All of Your Questions about Sign Design are Answered Here
by Tomas W. Keefe, Patriot Signs
The most significant impact a yard sign can have for a candidate is to help insure name recognition when the voter steps into the voting booth. In relative terms nothing else is very important.
If we operate off of the above premise let’s take a closer look at the workhorse of political campaigning - the yard sign. Since most signs will be viewed by those in automobiles or other modes of transportation, you have a very short window to get your name across. Anything that distracts or limits the visibility of the candidates name should be avoided.
In no particular order, we would like to offer some points to consider when developing your yard sign.
• What about party affiliation? Should your campaign involve a locale where party affiliation is even more important than the candidates themselves, the R (Republican) and D (Democrat) on the ballot itself will suffice. In this case nothing else is very important. Using party affiliation is terrific if the majority of voters are from the same party. Not such a great idea if you are in the minority.
• What about photos? They are nice, often flattering but take up valuable space and are often distracting. We have done some wonderful photos, but anecdotal research suggests that the potential voter remembers that great looking picture, but can’t tell you the name of the candidate. In most jurisdictions, photos are not on the ballot. In our culture where we read left to right, a picture on the left will be quickly seen but little if any time is left to find and assimilate the candidates name.
• But we have a great slogan. Save it for direct mailing, television , radio, newspaper or other media that do not require visual and cognitive recognition in 3 – 5 seconds. If it is absolutely essential to the integrity of your campaign, make it large enough to be read by walkers or stopped traffic, but no so large as to comprise the visibility of the name. Remember, slogans are not on the ballot.
• What do we do with verbal imperatives? Re-elect, elect, retain, vote, keep, etc. View your sign as a resume. You are trying to get a job. Utilize those elements that establish your qualifications and avoid those that detract. Many jurisdictions require that language used in political advertising not be misleading. Therefore, state accurately your current position as it relates to the office. Generally, emphasize your success … re-elect, retain, keep, etc. Minimize your lack of experience … elect, vote for, etc. Some may argue that incumbents are not very popular and references to such should be avoided. The facts speak otherwise. Incumbents win and win big. Familiarity may breed contempt, but it is also a terrific advantage in an election. Many jurisdictions indicate incumbency on the ballot.
• I want to show that I am patriotic. The most common colors we use on our products are red, white and blue. However, too much of a good thing can reduce the distinct nature of a custom sign. Don’t be afraid to mix and match colors.
• Is a Union Label needed? A Union Label (often called a union bug) printed on your signs may be helpful in some communities and with some voter constituencies. If a union bug is desired, confirm that the company supplying your signs is a union shop and/or has the legal right to use the union identification in question. Just ask the company to fax you a copy of their current union licensing agreement. You should never have to pay extra for a legitimate union label from a legitimate manufacturer.
• I can do some really neat things with my computer. Want to see? Not really. Remember, anything that compromises the ability to read the important elements of the yard sign should be avoided. Gradations, vignettes, multiple drop-shadows, etc. are very effective in TV and direct mail, but have limited if not negative impact when included on yard signs. Don’t be concerned if all of your campaign materials match. Be concerned that all of your media efforts are effective!
• Are there any legal loopholes I have to jump through? Disclaimers are required in most jurisdictions. From Federal to local, the requirements are quite varied and specific. So make sure you read and include the small print if required by law. It can be a PR problem if you violate the law when preparing your signs.
Thomas W. Keefe, is Vice President and General Counsel for Patriot Signage, Inc., the manufacturer of The Winningest Sign.