On Tuesday, political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a stunning primary victory over veteran Rep. Joseph Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District. Nearly as noteworthy as her political upset, though, are her campaign’s radically designed posters and buttons, the work of New York-based designer Maria Arenas of Tandem NYC.
For starters, the design is actually good, which is less common than one would expect in today’s professionalized political realm. And its energetic visual style steps outside the safe and stale boundaries of political campaign design. Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign posters would look just as good promoting a new Netflix series, and they turn her into the star of her own campaign. Since history remembers the victors, we hope the surprising success of Ocasio-Cortez paves the way for more forward-looking and adventurous political design.
Then the article breaks it all down–color, typography, the photo, etc. In conclusion:
The branding has personality and point of view, something absent from most political designs (and many politicians). It feels populist, pop and polished all at once. Ocasio-Cortez is treated like the star on a movie poster, like she’s a character ready for action. While this larger-than-life portrayal could become a liability in the future, it has helped to push the candidate onto the national stage and to define her as a progressive. While many political consultants would have rejected this unconventional branding, the Ocasio-Cortez campaign had the confidence to take a different approach. With any political campaign, the candidate brings the design to life and not the other way around, but her strong branding certainly played a supporting role in her victory.
And here’s the actual lesson for us. There’s no one way to win an election. Just because someone wins doesn’t mean they had a brilliant campaign and just because someone loses doesn’t mean they had a terrible campaign, despite our political received wisdom. However, what we do is that the Democratic Party relies heavily on high-paid political consultants to run most of their campaigns. These consultants have long been criticized for running the same campaign over and over, way too focus grouped, way too bland, way too attempting to appeal to moderates in ways not proven to work. The Jon Ossoff run-off was nationally famous as the first referendum to reject Trump and in so it brought in millions of dollars. Nearly all of that went to the consultants and they put together the same bland campaign they always do. Now, that’s a tough district for any Democrat to win. And again, just because Ossoff lost doens’t mean he ran a bad campaign. However, it’s fairly safe to say that we need to move beyond the same tired political consultant firms. Ocasio-Cortez won in part because she is awesome and knew how to connect to voters in her district. Joe Crowley, to say the least, did not understand that. She won in part because of this amazing visual campaign directed to her own base–young people of all races and people of color of all ages. The campaign was great because it was so unconventional. More experimentation would be a better use of resources than the 800th version of some campaign pioneered in 1997.