Friday, July 26, 2013

New York's Mayoral Race - Designing A Candidacy

These are the dog days of summer, which is fitting given the sexual brouhaha over New York City's mayoral race. The world may be fawning over the royal baby, but the cable stations stateside can't resist lingering over the lurid details of former Congressman Anthony Weiner's ongoing scandal. Since the spotlight is already on election politics, therefore, it seems as good a time as any to examine the relative prospects for each mayoral candidate based on his or her campaign design.

If you teach older students, particularly in high school or university government classes, it's also an opportunity to debate the impact of financial and sexual scandals on political fortunes. The data is not as clear cut as you might think. Check out this study from researchers at Yale University and the University of Illinois, titled "Are Financial or Moral Scandals Worse? It depends."

The New York polls change daily as each news bulletin breaks. From a visual standpoint, however, there are obvious winners and losers in the originality and effectiveness of the candidates' logos. Twelve contestants are heading into the primaries on September 10, 2013, but only a handful have an actual shot at winning the mayorship. Also, because NYC registrations are almost 60% Democratic, it's likely the primary will decide the office.

Source: Weiner for Mayor
Democrat Anthony Weiner may be getting most of the current attention, but his campaign placard is as much of a mess as his personal life. The immediate visual response is fairly arresting, with two bold banners of blue and orange and his last name in looming block letters. But the unfamiliar pumpkin color and the bleed of the font into the white horizontal divide fashions a fuzzy union. Also, most of the letters meet at off-kilter points, leading to a jarring eye-line. The only aligned elements are the "N" and "Y," which together yield a scheme better suited for the NY Mets.

Source: Quinn For New York
Democratic Council Speaker Christine Quinn offers a more subtle, contemporary motif in her layout. Her tones of blues, French on denim, seem Obama-esque in the modern shade and the defining "Q." The even-more-interesting letterface, lowercase Solomon Book over uppercase Solomon Bold, creates an inviting pairing. Overall, her poster seems personal and approachable, which perhaps was the intent given news reports of her behind-the-scenes temper.

Source: New Yorkers for de Blasio
Democratic Public Advocate Bill de Blasio presents the most memorable trademark of the bunch. His scarlet red background stands out in a field of blue competitors, and the nestling of his first name into his nobiliary particle adds an appealing uniqueness to his bright canvas. In fact, the commercial optimism of his emblem seems more fitting for the supermarket aisles, closer in cousin to the labels for Pocky sticks, KitKat candy, or Muller yogurt.

Source: Friends of John Liu
Democratic Comptroller John Liu also opted for the metropolitan orange and blue. The silhouetted skyline beneath his slogan renders a nice urban echo for America's largest city. The net effect is passable and unoffensive, but everything about it seems familiar. The underscoring swipe of white paint and the single star have been featured on similar logos by Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and For a candidate with lower name identification, a more inspiring crest could have been more helpful.

Source: Bill Thompson For Mayor
Former Democratic Comptroller Bill Thompson has more local recognition, but he suffers from overly common first and last names that need pizzazz to make his marquee marketable. Mindbogglingly, however, his campaign team defaulted to the blandest brand possible. The uninspired white letters on the gradient, midnight blue background supply no vision or ingenuity for the office. To be fair, we've seen posters in Thompson's public appearances that add a few white stars beneath the same generic blueprint. But still, in sum, the result is as forgettable as Thompson's candidacy.

Source: Joe Lhota for Mayor
Former Chairman of the MTA (and likely Republican nominee) Joe Lhota seems to have settled on the "kitchen sink" approach. He features a font-apalooza, with a new choice on each line, and he includes two slogans where most candidates have none. His goals, in highlighting his years of experience and his vision of unity, are noble. And the azure font with the crimson underline stand out well on the white backsplash. It's difficult, however, to settle on one visual takeaway. Perhaps an artistic icon could have given Lhota some leverage in breaking into the Democratic news stranglehold.

Check out our other posts about design and education in elections.


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