Politics, Design, and Campaigning on the Web

Every March my friend Keith has a March Madness pool where we all bet on who is going to win what college basketball games. I know nothing about college basketball or sports, yet I consistently win. What is my secret? Rumor has it I bet on the teams that have the nicest design to win. This may or may not be true, but wouldn’t it be fun to pick our candidates for the 2008 election the same way?Recently political campaign design has grabbed my attention. In the last election the web played an unprecedented roll in Virginia when a YouTube video sparked one of the most fierce ad campaigns I have ever seen. This video, which was shot at a George Allen event by someone who worked for the opponent Jim Web, helped to tip the polls from Allen’s favor to Webb’s. How exciting! For the first time I feel like I have the power to interact in politics, and I think all the campaigns are picking up on this viral tactic. But who will leverage the winning combo of web marketing coupled with effective design to potentially change the future of a nation? Lets take some bets. In a completely politically unbiased fashion I would like to critique some of the most talked about sites and discuss how well their campaigns are exploiting the tools to reach a nation over the Internet.

Barack Obama:

Barack is bringing sexy back to political campaign logos. Not only is it fresh it evokes hope and has many possible interpretations. Is it an O? is it a horizon? is it a lifesaver? Regardless of how the viewer interprets it, this mark conveys an uplifting bright message in a visually appealing manor that remains patriotic without being cliché. Another element of this logo I like is the dual application between web and print. For the Internet it can be given a trendy web 2.0 sheen, but for t-shirts and print material it translates to a solid 2 tone screen-print. The website is delightfully clean with a layout that is a little chunky with web 2.o components. Links to Facebook, youTube, and Flickr are clearly displayed at the bottom of the index page telling me that the people behind Barrack’s campaign clearly understand viral marketing. The online store to buy Obama gear prompts to further engage online users beyond the Internet to show their support and is a nice touch this early in the game. There are some minor changes I would personally make to the design, toning down the use of stripes in the background of My.BarackObama.com section, but otherwise I think it’s an online home run.

Barack’s MySpace Profile
Rudy Giuliani:

Rudy is a little behind with an exploratory site still up, however a nice one nonetheless. My favorite part of this is the clean san serif type. and use of negative space. On so many of these political campaign sites there is crap everywhere. Crammed in, and bursting at the seems… crap. Rudy tells me he is visually comfortable with getting to the point and keeping it simple. As a designer, I can respect that. Many other sites promote hope and clarity subconsciously through the use of white space, Rudy uses a lot of blue. My problem with this is that the layers of usability heir-achy tend to tip toward the heavier side making the eye a tad bit overwhelmed with separating information. While not my favorite, it’s a good start. I hope to see some more interactive features in the next version.
Hillary Clinton
While Google searching blogs about campaigners websites I found that most people favor this site. I can see why, it takes a nice clean middle of the road approach with straightforward navigation and an excellent modular layout. While I give this site high marks, I can’t get past the logo which is a set back in political campaign design progress. Taking no risks, and sending no messages this logo consist of a generic waving flag. The advantage of this design is that it takes the focus away from her and brings the focus to the issues highlighted elsewhere on the page. I find the action center iconography mismatched with the look and feel of the site, but the overall design very appealing. Where her effort is lacking is in the way of online viral marketing with no mention of you-tube or any social networking sites even though she does have a MySpace Page.

Hillary’s MySpace Profile

In an age of innovative marketing strategies I am most surprised that no one is making the attempt to market their candidate like a product. In an age where a horrible B movie can make greater than expected sales because of a phenomenon accelerated by the Internet anybody can rocket himself or herself into the public spotlight. So why don’t politicians use this tactic? What is the difference between making a choice in soft drinks and making a choice at the polls. Unfortunately a great portion of our population equates today’s political circus to purchasing a product. While I am not saying its right, it’s reality.

[techtags:Hillary Clinton's Website, Barak Obama's website, Rudy Giuliani's website, myspace, political web marketing, Barak Obama's logo, political web design, politics on the internet, successful web design, candidate's websites]

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