Now that election season is finally over, so too are the ads we see everywhere – whether on TV, radio or one of the approximately 5,000 yard signs we’ve driven by over the last few months, they’re all a distant memory – until 2024 anyway.
This is not a political post, but instead a fun look at the yard signs that have become synonymous with campaign season in the Triangle or across the country. Whether you’re exiting 40 or taking a stroll through downtown Durham, you can’t miss all the political signs, advertising, and branding out there for each candidate.
In the day and age where everything is digital and we have access to information at our fingertips 24/7, yard signs are still a major tool for candidates to use to market themselves. In our Thursday morning BAERING coffee talk, we couldn’t help but wonder why.
Why, when social media posts or advertising is so cheap, would yard signs still be in use? They only have enough room for a logo and the candidate’s name, and maybe a catchy little tagline around their position. Plus, you only have about three seconds to digest the sign as you drive by.
A Columbia University study found that yard signs swayed votes only marginally and had a moderate effect on a candidates vote share. So, while they may not be the most effective form of advertising for a campaign, we wanted to take a minute (or a blog) to have some fun and discuss the design elements of a political yard sign.
When it comes to color, there seems to be an unspoken rule that a candidate’s branding needs to include red, white or blue. Most of the signs we saw throughout the community were patriotic in color, or at least a combination thereof. However, when a candidate used alternate colors, like forest green or orange, it sure did stand out.
Does using an alternate color make a candidate appear less patriotic? Is it more important to show alignment with a particular party by using more of one color than the other? How much will a sign blend in amongst the group of signs rather than standing out? (which is the whole point) These are all questions a candidate’s campaign must consider when selecting colors, even if the palette is so limited.
Another area where candidates really have a chance to separate themselves is with the fonts they chose. Font choices can say a lot about a candidate and their personality. Are they traditional like a serif? Big and bold like a slab serif? Refined and fancy like a script font? Or modern and simple like a san serif? When choosing a font, it’s important to think about the personality it projects, and how easy it is to read as someone fly’s by at 45 mph.
The overall design of the sign is another important piece to the puzzle. Does the sign look like it was made by someone’s cousin or a team of professional designers? Should precious real estate be taken up by a custom logo or is the name alone fine? What about including a graphic element like stars or the outline of the state or county?
We saw many signs this election season that used up precious real estate with graphic elements that look really nice but don’t seem to add to the message.
At the end of the day, it all depends on the values of the candidate and the image they want to project. These yard signs serve as a reminder and reinforce the messaging the candidate is trying to convey through their campaign. While a well-designed sign might not sway a voter, inappropriate use of color or font may misalign a candidate from their values and send the wrong message.
So why are yard signs still used – because it’s a great way to get a name to stick in your head. Not everyone goes to the polls with a list of well-researched candidates, so when it comes time to make a selection, you’re more likely to choose the name that showed up the most.