AIVisual Art

AI: Pondering Political Propaganda

Imagine how you would react to a presidential campaign run on Comic Sans.

Consider how differently you might view a candidate if they elected to use violet instead of crimson in their promotional material.

Every political campaign is filled with carefully considered artistic choices designed to subvert your critical faculties in the hopes of garnering votes.

This week we’re taking advantage of Canada’s upcoming election to critically consider the choices made by graphic designers to affect how we make our choices.

The images after the break are the home pages of the five official parties of Canada. These are the first things that they hope internet people will see. We’ve presented them in French so as to remove as much of the textual message as possible.

What visual messages are parties sending you? Do you think it’s what is intended? Who would you vote for based only on the visual message? Has artistic direction ever affected your vote?

The party home pages are shown below in French, and in alphabetical order.

Bloc Québécois
Conservative Party
Green Party
Liberal Party
New Democratic Party


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

Related Articles


  1. I don’t think I would go so far as to say the visual message alone has affected how I vote– and this is a testimony as much to the US campaign strategy to have inoffensive crowd pleaser designs as anything else– but design has certainly reinforced my thoughts or fears about candidates. I thought the “Hope” design was very well done, and may change future campaigns– it definitely broke w/ the “airbrushed candidate looks bravely to stage right in front of whooshy stars or stripes graphic in washed red or blue.”

    As far as reinforcing a message, do you remember Ralph Nader’s 2000 campaign design? It was green, very simple, and definitely distinctive. And did I mention it was green? Yep. Green. Al Gore’s? Not green. Nader. Green.

    I just did a google search to find images from a campaign I remember in the late ’80s with definite racist overtones. Couldn’t find the poster I was seeking, but was struck at just how unmemorable and bland US campaign design is. Unless stated, you couldn’t guess the party most of the time. Here’s a quick test– do you remember the Bush/Cheney campaign bumper sticker design? Granted, during both of their elections I worked on candidates opposed to them, and I live in a blue state so maybe didn’t see as many stickers as there were in Texas, but still… when I saw the little thumbnail image I thought “Oh yeah, that’s what it was.” It carried overtones of, well, nothing. And, frankly, that was true of the Kerry/Edwards logo as well.

    Drat. Must got to work– will comment on the Canadian propaganda later. Also must quickly throw in this link to the Wonkette take on some of the current Repub. candidate’s designs, & a followup from what might be an actual designer. In order:

  2. I think visual messages like these are very important, and I guess that the designers try to create a familiar and honest look. It’s never really affected my vote, though. I’m young enough that all of my voting experience can summed up in a desperate “NOT Bush!!!”. But other than that, it comes down to the issues, particularly environmentalism and human rights.

    Thoughts on the Canadian websites:

    Bloc: They’re using the speech-bubble design. They want to look like they use twitter, which means they probably don’t. :\
    Conservative: Wow, I felt ill at ease even before I saw which party it was. Looks like the website for a news show or a bank.
    Green: Well, you know which party it is right off, don’t you. It looks more like the party is running rather than just one person, which is kind of strange, but also intriguing. Maybe it shows more unity or emphasis on the public good, or maybe its confusing.
    Liberal: Clean and simple. But the main part of the site looks like an advertisement for medicine. Are they selling me something?
    New Dem: Nice and simple. I know there is a guy running for office and that he both smokes and tweets. Fresh color scheme too. Also, they want to make sure you know his name.

    bibliotequetress: Thanks for the links, those were great. Romney = Toothpaste.

  3. A small note on Canadian parliament:

    We vote for local representatives.

    The leader of whatever party gets the most local representatives gets to be the Prime Minister.

    We don’t vote for the Prime Minister separately.

  4. Has artistic direction ever affected your vote?

    Not that I am aware of, but I would hazard a guess that the aim of good political art is to affect the voter without the voter realising they have been affected. The same message presented with different art is likely to affect, at some level, one’s acceptance or rejection of that message.

    What visual messages are parties sending you? Do you think it’s what is intended?

    Bloc Québécois: Young, hip and modern, yet still proud of their heritage as Québécois, as distinct from Canadien.

    Conservative Party: From the logo of the ribbon C and the italicised name, modern and forward thinking. Which of course helps to dispel the stuffy, backward-looking image of a Conservative.

    The two photos of Harper (I presume the second one at the podium is Harper) show two aspects. The head shot at top is youthful and friendly, whilst the one at the podium is older (read experienced) and decisive.

    Green Party: I do like the use of the green maple leaf as a ballot, with it’s message of the freshness of life. Contrasted with the tradition image of the Canadian maple leaf, which is red and therefore indicative of the falling leaves of Autumn (in itself a beautiful image), it’s quite a good image.

    The problem I have with their design is the logo. The first thing I think of is the BP logo. I rather doubt the Green Party intends for me to make an association with a multinational petroleum company. Especially one accused of attempting to greenwash their image by adopting that logo.

    Liberal Party: Efficient, no nonsense, but also comforting and reassuring. Of the lot, this is the best design.

    New Democratic Party: So much orange! My first thought is of the Orange Revolution. It’s a bold move to have the leader of the party smoking a cigar. The suit, the smile, and the cigar make me think of a fat cat businessman. And that’s an image at odds with the image of a people’s movement like the October Revolution.

    Who would you vote for based only on the visual message?

    Hard to say. Even though the presented designs are in French (a language I do not understand), there is enough information to at least glean an idea of which party is which, so I will be influenced by that.

    Nevertheless, I do find myself more disposed the design employed by the Liberal Party. Red is a favoured colour of mine, so I am drawn to that. Red also signifies a left leaning party, so I have that association to which I am somewhat positively disposed. For instance, in this context of politics I find the blue page of the Conservative Party to be quite off-putting.

    So, overall, based only on the visual message, I’d vote Liberal.

  5. i feel the need to point out a misinterpretation of the ndp webpage: if you could read the french you’d know that the cigar-smoking man is a jab at the conservatives. the caption says something like “stephen harper’s tour of senators: unelected, unaccountable, and they love it!”

    this of course refers to the fact that harper attacked the unelected senate as contrary to the democratic process before he himself was elected, while after he was elected he proceeded to appoint right-leaning senators willy-nilly. you can tell the cigar-smoking man is evil by his formal suit and tie, his self-satisfied grin, the fact that he is smoking a cigar, and of course because of the blue background.

  6. I thought that everyone thinking that the cigar man was the party leader was awesome.

    I’m curious if the ad might have mixed effects. The message is anti-conservative, but the image might get associated with the NDP.

    I wonder what will stick in people’s minds, especially if they don’t read carefully. But that never happens…

  7. @ryan: yes, and the issue of having an attack ad on your homepage could easily rub voters the wrong way, especially for the ndp who’ve taken the high road throughout much of this campaign.

  8. For those interested, the conservative party won a majority government. The senate is also mainly conservative.

    That is somewhat like the President, the house and the senate in the US all being republican.

Leave a Reply

Check Also
Back to top button