What does it take to embody the essence of a political candidate?
432 square inches.

That’s the size of a standard 18×24 inch campaign sign found on front yards across the United States. Although it’s relatively small, the campaign sign is a powerful device designed to keep a politician in the forefront of the voting public’s mind.

A campaign sign is also a very clear expression of a politician’s personal brand. But can you evaluate a candidate by his or her sign design?

Let’s take a look at the remaining four candidates in 2012 Republican lineup.

Mitt Romney
While Mitt Romney is often referred to as simply “Mitt,” his sign encourages people to refer to him by his last name. This choice is in line with a more traditional campaign sign design.

The “double R” on the sign resembles an echo. It’s not clearly an “R,” and it may be read as a stutter step. However, the letter has an open curve and footer that when repeated, sits comfortably inside the other. Unlike a traditional star or American flag graphic, the tri-color “R” brings in red, white, and blue in a unique way.

The font is Trajan, a traditional serif font, but the soft curves of the partial “R” design is a different font style that does not integrate well with the rest of the word. The capitalized letters – although poorly kerned – bring a sense of power and formality.

The tagline “Believe in America,” also a san serif font, is a call to action for all Americans. However, the message is not particularly unique or memorable.

 Final analysis: The nontraditional graphic design of the “R” indicates that Mitt is different from the others – yet still anchored in traditional American ways.

Rick Santorum
Lesser known in the political world, Rick’s campaign must have felt it necessary to use both his first and last name to introduce voters to the candidate. However, this means that his full name takes up more space, uses smaller letters, and might hinder readability from a distance.

The main type is a strong sans-serif – a font without points at the ends of the letter strokes – which is very legible and powerful-looking. However the “President” subhead is very difficult to read because of the small type and the vibration of the colors red and blue.

A flying eagle signifies freedom in the “O” of Rick’s last name. The use of the “O” is reminiscent of President Obama’s circular icon from the 2008 campaign – but is utilized less effectively. While Obama’s icon can be used independent of the title as a brand mark, the Eagle-O creates an odd break in the middle of SANT and RUM.

Final analysis: Rick’s brandmark is strengthened by using a dark blue field of color behind the title.

Newt Gingrich
By campaigning on a first-name basis, he presents a softer, friendlier version of himself – and defies his often-aggressive style of politicking. A politician for over 40 years, he is hardly “new”t to the scene. So by embracing his first name, he prevents potential voters from tripping over “Gingrich,” a last name with harsh-sounding letter combinations.

The dark blue  is deeply patriotic and features a curved ribbon-like graphic that underscores NEWT2012 while softening the design. Capital letters in the Times font, draw attention to Newt’s unusual first name–and the poor kerning will annoy typophiles–you know who you are.

A single five-pointed star – echoing the stars in the American flag – is well placed to create a formal, centered balance. The color palette of red, white, and blue is traditional and expected.

No tagline is incorporated into the signage, which is unfortunate because this is a prime opportunity. The short first name should be an asset but has not been exploited by the campaign logo. Adding “2012” is obvious and a missed opportunity to add another qualifying brand message.

Final analysis: The thought that people will warm up to this brand enough to vote Newt into office is to be determined.

Ron Paul
Coming in at just seven letters, Ron Paul is a dream name – or is it? There’s an age-old saying to never trust a man with two first names. But in this case, a short name means a big opportunity to utilize precious signage space.

A classic typeface in the Garamond family allows voters to clearly read Ron’s name. Plus, it will easily stand out in the pack of signs that line neighborhood streets. The curved flag-like graphic that crosses the “A” in Paul is a distinctive touch that doesn’t interfere with legibility. Along with the screened back eagle image they are reserved images of patriotism .

“Restore America Now,” is a relatively unique tagline, which leaves the interpretation open to the voter. It begs the question: Restore America to what? Voters might imagine an America of their youth or an America with more opportunities.

Final analysis: While Ron himself is undeniably unique – his brand as shown here tends to the traditional.

Voting by de-SIGN
A successful candidate brand must engage voters in the political process and encourage them to exercise their vote. Are you registered to vote? Be part of the American community that has always had a peaceful transition of power – an excellent example to the world, no matter which party you support.

For another take on politicians’ brands, check out this link.