Why does all political campaign graphic design look the same?

Just heard an interesting piece on Studio 360 (audio) in which graphic designer Michael Bierut discusses something easily observed driving down any street in America this week: why all the campaign signs look the same, no matter what the political side of the fence the candidate is on. I have been involved in designing at least one campaign’s graphics and, yes, they were a variation of Beirut’s observation. He doesn’t mention Jimmy Carter, but Carter’s campaign for President broke the mold: instead of being red, blue and white, he used white reversed from a field of green. During the 2004 Presidential campaign, Virginia Postrel, a writer who ponders (among other things) the role of design in our lives, blogged on the the role of graphic design in that campaign. Here’s how she summed it up:

“…the logos graphically express what political scientists call ‘median voter theory.’ In a two-party system like ours — mathematically, the constitutional arrangement leads to two parties, no matter how much alternatives squawk — candidates will crowd the middle, the better to attract as many votes as possible. When designing a logo to attract 50 percent plus one, the most important thing is not to alienate people, and you can’t go wrong with red, white, and blue.”

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