Creating a decent political flyer is not a difficult task to undertake. There are millions of examples out there and print shops usually have stock templates that candidates can customize. This flyer for Jim Dixon who ran in a special election for Massachusetts State Representative, decided to start from scratch while using a graphic designer who probably just started their freshman year of high school.
In contrast to my last pFume review, this flyer is extremely difficult to discern which side is the front and which side is the back (2). I assume that the image pictured on the left is the front since it has basic messaging along with election dates, however, the image on the right includes a candidate portrait and logo sandwiching the majority of the flyer's text.
This problem is further accentuated by the call to action at the top of the flyer (1). This is something that should grab people's attention, but instead it is printed using the same font, size, and italics used for the election dates directly underneath. This blends everything together and makes the flyer look as if it is missing a header. There is a certain flow to an advertising brochure that people expect, and it can get confusing when the reader does not even know where to begin.
There is an interesting back story that goes along with the candidate portrait (3). I met Jim at a convention right at the start of his race. After a lengthy conversation about how to kick-off his campaign, I made it a point to emphasize that the first thing he has to do is to get professional photos done. Months later I ran into Jim again and he handed me this card. I looked at it, then looked at him, and all he could tell me is that people really liked the picture of his dog. I shook my head in disgust.
Bullet points are a great tool to organize the information presented on a political push card. Listed on the back of this flyer, there is a group of bullet points immediately followed by another group of bullet points (4). Even though the second group is bold and centered, there is very little distinction between the two separate sections.
White space is always something that is respected in flyer design and this card has plenty of it. Regardless, there is no order to the information within the whitespace resulting in a visually unappealing and confusing experience. This is one of the few cases where poor layout decisions eliminates the advantage of sufficient white space.
1. Ample white space
2. Nice picture of him with his dog
1. Not a clear distinction between the front and the back of the flyer
2. Terrible candidate portrait
3. Poor layout
Overall Rating: F
Interesting Side Note: I recently visited Jim Dixon's Facebook page and noticed that he finally took my advice and got professional portraits done. When compared to his original photos, it is quite easy to see how important it is to rely on professional photographers to do what they do best.
Looking at this flyer from Massachusetts State Representative Alan Silvia only three words come to mind: Too Much Information.
On this push card Silvia gives us the long answer of who he is, what he plans to do, and includes his entire professional resume (1). To accomplish this feat he used a small font size that is usually reserved for the fine print of legal documents. If that was not bad enough, he filled the remaining free space with two unique personalized quotes!
One of the most important aspects of any public servant is accessibility to the public. In order to do this, people have to know how to get in touch with the person representing them. Instead of making this information easy to read, Silvia chose to make it so small that it almost unreadable (2). Even the website url, arguably the most important contact information of a political campaign, is so difficult to read that you practically need a magnifying glass to find it.
Slogans are used by political campaigns to ingrain one specific thought about the candidate in the voter's mind. The slogan has to be consistent and used throughout the campaign for this to work.
In what I believe is Silvia's slogan (this card makes it difficult to know for sure) there is no consistency. On the front of the card it reads, "...Experienced, Dedicated, Leadership, A Voice for You, Not just a Few", while the back of the card reads, "Experienced, Dedicated, and Compassionate Leadership..." (3). There is nothing worse in marketing than getting your own slogan wrong. Silvia should have kept the slogan, "A Voice for You, Not just a Few", enlarged it, and punctuated this on both the front and back of the flyer.
While we are on the subject of these two different slogans, I need to mention the incorrect usage of ellipses, or better known as "...". In one slogan Silvia starts with an ellipsis, while the second slogan ends with an ellipsis. I get confused looking at both of these because I cannot find a single good reason why these ellipses are even being used at all.
As crowded as this card is, there are still opportunities to make this flyer appealing to the eye by creating white space. However, Silvia eliminated these opportunities by ramming graphics of stars in them (4). When designing a flyer remember that creating space will always make it easier for the reader to consume the message.
In his next election, Silvia should find a new graphic designer since this flyer proves the one he used for this one knows nothing about design.
1. Nice headshot
2. Name clear on both the front and back of the flyer
3. Election date listed
1. Too much information
2. Inconsistent campaign slogan
3. Incorrect usage of ellipses
Overall Rating: F
Public Service Announcement - There is no need to adjust the color settings on your computer. The colors that you see are the actual colors of the image. Sorry for the confusion.
When I first found this flyer I knew I came across the Holy Grail of poorly designed political advertising. I am not sure who gave the final approval of this project, but this flyer is justification for political consultants even at the local level.
One of the most obvious concerns is that the coloring of the portrait makes the candidate look like a Smurf (1). The saturation of blue in the photo gives Romaniak an unnatural appearance and actually blends his skin tone in with his dark clothing and facial hair. I actually visited his Facebook page to see if he had a skin condition, but rest assured, this fatal flyer flaw is completely the fault of the designer.
I cannot think of a single circumstance where I would suggest a solid red background behind a portrait (2). Red is a very aggressive color and can invoke emotions of rage and hostility in the reader. Having the longest wavelength of all colors, it pulls the reader's eyes away from the candidate's portrait which is something designers never want to do. With Romaniak's unnatural blue appearance, he might as well Photoshop horns and a handlebar mustache on his face since this combination gives him an almost demonic appearance.
To save money, candidates sometimes resort to single color printing. When looking at the back of the flyer (3), it is clear how ineffectual this strategy is especially when using an abrasive color like red. The reason why teachers use red pens to grade papers is because it grabs the attention of the student and has them focus on where they went wrong. When everything is red, it is difficult for the reader's eyes to focus on a specific area making it tough to read. It is better to use soft colors for text like black, blue, or grey, while saving red text for punctuation purposes only.
Another disrupting aspect of this flyer is that there is absolutely no consistency of font size (4). On both the front and back of the flyer, each separate section introduces a different font size and/or bold text. Adjusting font size is a great way to make important things stand out, but it is uncomfortable for the reader to go on a roller coaster ride from tiny to gigantic words. Font consistency is always the best policy when designing literature, and this flyer has none.
1. Front of flyer is not cluttered
1. Major color issues
2. Professional photo needed
3. Random font size is distracting
Overall Rating: F
There are not many perfect political flyers, but when I saw this one I knew I found the perfect example of what NOT to do. This flyer is so bad that I am keeping it in my portfolio to showcase horrendous campaign decisions. Where to start...
Being the youngest and best looking candidate in this race, the picture of Gabriel Gomez (1) is actually a good one exhibiting a warm, trusting smile. Since this is one of the best selling points of Gomez, this picture could have been better showcased, but it is instead squeezed off to the side making way for an overabundance of text (2).
Most push-cards are used as a portal to drive the reader to places where they can get more information about a candidate like the campaign website or social media. Bypassing this philosophy entirely, Gomez decided to put all the information about him on a single 4x9 card. The front is filled with text that depicts Gomez's history (2) and the backside is filled with more text outlining some of his platform (3). Too much text is tough on the reader's eyes and can intimidate people from reading any of it.
Another thing to note is that Gomez left his name off the back of the flyer. For someone who clearly wants to introduce himself to the public for the first time, you need to hammer that name home with every opportunity you have. It may seem redundant, but you can never push your name enough on the average voter.
And speaking of redundancies, some states require a statement declaring who paid for the political advertisement. This is usually a pain for graphic designers who try to work it into the layout without taking up valuable real estate. Gomez must have really liked this disclaimer since he decided to print it on both sides of the flyer (4). This is an unnecessary effort that takes up space that could be used for more interesting things (hopefully for something other than more text!).
Final Thought - After mulling over this flyer for quite some time, I came up with a justification for a this bizarre flyer design. Gomez was running in a special election with an expected low voter turnout. The standard demographic most likely to vote in this election are people 50 and over. Since these voters are more prone to read newspapers, mailers, etc., it may be possible that this push-card was designed with these voters in mind. However, I still do not believe that this is a strong enough justification to design such a push-card.
1. Great picture
2. Clean logo
1. Way too much text
2. Back looks the same as the front (except the picture)
3. Candidate highlights do not jump out at reader
Overall Rating: F