political signs creating clutter? Please send me your photo for a future post in this series about signage. Thank you for your input: Chicagoland is approximately 10,000 sq miles!
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  • Hal Brown 5 years ago

    Every time I see a 'sign farm' I silently curse whoever planted the seeds. It seems like with American politics, the thought process is, whoever can yell the loudest, visually or verbally, will win.

    This makes me wonder, does someone see a sign and think, Wow! I was going to vote for X. Not any more. I saw the sign and I'm voting for Y.

    Thanks for a good laugh and reminder of how silly and sad politics can be.

  • Sol Bleiweis 5 years ago

    Mari, as usual you come up with interesting commentary on our political system. I agree the signs are as bad as our politicians.

  • Paige Taylor 5 years ago

    Mari made me laugh! This is so true!

  • Randy Murray 5 years ago

    When I retire, I'm going to buy a pickup and run around picking up all of the signs I see on public property and stuck to poles!

  • Holly Nagel 5 years ago

    I enjoyed this article about political signage and couldn't agree more. Apathy toward the election process is certainly seen with the lack of imagery, just a sea-of-same, average, status quo.

    Using the hurdle idea, perhaps interest would grow if the politicians had to jump over the signs.

    With regards to color, I'm also familiar with Pantone's choice this year. Personally, I love it, it is one of my faves, but highly doubt the majority of politicians want to be even a remote metaphor for 'compassion, healing, faith and truth'.

    Yes, I see the apathy in political signage design and....oh, look, there are still a dozen of them on my corner!

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