Ok – so it was never really in doubt who I was going to vote for in the Mayoral election today – Brian Paddick!
But when I sat down to complete my postal vote last weekend I did grab hold of the booklet (delivered to every household) containing the Mayoral candidates’ manifestos – just to see what they were all saying etc.
Before I became a local campaigner and then an elected Liberal Democrat politician in Hornsey & Wood Green I was a designer for around twenty years – a graphic designer. So I couldn’t help but notice that the double-page spreads allocated to each of the candidates to put their case and attract votes were some of the worst examples of graphics I have ever seen – except for Brian’s.
Design is all about communication. And if the layout is confusing or the photos rubbish quality – then the chance of a benign effect is minimal. And it is the first impression that carries most of the message. Yes – of course it matters what the content is – and of course many people will have made up their minds without reference to the content of the manifesto booklet based on the televised debates, political allegiance regardless or whatever. But if anyone out there is likely to be influenced these ‘advertisements’ then you would think the candidates would have made a bit of an effort to maximize the opportunity of this delivery of their messages to every household in London!
Just go and look at the three main contenders – and compare and contrast.
Paddick’s is well laid out, clear, clean and direct with an excellent (and clearly professional) photograph of himself. The visual impact is designed to work across the two pages making it by far the most dynamic layout of all the manifestos in the booklet. The type is neat and legible; the colour use effective with the key ideas easily accessible – decent homes for all, fares that work for you and a justice system that works.
Ken’s spread does communicate his key point – which is all about fares. So fair play on getting the key message across. But there is far too much text, and the two pages are not laid out to work together. The different messages on fares compete with each other and the opposing page is a ‘letter’ and seems disconnected from the main thrust. It all seems a bit messy.
But by far the worst of the big three manifestos – is Boris’s. The layout is dreary. There is so much text and so many ‘key’ messages that the reader won’t know which of the various blocks of type he or she is meant to go to first. The photo of Boris doesn’t run across the gutter and cuts off his shoulder oddly. So – I can’t really say what his key message actually is.
To me – design really matters – obviously because I was a designer. But more than that – if a candidate doesn’t know how to present themselves and their ideas to the best advantage (or finding someone to design their manifesto to do so) then that bodes ill for their ability to communicate properly as Mayor.
Politics is all about people and communicating ideas and policies and action. And if you do that – then the people will come!