Lessons from Australia: poster design

A quick counterpart to my previous Lessons from Canada: poster design, this time looking at Australian election posters such as this one:

Australian Liberal Party election poster

As you can see from this example from North Sydney, the usual Australian style (as is the case in European countries such as Germany) is to feature candidate or party leader photo very large, with the name of the candidate or party more like a caption to the poster than its main content.

By contrast, in the UK, the name of party or candidate are usually the dominant information and in those rare cases with photographs those are usually no more prominent than the text and often an awful lot less prominent.

One advantage of photo based posters is that it encourages parties to ensure there is at least one good photograph of the candidate. If you’ve seen some of the staring bug eyed at the camera looking like a still from Crimewatch photos that grace some election addresses, you’ll know exactly why this can be a good idea…

Anyway, what do you think of the merits of this sort of design?

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  • There isn’t a photo on the voting paper, only the name and party.
    So it does make sense to have those more visible.
    Plus do we want only candidates with pretty faces?

  • In Australia, like the US but unlike Britain, there is a lot of paid TV advertising (and billboards) for specific electorates which are quite unusual here (and of course no paid TV at all). Also a constituency will often cover a very large area and so outside the state capitals one TV market will only have a very few MPs covering it.

    This means the public will be used to seeing the local candidates on TV news and in their own paid broadcasts, so pictures on the posters have more impact. Far more people are likely to know what the candidates look like.

    Here, the main way of candidates getting themselves across is through print leaflets and the name itself on the ballot, so we focus on the name.

  • @ mark: I’m not saying that there should be no photo, but at the end of the day (when the voter puts the cross on the ballot) the name is more important.

  • I always think that you’re halfway to winning if you can convince voters that the candidate is A Person Like Them instead of a bloody-politiician-who’s-only-in-it-for-what-they-can-get. Perhaps the right photo can help with this.

  • SandraF – a good photo is more important than a pretty face, particularly if you make it representative of what your candidate stands for. I personally like the idea, maybe worth a try????

  • Off message I know, but am I the only person amazed that there has been virtually no attention paid to the fact that Oz is having a general election under AV? The only country on the planet to use this system that we are about to try and impose on ourselves. Should have thought that electoral systems geeks would have been all over it, but barring a passing mention of second preferences in the Economist, nothing. Any chance of a piece on this?

  • Ruth Bright 15th Aug '10 - 9:53am

    This looks a lot to me like the election posters they use in the Philippines (where a lot of the candidates seem to be boxers and soap stars). Campaigners also seem to like wearing masks of the candidate which is a bit disconcerting!

  • Similar posters designs are deployed in South Africa, as I recall. The posters were near ubiquitous, too.

  • In Northern Ireland (and the Republic of Ireland) we tend to go for big pictures (see here).

    You will notice that the Alliance poster is what is called a “message poster”. These are becoming increasingly popular because they actually let the electorate know something of what the party is about. They are also reusable provided you don’t have a radical branding overhaul (although that might not work in Great Britain because posters aren’t hung on lamp posts and so aren’t taken down by the party.) The problem with the message posters is that they usually don’t include the candidate’s name.

    Even when message posters are used, there will usually also be posters with a big picture of the candidate, unless the seat is so far down your list of targets that you may as well not bother.

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