The graphics of politics

As our recent articles on the US election have shown, 2012 has been rather a fallow year when it comes to great political imagery.


The battle between Obama and Romney has failed to through up any graphic gems along the lines of Shepard Fairey’s iconic Hope poster from 2008.

In some ways this is due to context, in particular Obama, looking to secure a second term, could hardly rehash the Hope or Change platform from four years prior.

And the Romney team appear to have an almost total lack of understanding of the power of design and imagery. Siegel + Gale president Howard Belk describes Romney’s identity as ‘extraordinarily amaturish’.

The Romney identity
The Romney identity

‘The typography is unclear and squishy and there’s no clarity or crispness… The kerning is atrocious and the letter spacing on the “ey” is so weak.’

But Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, interviewed by the Atlantic, makes a wider point.

He is quoted as saying, ‘One thing that’s different now compared to four years ago is that social networks like Twitter are, to a certain degree, design-neutral.

‘They are more about language, or catchphrases, or hashtags. 2008 had a whole series of graphic expressions that of that political movement that you’d put in a time capsule.’

Shepard Fairey's Hope poster, from 2008
Shepard Fairey’s Hope poster, from 2008

It’s actually rather rare for politics to be a particularly visual medium. Maybe 2008 was something of an aberration, with a young, photogenic Democratic candidate bringing a compelling message of ‘Hope’.

For the 2012 election we’ve reverted to the catchphrase and message-heavy style of campaigning – but instead of televised debates or newspaper being the main medium, now Twitter has taken over, forcing the message to be even sharper and more succinct. #Vote.

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