Designing a local political campaign, AKA Did I mention my wife Kathleen is running for Grapevine City Council?

Vote Kathleen Thompson for Grapevine City Council
My wife has a strong passion for the political process, and as long as I’ve know her, she has worked hard help make things better. She been involved with many local campaigns, helping behind the scenes, and when an opportunity came up recently, with an out of touch incumbent going on his 6th term – she jumped into the race with both feet.

So with little time – I had to quickly come up with a standard political “package”

Again, speed was a pretty big factor here, but I I’ve always been interested in trying out some different visual styles when it comes to the standard local political campaigns.

  • Kathleen is the only female running, and her name was obviously very different from the others, so we went with her first name.
  • Used the purple that Grapevine is known for, and actually a favorite of Kathleen’s
  • Used the “talk” style logo that’s popular now, but for us it meant something – the incumbent is not known for responding to citizens, and in general it’s all very closed and secretive – Kathleen really wants to be a voice for the citizens of Grapevine.
  • Had a good friend shoot some great professional photos.
  • Used a hosted service to get a site going, and again because the incumbent is generally not accessible, we planned on posting the entire campaign – being fully transparent all along the way.
  • And quickly using mostly iWorks – created a series of materials that if you live in Grapevine, hopefully you’ve seen.

Here’s some of the materials:

Vote Kathleen Thompson for Grapevine City Council
Vote Kathleen Thompson for Grapevine City Council
Vote Kathleen Thompson for Grapevine City Council
Vote Kathleen Thompson for Grapevine City Council
Vote Kathleen Thompson for Grapevine City Council

Surprisingly (or maybe not) the incumbent Roy Stewart had for all purposes, really never needed to run before (typical in Grapevine). This incumbent was also invisible to the internet besides a few yellow page listings for an old business he once had. But we’ve made him get online – he’s launched a website (design by Ratio Software), and it looks like they just copied their main site template – I’m assuming they really don’t make websites for a living), and even start a Facebook Fan Page! There have been some pretty big mishaps and “un-reported” dealings, so we put them all together in a targeted mailer – trying to bring some attention to these issues that have been reported in the local newspapers:

And there is a third challenger Deverick Jordan, a young guy whose qualifications included working for his dad, and moving to Grapevine recently (still don’t know why he’s running, no issues, just wanted to run). He has a internet past, MySpace, Facebook, some bad company websites that all look just like his campaign site (what is it about people using the same sites over and over again?), but now also has a Facebook Fan page for his campaign. His printed materials are interesting:

Now you can argue that it shouldn’t be about the design – but the design is selling you, your ideas, and your skills. If you look like a 5th grader lobbying for a 1st place science fair, do we really want you lobbying to bring Fortune 500 into our city? And you could argue that you would hire people to do this once elected, but 1) if your materials are this bad, you’re never going to get it, and 2) do you really not have the marketing sense to hire someone now, for your campaign? A large part of running a city has to do with PR and Marketing – making your community appear better than others to get business, to communicate to your citizens – and strike up a genuine conversation. These are things that local governments really need in spades – and something lacking on the current Grapevine City Council. Out of the the almost 50,000 Grapevine citizens less than 2,000 usually vote. That’s not a community excited about its city government.

I hate to say it, but a designer could make some good money on the side creating ready to go political packages. Local candidates rarely have the time, money, or sense to try to create a cohesive campaign. There’s even one candidate in Southlake using Comic Sans :-/

So if you live in Grapevine Texas – please checkout my wife’s website, follow her, like her, but in the end – vote for Kathleen Thompson come May 14th.

5 thoughts on “Designing a local political campaign, AKA Did I mention my wife Kathleen is running for Grapevine City Council?

  1. Out of curiosity, what are the campaign’s core typefaces? (I recognized Helvetica in there, but I wasn’t quite sure about the others.)

  2. Wow-you are very proud of your work & quite condescending in your views of the promos of other political candidates. I hope that elections and positive community growth are not dependent on “slick” marketing. I actually think that a key to running a city is to be in tune with the citizens, understanding their key values and respecting the diversity and independence of the individuals and groups that make our community unique. Low participation in local elections does not mean we are not excited about city politics – it means that we are happy with what we have and are able to put our personal energy and passion into other pursuits while trusting those we elect to continue to do their jobs in serving us to preserve the great place of Grapevine.

  3. Susan – thanks for the comment. I am a Designer, so this is what I feel I’m qualified to speak on. Slick marketing isn’t the point, the point is to persent yourself in a professional manner. You need to be competent with your presentation skills when your position is making your city look more attractive than others. Think of the effort that goes into choosing a city for the Olympics – and the effort around making your city look its best.

    Kathleen is actually the one candidate that is speaking to voters – and informing them on some of the issues going on in Grapevine, then it’s up to them to decide and vote. She’s setup modern communication channels that she’ll continue to keep as councilwomen.

    Low participation in government is an issue. I’m sure you also know many quotes from our country’s birth, up until today that talk about this issue.

    You also mention diversity, have you seen our city council makeup? Is that diversity?

    Obviously I’m biassed, with Kathleen being my wife and all, but I haven’t seen any point other than “How dare someone run against an incumbent”.

    And in the end, yes Grapevine is a great place to live, that’s why we’re passionate about making it better!

  4. Kathleen’s campaign was flawless start to finish and a huge part was the superb communications — written word, photography and graphics. The values of freshness, intelligence, capability, energy, honesty and openness were expressed clearly. That is a template that could prevail in most circumstances where you don’t have such a lengthy incumbency in opposition. The overtly stated message to the voters by both her opponents at the candidate forum was, “Yes, residents probably don’t know what goes on in City governance because they’ve just never cared that much, they’ve never showed up at meetings, and that’s been working just fine for everybody.” A message that okays lack of understanding and apathy on the part of voters feels good enough to some to keep a long incumbency on autopilot, but I’m not sure that would be a sustainable, healthy position for a municipality. So, I’m hoping Kathleen will try again in the future and keep those communications unchanged!

  5. Kathleen ran a great and FAIR campaign. There was NO mud-slinging just facts; which intimidated the opponents & many citizens were oblivious to.

    Low participation in the local elections MIGHT show “we” are happy with what “we” have. However, being activily involved in the City of Grapevine for almost 30 years, is how I show my support for this great community.

    Democracy is precious! Regretfully, we, the citizens, are far too complacent and take it for granted! Exercising our beautiful right to vote, which many have lost their lives for, is a American given right.

    So, I recommend if the complacent majority is happy with the local government’s “status quo” exercise your democratic right and endorse their efforts with your vote.

    Besides, if the city council knows you are “tuned in” it might resolve the off limits/closed workshops which have occurred and save the Star Telegram litigations through the Public Information Act, to inform the happy citizens just what is going on.

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