The stories behind the manifesto covers

Whoever said don’t judge a book by its cover was wrong. The design semiotics of the main political parties’ General Election manifestos leave you in no doubt as to their underlying philosophies.

On the left, Labour with a postwar retro socialist look, complete with family staring towards a future overflowing with milk and honey. With primary colours, an inclusive typeface and a sunburst to represent the future, Labour wants to tell us it has a positive plan for the future. The passive role of the family in the middle of this almost religious burst of ’future wholesomeness’ states quite clearly, however, that it is they, not us, who own the plan.

In contrast, the Conservatives seek to convince a thoroughly disillusioned and cynical electorate that post-credit crunch, post-MPs’ expense scandals, politicians now ’get it’. Instead of sunny optimism we get sober and serious dark blue, hardback, tight leading, capitals and ’an invitation’. Reminiscent of 18th-century radical reformists’ pamphlets in its earnest modesty, this manifesto seeks to win us over with its humble and low-key approach. It says, ’We don’t have the answer or the grand plan – we need you.’

In third place, the Liberal Democrats’ ultra-utilitarian manifesto has all the style and appeal of an NHS waiting card. Lots of white space, high-street Helvetica and the unfortunate, unnecessary swish of the uncreative. The unconscious design philosophy here is, ’We are so honest and fair and straightforward that we don’t need to do anything other than tell people our ideas – and we will be believed.’ Maybe, but it’s also dead boring.

Sunny, serious or dull, we can all vote on them on the 6 May.

Simon Myers, Chief executive, Figtree, by e-mail

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