The result of the political climate bouncing back and forth so quickly is a year with a bizarre mix of campaign styles and strategies which is chronicled in the signage lining our roadways and decorating our front yards. Everyone is trying to make their mark in the public eye, sometimes with good results and sometimes with results which are pretty awful.
One clear trend is a back to basics motif found on the posters of many candidates this year, probably an influence of the Tea Party movement. There's a real effort to harken back to an earlier era, as demonstrated by the very effective traditional posters for Carl Paladino and Mary Lou Serafine shown above. They have simple, clear sans serif fonts in a stark two color contrast. The fonts look like Aventine and Myriad which are specifically designed for high readability in large sizes at a distance. They look like letterpress printed posters virtually indistinguishable from what you might have seen in a campaign in the 1950s or 1960s. There's a deliberate avoidance of the full color technology and modern graphic complexity which characterized so many designs in 2008. I also rather like Paladino's choice of orange, a common color on letterpress show posters from the 1960s, but not used much today. He's also got a pretty strong slogan.
Another interesting example of this retro trend is the poster shown to the right from Carly Fiorina's campaign for Senate in California. Fiorina has gone with a 1970s look for her poster and to some degree for her entire campaign. She even dresses rather like a 1970s fashion icon. The use of lower case and an extremely thin font on a solid background with elements of the design off center is straight out of a 1970s fashion layout. It is clearly inspired by the same design trends which made the <a href="http://www.mediabistro.com/unbeige/the-grandest-hoax-of-all-time-or-of-this-week_b1502">Rene Chalet</a> font hoax so believable. It's great branding and effective as a logo. It doesn't work as well as a yard sign or poster because of the poor contrast for everything except the candidate name and the low readability of the sign at any kind of distance.
Then there are the posters where various factors have gone horribly wrong. I found quite a few which were awful for one reason or another, but settled on three which really stand out and exemplify everything I would put on a poster design "don't" list. A good sign needs to have the candidate name and the office he's running for on it. Beyond that you should avoid adding more than one other item. The best to include are either a slogan or a website address, and nothing too long because that means the type will get too small and hard to read. That's it. Anything beyond that is a distraction and distractions kill the effectiveness of the poster. Remember that your audience is often people driving by in a car and take that into consideration. Lawson's poster is also notable for confusing voters by looking like the label for a new herbal supplement (possibly deliberate marketing to California neohippies) and having a long, boring and unreadable slogan.