Candidate photos and logos are the two most important marketing tools used by every political campaign.  Once these two things are established, all other marketing pieces will fall into place.  This flyer by Bill Gunn for US Representative of Massachusetts shows that even the most essential components of a campaign can sometimes be the least effective.

The front of this card has a conventional layout with a few twists.  It contains the standard logo, picture, contact information, and also a few bullet points taken from the candidate's platform.  An interesting decision was to include the motto and election date using a vertical script with a maroon on red background (1).  Even though this was intended to be subtle, anytime you shift the text direction 90° it creates a difficult experience for the reader.  Since Gunn also included a rather long personal message on the front, the only area that is not covered in text is the picture.

With the last name "Gunn," there should have been no problems creating a logo that resonates with the voter.  However, the logo that was created (2) minimizes the impact by including the stars and stripes, a large checkmark, and a "MA-1."  In fact, the checkmark cuts into Gunn's last name which makes it difficult to read - something all campaigns should avoid.

When creating a flyer layout, it is important to make a distinction between the front and back of the flyer.  At a quick glance, the reader should know which side of the flyer they are looking at.  One thing I like about this flyer is how it accentuates this concept by using red with blue accents on the front, while the back uses blue with red accents (3), making a seamless transition for the reader.

There is an old saying, "A picture is worth 1000 words," and in political marketing this could not be more true.  Each of the photos used on this flyer are fine on their own, however, they do not add any diversity when grouped together.

The back of the flyer (4) includes a photograph of Bill doing some roof repair accentuating his blue collar background, while the second photo is intended to appeal to sportsmen.  When scanning all of the photos side by side it is rather peculiar that there is no one else photographed other than Bill.  The absence of Bill's family, friends, or even supporters makes him seem... well, antisocial.  Even worse, not one of these photos of Bill shows him with a smile on his face.

"Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important."  - Janet Lane

The Good

1. Good distinction between the front and back
2. Easy to read bullet points
3. N/A

The Bad

1. Hard to read candidate's name in the logo
2. Vertical and Horizontal words on the front
3. Photographs used are 1 dimensional

Overall Rating: D

One thing I always look for in leaflet design is if it stands out from the countless other junk I receive on a daily basis.  I look forward to things that break me out of my normal behavioral patterns to stop and take notice of something.  Coming home a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of having this political advertisement grab my attention and make me say, "wow, I have to use this idea someday!".

This one-sided flyer for US Senate candidate Ed Markey in Massachusetts was published by an outside organization called the League of Conservation Voters who issued this in support of Markey's stance on environmental issues.  Since it is one-sided, there has to be a delicate balance of candidate promotion and substance which this layout did well.  The logo and portrait prominently stands out leaving the reader with no mistake about who this flyer is in support of.  Also the font size of the body may be a little small, but it effectively uses quotes from various news sources to validate their endorsement.

Another thing I like is that the environmental message of the flyer is not only conveyed in the text, but it is also incorporated in the design (2).  I love the clean blue skies behind the image of Markey, while the green silhouette of Massachusetts continues to emphasize their belief that Markey is the "green" candidate.  I also like how this point is further punctuated by the subtitle recycle logo (3), which not only expresses that this flyer is printed on recycled paper, but ties the whole environmental focus together.

The only thing I would nit-pick is that at a quick glance this flyer looks like just another political piece pushed out by the Markey campaign instead of a flyer with an environmental slant.  The subtle imagery is just that, and this flyer would benefit if it included something more overt to emphasize the  focus of the flyer.  One solution may be shortening the slogan (4) and increasing the size of a more refined message instead of the two distinct statements that are currently used. 

However, it should be noted that sometimes organizations try to disguise the focus of the flyer to make it look as if it came from the campaign itself.  This is primarily done when a group wants to support a candidate by getting another marketing piece distributed to the voter, without overtly pushing their specific issue.  This strategy may have been the case with this flyer.

So by now you are probably wondering  what about this design grabbed my attention and had me talking about it for days.  The reason why this flyer is one-sided is that it is a giant post-it note!  Along the backside of the flyer there is sticky adhesive (1), which allows supporters to stick this flyer on doors and mailboxes.  It is illegal for anyone other than postal workers to put anything in a person's mailbox, but the law does not regulate what people can stick on the mailbox.  When I walked up to the house and saw this flyer on the side of the mailbox, it immediately grabbed my attention and broke me out of what I normally expect see as I enter the house - a great sign of effective marketing!

The Good

1. Innovative idea to make the flyer jump out
2. Design of the flyer subtly backs up the message
3. Quotes from the press validates intent of the flyer

The Bad

1. Body of text could be easier to read
2. Environmental message could be more overt (although this might have been done intentionally)
3. N/A

Overall Rating: A

Editing and layout are two of the most important things when finalizing a political push piece.  You need to be shrewd enough to know how much information you need to edit out and then have the eye to know where to place what remains.  This flyer is a good example of editing out enough content, but needs work on the layout of everything that remains.

This placement problem is most clearly demonstrated by the candidate portrait on the front of the flyer.  The picture of Winslow and his wife is an excellent photo and portrays someone who is family oriented, relaxed (due to attire), with a warm smile.  The problem with this photo is that it is chopped off just above the candidate's brow line (1).  As soon as you see this, you have to assess what is listed below to determine if it is worth cramming the photo so much.

Underneath the picture (2) you find the date of the election, campaign logo, campaign motto, texting information, Facebook info, Twitter info, and website.  The two most important things are well defined, the election date and the logo.  In most circumstance the election date does not have be so pronounced, but since this is a special election primary, accentuating this is almost mandatory.   You always want to encourage people to connect with your campaign, but to keep the design clean it is sometimes better to list the most important way to connect while listing the rest of the information on the back of the flyer.  On this card I would have suggested moving some of the connection information to the back of the flyer which would enable me to clean up everything else.

The back of the flyer is fairly clean and I love the use of effective white space around the logo (3).  This really makes Winslow's name stand out which is exactly what you want on both sides of the flyer.  The picture of Dan next to his electric car showcases many images that tells you a lot about the candidate (including a red, white, and blue ribbon!).  To address the concerns I have with the front of the flyer there are many things you can condense or edit out to include a tidy "connect" section.

One last thing to note.  When I work with graphic designers on flyer designs I always ask them to use the smallest font size possible for the "Paid for by the committee..." disclaimer to save room for more important things.  It looks like Winslow's designer got the same marching orders since his disclaimer is almost microscopic (4).  

 The Good

1. White space around logo
2. Pictures with multiple messages
3. Appropriate amount of information

The Bad

1. Photo on front is cramped
2. Information on front could be better spaced
3. N/A

Overall Rating: B

At first glance this push card seems pretty standard, however "standard" is not something that will grab people's attention.  There are also some glaring layout mistakes that makes this key campaign tool ineffective.  

The most noticeable element of this card, the picture, is a complete failure.  The picture Sullivan's campaign chose (1) depicts an expression that I am entirely unclear of.  Most portraits choose to exhibit an emotional trait like concern or happiness, but this picture looks like one of those strange expressions you have when someone sneaks a picture in mid conversation.  Almost more tragically, Sullivan is the oldest candidate in this race and this picture shows me a tired old man instead of someone that is going to tackle the job head on.

A big issue I have with politicians is that most of them think the average voter knows who they are.  Sullivan has had held many extraordinary positions including the US Attorney for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Director of the ATF, but if you ask "Average Joe" voter if they heard of Sullivan a majority of the people who tell you they have will only do so out of embarrassment because you put them on the spot.

This card does little to promote the Sullivan brand, a key function of push literature.  First, Sullivan's name on the front of the card (2) could not be more hidden.  Compressed between the other words on the flyer with little room to breathe, it blends Sullivan's name in with all the other text.  If that wasn't bad enough, the blue on grey color scheme is another poor choice preventing Sullivan's name from standing out.  

Also, if you took a quick glance at the back of the flyer (4), you would have no idea who's card this is.  Always put the name/logo on both sides of the flyer so it is easy to read at a quick look - since this is all you should expect from a prospective voter.

This card breaks another of my pet peeves - trying to fill ever space so it looks like a garbled intimidating mess.  There are clear opportunities on the back of this flyer to embrace white space, but instead there are stars and other junk thrown in for no good reason (3).  Less is always more and the more space you give the reader, the more apt they are to actually read your message.

The Good

1. Election date very clear (especially for a special election primary)
2. Pictures of little kids are always a good idea
3. N/A

The Bad

1. Tired main photo
2. Candidate's name does not jump out
3. No white space

Overall Rating: D

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.

The Good

1. Great picture
2. Clean logo
3. N/A

The Bad

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