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Designs on government

Having tweeted about the subject after watching Channel 4 news' political coverage, I decided to flesh out the idea of comparing, contrasting and looking for meaning in the graphic design of the election manifesto covers of the three main political parties. So, in the order the manifestos were launched, here are some notes about each one (and links to the complete manifestos):

LABOUR

  • Lots of red with additional bright colours. A bit gaudy (Deliberate Gordy pun? Haha.) and for my taste, just too much.
  • It is the 'warmest' of the three covers though and seems safe – yet weirdly uncomfortable too. Hmmm.
  • Retro graphical style, supposedly harking back to post-war Britain. Maybe not a great move – it makes me think of rationing and hardship. And wartime.
  • Shows lush fields – not a built-up area in sight – with a family gazing towards the sun. I do hope they're wearing protective eyewear as the sun's still pretty high. (Is this a sunrise … or a sunset?)
  • There's lots going on and perhaps it's trying to say too much? Be all things to all people?
  • They've tried though – and there's illustration (different style though) throughout the manifesto to break up sections and help make it an easier read.
  • The title and campaign slogan is "A future fair for all." Nice alliteration and a strange, hypnotic rhythm – it's the only title that's stuck in my head.

CONSERVATIVES

  • The texture, colour and style of the manifesto brings to mind a bible, sans dust jacket.
  • There's something austere about it, whilst also being 'weighty'.
  • It's utterly safe and predictably, undoubtedly Conservative.
  • Very traditional, very blue and very dry – it surprised me in that it makes no attempt to represent the party as 'of the people' but looks more like the voice of authority.
  • Inside the manifesto, helping break-up the text into manageable sections, there are some lovely screen-print-looking illustrations … but they seem incongruous within the document; an after-thought.
  • It could be seen as brave not to overdo the cover design but the title "Invitation to join the government of Britain" (all upper-case) makes the understated design seem something of a smoke-screen; the design's subtle to balance out the bold, self-assured message.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

  • Simple, I suppose 'current' and fairly cold – again this is 'safe' design but in a different way from the others.
  • Looks lots like an SME's annual report.
  • They've got their yellow but have an added blueish-green which, particularly due to the swish at the bottom, I can't help but equate with Somerfield. (Which was recently acquired by The Co-Operative Group – significant brand philosophy/brand colour similarity?)
  • It may be a surprise to some that Vince Cable's not pictured on the cover … oh, hang on, there he is on the back! (He really is.)
  • Again it's alright design but in this case it's the most bland and free of personality.
  • Having said that, albeit not as catchy as Labour's copywriting, the repeated mentions of the word 'fair' are explanatory and clearly reference the contents of the manifesto, so this one wins my 'Plain English' award. (Though pedants might remove points due to grammatically incorrect use of lower-case to start sentences.)

This desire to dissect political graphics may or may not have been influenced by Graphic Agitation – key university reading material many moons ago – but was this a purely superficial exercise or is there decipherable and/or useful meaning behind the designs?

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I should probably add that the first-ever live televised debate between the leaders of the three main parties airs tonight (Thurs. 15th) at 8:30pm on ITV1.

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You need to be registered by Tuesday 20th April in order to vote in the forthcoming General Election. If you're not on the electoral register or aren't sure if you're registered go to www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

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