Design Daytripper: Election signs
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Design Daytripper: Election signs

This week, we wandered about the city and did a design analysis of election signs. This post doesn’t exactly constitute voting advice — unless you’re often swayed by snazzy typography. At the same time, it’s our belief that a terrible sign can tank an otherwise promising candidate and vice-versa.
So what about the hotly-contested mayor’s race? We have to admit that Pitfield’s fiery red-on-yellow has an energy and passion that’s missing from Miller’s way-cool blue. Squint your eyes and “Pitfield Mayor” is clear as day. Contrast this with the surprising lack of uppercase letters on Miller’s sign — something usually reserved for twee indie-rock bands and instant messaging. Still, Miller’s signs are smart enough to include both a slogan and a web address, two features that Pitfield’s spartan signs lack.
(As an aside, where are all the Jane Pitfield signs? We spent a week looking for them and couldn’t find a single one. The sign pictured here was lifted from a previous Torontoist post. It goes without saying that we couldn’t find a LeDrew sign anywhere either.)
While municipal politics lacks the political party structure of provincial or federal battles, some candidates can’t help but piggyback on the mayor’s colour scheme. Above, two candidates mimic Miller’s colours in an attempt to align themselves with his campaign. The campaign signs of Gord Perks even borrow Miller’s all-lowercase twee lettering.
Out in the West end, we found slightly more conventional signs — big, red and blue ones, with giant all-uppercase last name. Come election day, there’s a lot to remember. Both of these candidates recognize we might not remember both their first and last names, so they’ve made it easy. And yup, these signs are boring, but effective. Compare this with Miller’s sign above — where his first and last names are of equal weight.
John Colautti out in Parkdale is running multiple different signs around his ward. It’s as though competition wasn’t hard enough and he’s decided to compete against himself. From a design standpoint, this is always a dangerous strategy. Branding your campaign with a specific colour or look is usually more effective than Colautti’s scattershot approach. (Otherwise, giant corporations wouldn’t spend so much time reinforcing their brands.) However, let’s give him a few points as among the few to include a candidate photo.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice almost all election signs use primary colours — blue, red, yellow. Primary colours work because they’re simple and straightforward. Kudos to Barbara Poplawski and Mark Grimes for bucking the usual and choosing a unique colour scheme. While both of these signs run the risk of saying, “I’m trendy,” they’re also both fairly eye-catching. It’ll be interesting to see how they do on election day.
Walking around the city, we came to realize that there are virtually no green signs. This makes sense — green signs don’t contrast well against the green lawns where most signs are installed. (We argue that a creative designer could probably do an effective lime-shaded sign.) Still, we did find a couple of green signs, and both of them were going for a green-and-red Christmas colour scheme. ‘Tis the season, after all. But both these signs have other problems — they contain too much information, there’s not enough contrast, and the type is small. Compare these with the straightforward Day and Cain signs above.
Finally, in the unique category, Rowena Santos goes against the all-sans trend with her scripted sign. This sort of thing doesn’t always work, but here we like the personalized flair of her typeface. In the other pic above, Walt Jarsky has found a number of unique places to hang his signs, including this locked bicycle.
Look forward to seeing signs of all shapes and colours in your local trashbin next Tuesday morning.