The Elements of an Election

A word of warning: I am not political and election years fill me with dread. But they also fill me with laughter, shock, dismay, excitement, and a swelling patriotism as I remind people to do their civic duty and vote. Ah, democracy! But let’s focus our attention on the best this election year has to offer. Non-U.S. folk may wish to turn away from America’s antics for the rest of 2016, or simply grab some popcorn and enjoy the show!

Elements and Themes

The election season is just now going into “full speed ahead” mode, and as designers we may be tasked with getting the word out about candidates. While we might not be spearheading the big guys’ (or gal’s) marketing campaign, there are a lot of local candidates whose messages need to be heard. These resources can help you help them stand out from the crowd.

These old-timey badges are designed with Presidents’ Day in mind, but the muted colors lend themselves easily to a vintage-inspired election slogan or cause. “I LIKE IKE!” “NO NUKES!” The free vector graphics can be used commercially with attribution.

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The “Ultimate Political Flyer Bundle” available at Creative Market offers 12 layered Photoshop templates for political leave behinds. The $36 bundle includes tutorials, links to the free fonts used, and easy-to-implement color overlay options.

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Even though some of the information is specific to the 2012 election, I found this infographic to be just the thing to understand our election process a little better. Why is it I often find foreigners’ explanations of American politics the easiest to understand? As with so many infographics, I stored this one away as inspiration and guidance for my next infographic challenge.

il Bureau - Presidential Election - infographic - MONITOR

When you’re working on your next infographic about the elections—maybe you’ll be the first American that can explain the process to me—you might want to snap up this set of voting icons. The 12 icons come in red and blue paper-cut and black flat designs in the form of EPS, layered Photoshop, Illustrator, and PNG file formats.

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Maybe your infographic or election message needs to be more dynamic and you’ve chosen to use PowerPoint or Keynote to deliver that message. This Election Time template from Presenter Media includes animations, election and candidate graphics, world flags, and animated charts and graphs. A paid subscription is required for the service, which gives you access to the entire collection of templates, animations, and videos.

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If you’re looking for a patriotic backdrop for your next design, the Flags and Stars pattern pack is a fun—and at $7, inexpensive—option. This collection of Photoshop patterns comes in ten flavors of seamless background beauty. (Starts humming “The Star-Spangled Banner.”)

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Vintage

There’s something grand about vintage signage and advertisements, and that rose-tinted vision extends to political propaganda from back in the day. I’m not sure if it’s funny or frightening, though, how some of the themes from many vintage pieces are repeating themselves, even today.

Though I prefer the simple and clean design of many of today’s campaigns, this campaign poster from 1880 manages to shoehorn in a lot of information without crowding the design. I vote for bringing back this beautiful style and class to the campaign trail. (I just imagined that with current crop of candidates and had a good laugh!)

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If anyone had their face plastered on campaign posters a lot, it was the only person to be elected President four times: Franklin D. Roosevelt. The FDR Presidential Library houses a collection of his campaign posters that range from a crowded list of promised achievements to the simply stated “Roosevelt.”

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If you’re looking for a vintage poster from campaigns—and not just of the American variety—check out the Chisholm Larsson Gallery. While I’m not ready to drop $200 for an old poster featuring “The Jellybean Kid,” I could look at the propaganda and election graphics for days. The protest section’s swirl of pent up frustration and enthusiasm for a cause needs to find a way into my designs.

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There’s no doubt that women fought the good fight in getting the vote, sacrificing so much in the process. From Sister Suffragette to the recent election, this article reminds women that their voice still needs to be heard. Not sure the pin-up era best represented women’s contributions to the electoral and political process, but it wouldn’t be a vintage collection without them!

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I didn’t realize that the campaign button went back so far in our political history, but apparently it does. This collection features more Taft memorabilia than I knew even existed, but it seems good ol’ Billy (I call him Billy) jumped on the button bandwagon early. Vote early and vote often!

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Activities

The democratic process of elections isn’t perfect (please, we’re not getting into politics here) and it certainly sparks debates. If you’re looking for election-themed discussions that don’t involve name-calling on Facebook (who knew Grandma was so passionate about her candidate—or used language like that?), check out these activities to scratch that political itch.

Although designed for kids, we all know that coloring is a cool adult pastime these days. So, pretend you’re getting these election-tastic coloring pages for your kids and work out your frustrations with the other party by giving their mascot a colorful Crayola make-over.

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When you’re done defacing the opponent’s party mascot and want to get serious about the election, there’s an app for that! The 2016 Presidential Election App from Election Central keeps track of who’s running, who’s out, and when the debates and conventions are being held. Available free on iOS and Android.

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If you’ve started to feel like the candidates have become cartoonish shadows of actual human beings, then check this out. The Guardian created an online graphic novel to tell the story of the 2012 election leading up to election day. I don’t see that they’ve created this year’s yet, but I did find this Super Tuesday graphic amusing.

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The election process is sometimes quite overwhelming, and in political discussions—which I try to keep at a minimum—I often need things explained to me like I’m a 6-year old. This infographic is aimed at me, um, kids but does a great job explaining the Electoral College. While it’s free to look at and be inspired by the onscreen graphic, you’ll need to create a membership to download the PDF file (which is actually free, as well).

ElectoralCollege3

If you’ve never gotten in an argument over who said what, especially when it comes to politicians, count yourself lucky. For all the humans who HAVE interacted with other humans, PolitiFact’s Settle It! app can help sort fact from fiction in the swirl of lies and truths (known as the internet). View trending discussions and test your Truth-O-Meter with the PolitiFact Challenge. Free for iOS and Android.

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Type

You know typography has gone mainstream when, along with policies, regular Janes and Joes are buzzing about which typeface a particular candidate has chosen for their identity. Let’s not get into who’s the better candidate and why you can’t stand Candidate X, let’s keep our bickering to who has the best-looking logo and choice of typestyle, shall we?

Bernie Sanders’ logo is using a modified version of Jubilat Medium from Darden Studios.

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Hillary Clinton’s “H” made headlines early on. The typeface is called Unity, which is a variation of Sharp Sans. Designer Rick Wolff even made a full alphabet available with his Hillvetica font.

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Donald Trump’s logo banks on the power of his name, lacking any graphic element to accompany the type. Akzidenz Grotesk Bold Extended does the duty of announcing the Trump name.

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Ted Cruz’ campaign logo features a fiery (or is that watery or oil-droppy?) graphic alongside his name, set in Electra Bold Oldstyle.

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For extra credit, you can read through this breakdown of the logos of all the candidates who are—or were—fighting for the prize in this election year.

Well, my fellow Americans, that’s all I have for now. I know what you’re thinking. A lot of this is just general Americana, full of stars, stripes, and colored red, white, and blue. I cannot tell a lie, and much of this list is exactly that. I’m nothing, if not proudly patriotic. In fact I’m thinking of recycling this article on Independence Day so that I can get to the fireworks and apple pie sooner! (Exits, singing: “Hooray for the red, white, and blue…”)

Header graphic contains free vector design from vecteezy.com

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Posted on: March 7, 2016

Erica Gamet

Erica Gamet has been involved in the graphics industry for over 25 years. She is a speaker, writer, and trainer, focusing on Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, Apple Keynote and iBooks Author, and other print- and production-related topics. She is a regular contributor to InDesign Magazine, tech edited How To Do Everything with Adobe InDesign CS4, and served as leader of the Denver InDesign User Group. After living as a nomad for almost a year, she recently put down roots in El Paso, Texas, where she hikes and bikes every chance she gets. Check out ericagamet.com to see all of Erica's upcoming events, tips and tricks, and workbooks.

2 Comments on The Elements of an Election

  1. Your article has been the high point of this election season! Thanks for providing a relevant-but-not-infuriating distraction from the madness.

  2. Could I pay you to make a Bernie 2016 Logo for us? I need one for screen printing.

    Thanks in advance!
    Jeff

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