UK general election 2019: which parties are using design most effectively?

In light of the upcoming December election, we asked design experts to deconstruct the six main political parties’ identities and election strategies.

Liberal Democrats

campaign-trail
Courtesy of the Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats’ ‘bird of liberty’ emblem — designed by the late Rodney Fitch — is used consistently across its yellow and black branding, including on its diamond-shaped campaign posters. All campaign design is done in-house, a party spokesperson confirmed to Design Week.

Jo Swinson is the party’s first female leader and her profile looms large on the election campaign imagery. One poster, currently the party’s homepage, uses a profile shot of Swinson with the tagline: ‘Jo Swinson’s Plan For Britain’s Future.’ Elsewhere, the language is strongly anti-Brexit — the party has promised to scrap Brexit if it wins the general election. A series of pastel-hued short form videos have also rolled out on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #StopBrexit. The spokesperson says the party is “doing a load of testing, including on our design and colouring” while also “aiming to have alignment between on-the-ground materials and online content”.

-
Courtesy of the Liberal Democrats

Andrew Lawrence, executive creative director of Elmwood, says: “The campaign identity — which uses four colours from every party — is obviously at odds with their master brand, which is an ochre colour. But it plays to a more youthful point of view by using millennial design codes. It feels less establishment — like it has more to say to a younger generation. I think it’s a necessity for them to focus on Swinson as a leader, because they’ve been a bit faceless in the past — especially in contrast with the two strong characters of Johnson and Corbyn. To put Swinson out in front is a great idea for the campaign.”

Lucienne Roberts, director of LucienneRoberts+ and co-founder of GraphicDesign&, says: “They’re trying to scoop up everyone’s colours, aren’t they? It’s not a bad idea — they’re trying to straddle lots of different groups. In order for the Liberal Democrats to win, they have to appeal to Tory and Labour voters so they’ve got to look like they have a bit of everyone.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Liberal Democrats (@libdems) on

Rob Trono, creative director of Blue State Digital, says: “With that profile of Swinson, you have a Russian Revolution style shot from the hip upwards, but the shot isn’t that great, the lines look like they’re going the wrong way, and the image should be on the other side. It’s kind of like something but just not quite there. All the parties are using a more American strategy of buying into the person more than the party, but the Lib Dems are starting from scratch and building it around Swinson is probably easier than establishing who the Lib Dems actually are.”


Brexit Party

Courtesy of the Brexit Party

This is the first time that the Brexit Party — formed in January 2019 — will stand in an election. It has 28 members of the European Parliament and is led by ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage. All traces of Farage’s old party — with its yellow and purple branding — is gone. The Brexit Party has used blue for all the branding. Its tagline is simply: ‘We are ready.’

The logo features a blue tick in a white circle with the party’s name in uppercase bold. Campaign imagery often relies on Farage’s controversial celebrity status, using evocative shots of the politician at events. Other imagery also draw on Richard Tice, a prominent party member — perhaps a gesture to those who are pro-Brexit but might be put off by Farage’s more outlandish antics. All design is done in-house.

Courtesy of the Brexit Party

Andrew Lawrence: “I assume the arrow means we’re off. It’s an odd collection of elements, which feels cobbled together. The campaign material is a horrible piece of typography — the leading is all over the place — but I’m sure it would appeal to a certain type of voter. Farage is very emphatic as a speaker, which they have captured in the imagery.”

Lucienne Roberts: “The Brexit Party have been consistent so far — the arrow which points to the right might lead you towards putting a mark in that box on the right-hand side. And it’s very similar to the arrows used at polling stations. The turquoise colour is clean and fresh and new — it’s pretty distressing as a Remainer — because it does have such clarity. When you look at some of the rallies Farage has had, the colour is used dominantly, and it’s successful on that level.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by The Brexit Party (@brexitpartyuk) on

Rob Trono: “Brexit Party have the advantage of literally just coming into existence. The logo’s arrow which points into a box is very single minded, like the party itself. I’m confused by the angle of the arrow, but it’s useful as a visual signified on a voting paper, because you spot it before everything else. The light blue is about tranquillity and optimism and it’s interesting that they use it whereas the purple of UKIP was very brutal and angry and dark. It feels much more about positivity.”


Labour Party

Courtesy of the Labour Party

In contrast to the Conservative and Brexit Party’s blue, Labour’s red is ingrained into branding material. The rose in the party’s logo was inspired by the European Socialist movement. It was originally designed by Michael Wolff in the 1980s, though has been updated since.

This campaign’s tagline is: “It’s time for real change.” The figure of Corbyn is a focus across social media posts. A series of posts on an Instagram carousel play on his popularity, applying a red filter to him with a full-length quotation in the top right. A spokesperson from the party told Design Week that “98% of all design is done in-house”.

Courtesy of the Labour Party

Andrew Lawrence: “If we look back at what happened with the Brexit bus, and the importance that was played out by the leaders with that statement, it’s clear that copy has become really important — not just in terms of rhetoric but also branding. I don’t know what ‘It’s time for real change’ means. Does that mean they want to be in power, or do they have a plan for what comes next? There’s an ambiguity in their copywriting which is stronger in other parties.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by The Labour Party (@uklabour) on

Lucienne Roberts says: “Labour have the best colour — it travels the best from a distance. The imagery is reminiscent of what happened in the 1960s when it was more expensive to print in full colour and washes of colour were used over black and white images. The Labour Party want to look competent, but they have to appeal to people who have been there a long time and have always seen them as a bit alternative. They’re trying to tick both boxes, not looking too commercial and slick but still like they know what they’re doing.”

Rob Trono says: “It’s like they’re having to explain what a good leader is. People see Johnson as a leader who’s going to take control, so Labour feel like they have to describe a different type of leader to Corbyn. The trouble with Corbyn is that people can’t see him as a leader — people think he’s not been able to decide on Brexit, not dealt with the problems within his party. Johnson has that universal charm, Brit spirit thing. Corbyn has a struggle and they’re trying to redefine leadership to make people believe he’s a leader. But I think that will prove their downfall — there’s one layer too many to get to what Labour want to do.”


Conservative Party

Courtesy of the Conservative Party

The Conservative Party’s current logo has been in use since 2006 and was designed by London-based design studio, Perfect Day. The tree’s leaves — a scribble pattern — sometimes take the form of the Union Jack.

Campaign imagery for this election focuses on Johnson as leader, with social media posts frequently using his first name, like an Instagram post that says: ‘Back Boris.’ There are two taglines for the election; ‘Get Brexit done’ and ‘Unleash Britain’s potential.’ The party’s blue is used frequently, as are the three colours of the Union Jack. At the time of publishing, the Conservative Party was not able to confirm whether its design was done in-house.

Courtesy of The Conservative Party

Andrew Lawrence: “If you look at their logo, it’s totally different to the election. And while master brands are forever and campaigns are a limited time, when time moves on, and the demographic changes, you’ve also got to move with the times. The tagline — ‘Get Brexit done’ — is what it’s become known for: making things happen. It’s playing to a certain voter obviously.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Conservatives (@conservatives) on

Lucienne Roberts: “The Instagram carousel looks English, and it’s referencing a Humanist sans serif typeface. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the drop shadows of the 1950s. It’s really peculiar — the kind of thing you’d expect to see at a tea shop by the seaside, which is extraordinary. The other thing that is really annoying is his name, which makes him seem benign and jolly. It makes him sound like a character out of a kid’s story.”

Rob Trono: “Regardless of political views, people are tired of Brexit. It’s embarrassing – you have friends in Europe asking what’s going on. So they’re tapping into that fatigue. It’s not clever but it’s functional. The fact that they repeat that message — with the Union Jack in the imagery and the tagline — is effective.”


Green Party

Courtesy of the Green Party

The Green Party’s precise shade of green is Pantone 368. Its logo features a globe inside the petals of a sunflower. Detailed brand guidelines stress the importance of keeping the colourway consistent — green and white — which is fitting, given the party’s name. Photography guidelines aim for a friendly image for the party: “It’s important to maintain the feeling of approachability.”

The Greens are pivoting the election away from Brexit onto a “bigger” option: the climate. “The future won’t get another chance,” the party’s co-leader Sian Berry, says. Voting placards have been produced in a darker shade of green. Online, a series of social media posts highlight the human faces of the party, again in various shades of green. At the time of publishing, the Green Party was not able to confirm whether its design was done in-house.

Courtesy of The Green Party

Andrew Lawrence says: “Their visual system comes across as passive and of its time, 10 years ago or more. They’re the antithesis of Extinction Rebellion, which is about taking action. The Green Party is much more gentle. The ident is a hackneyed view on an environmental identity. From an environmental point of view, we’re at a time when we need to make some big changes. I think it would be good to have a less passive brand identity that encourages a movement for change, not this mid-90s enviro feel.”

Lucienne Roberts says: “If you’re called the Green Party, you’ve got to be green. Given where we are in terms of the environment, it looks a bit safe and I would have thought their message would be that the world is not safe. I know they have to look like they’re a safe pair of hands, but it demotes their message. It’s interesting if you look at Extinction Rebellion, whose mark is terrifying. They shouldn’t be sunflowers, they should be flames. All this reminds me of public sector and public information design. It doesn’t feel passionate enough.”

Rob Trono says: “It’s like something you’d see on a website of a child’s food brand ten years ago. They’ve got their Whole Foods logo and they’re the only party not focusing on one person – they’ve not got a Johnson or a Corbyn or a Farage, which looks really weird. You’ve got hundreds of people outside Parliament and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to focus on. The only thing that’s getting Brexit off the headlines right now is the planet and I feel like they’ve missed an opportunity here.”


Scottish National Party

Courtesy of The SNP

The SNP logo has had various iterations but always stuck to a simple, single-line logo which combines two Scottish symbols: the saltire (the cross on the flag) and the thistle (Scotland’s national flower). It was designed by Julian Gibb in the 1960s, after he was commissioned by SNP member William Wolfe. Election material makes use of the logo, with various shades of yellow as a backdrop. All design is done in-house.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Scottish National Party (SNP) (@thesnp) on

Andrew Lawrence: “The SNP are absolutely single-minded in their application of the logo. If you go to Scotland during any campaign, you see it everywhere, which plays to their advantage. They also use copy in an emotive way — the campaign material often points out what we’re all thinking. The typeface is distinctive. I hate when people start crushing type to fit into a space — not necessarily on the master brand — but with their campaign material. When you’re running campaigns, designs are done quickly and you can get away with it.”

Lucienne Roberts: “It’s difficult for them because their issue is more of a local one. Clearly their message is about leaving the UK. I’m surprised it’s not more urgent about what could be lost for them and I’m surprised it’s not angrier. From a consistency point of view, it works. It’s interesting they use black so prominently, which gives it enormous strength straightaway. Given their message, it does give them some weight and intensity. It’s clean and direct.”

Courtesy of The SNP

Rob Trono: “It’s the Scottish they’re going for, so it’s a very single-minded campaign. And with the Johnson poster, it’s like: why explain it in many words when you can just have a picture of one person and everyone gets it? I think it’s trying to be clever. It’s like someone’s seen the Saatchi campaigns for the Tories in the 1980s and 90s, with Tony Blair’s face with demon eyes and thought they’d do something similar. They’ve gone with that line and just plonked Johnson’s head on. But it’s probably all they need to do to get their point across in Scotland.”

Hide Comments (1)Show Comments (1)
Comments
  • Neil Littman November 22, 2019 at 8:42 am

    A very interesting article. Labour seem to have the most cohesive and consistent approach. None of the parties are ‘brands’ in the true sense. Though I would like to hear what others think about that. The Green Party chose one of the BP corporate colours for their identity. You think they might have researched it more carefully or was that deliberate? Did you consider including Extinction Rebellion or are they a ‘movement’ rather than a party?

  • Post a comment

Latest articles