Graphic design has throughout the modern years played a huge role in political propaganda. We all learned at school how Hitler used his propaganda machine to push his agenda and implement Nazi policies. The British government during this time were telling us to Dig for Victory, Make Do and Mend and even to Keep Calm and Carry On. These posters and slogans are still known even today and give us an insight into what life was like during the years of war. The British government had a specific Ministry of Information to control what message the public would hear and they did so to encourage the war effort, get men to conscript and boost morale of the people left back at home. Design was an integral part of the message as posters could be placed anywhere and everywhere in a time where news travelled without the use of internet and television. The Ministry of Information was going to paint it rosy even when times were most certainly dire.
Since then, design has taken a back foot in politics and slogans and soundbites have taken centre stage. It doesn’t hurt to slag off your opponents either apparently. The design in politics takes place during any sort of campaign where every detail is carefully co-ordinated by a rather stressed out team of marketing experts. The end product usually tastes of insipid, not inspiring. And then there are the endless parodies and mocking…
The dearth of design in politics carried on until 2008 until a certain US senator decided to run for President…
The now iconic poster has that look and feel of those old wartime posters encouraging us to triumph over fear. It’s simple, striking graphics and colours have been satirized but arguably in a more sympathetic manner than that of poor Dave and his overly photoshopped features! The thing was, the “Hope” poster was seen as being genuinely cool which was true to the character of Obama himself. Something which his contemporaries couldn’t compete with.
Recently, the Yes campaign took their image very seriously as part of their large grass roots campaign during the Independence referendum in Scotland. They were seen as positive and hopeful against the fearful and negative Better Together campaign. No matter which side of the fence you sat on, one can definitely argue that the Yes camp had the friendlier looking image. Take a look at these posters outside a polling booth for example:
The Vote No poster is completely uninspiring and negative, on looks alone it’s off-putting. Whilst the Vote Yes poster isn’t going to win any design awards, it’s message is by far more appealing and far more thought provoking. It didn’t win them the referendum but it certainly did win the hearts and minds of many voters.
The recent EU referendum has had it’s share of gems but it was this poster designed by Saatchi and Saatchi for Operation Black Vote that really caught my eye:
It’s hard-hitting with a strong message showing that all votes and all voices are equal. It’s powerful stuff. Especially with immigration being one of the key arguments in the discussion, it’s a particularly appropriate image to represent the multi-cultured, multi-viewed society we live in.
So is graphic design still an important aspect in politics? Absolutely but with great power comes great responsibility and perhaps in the future we shouldn’t airbrush our Prime Ministers face to look like Kim Kardashian’s Instagram! As long as politicians campaign and as long as there are arguments to be won, there will be a team of marketers and brand consultants controlling the message. Where there is a message, there will be a poster to be designed.