By Chris Moody, Creative Director
So in the closest we will ever come to an X Factor meets Newsnight mash up. Scotland stays.
Whilst the majority of today’s commentary will focus on the socioeconomic bullet that has been dodged, or the oleaginous handshakes of Westminster’s finest, I will stick to what I know. Graphics.
One of my favourite films is Brewster’s Millions. In a Caledonian twist on the Richard Pryor morality tale we have just witnessed a ‘None of the Above’ style political campaign played out for real. With both sides of the referendum debate having to build their stories largely around the power and influence of absence, the way in which the visual and verbal language of each campaign came to life was fascinating to watch.
The NO campaign certainly had the toughest gig. It was literally asking people to vote to achieve nothing, (insert your own coalition government reference here please).
Language-wise they had to land the most negative of TOV’s. The associated messaging largely built around fear and ‘what ifs’. Even Scotland’s distinctive colour palette had been co-opted by the YES vote, leaving them with a Faragey Pantone of UKIP purple or unpalatable palette of banking crisis blue.
So how did they pull it off? Well alongside many other (much more important aforementioned socioeconomic) factors. Perhaps some of the key aesthetics that were generated and repeated ad infinitum by the campaign played a tiny part.
Maybe it was the fact they flipped a plain old NO into ‘Better Together’. A double positive (think ‘stuffed crust’ pizza or ‘deep fried’ Mars bar). Or maybe it was the deployment of military grade propaganda in a Jamaican flag-style rendition of the Union Jack that did the rounds last week (see below for our alternatives). Maybe it was just Bowie.
Maybe it was because they inherently had the one thing the YES campaign didn’t - a replicable icon. A big fat hand-drawn cross. The thing everyone in Scotland was going to recreate the moment they stepped into the booth, irrespective of who they were siding with.
Check out the two placards next to each other (not with a design eye but with a critical eye, there’s no D&AD pencil here) The YES with its designery chunky Helvetica Neue and accompanying rock hard X from the flag. Now look at the NO with a rounded font and its little hand-drawn ‘x’.
YES speaks to a nation like a nation, hard and brisk. NO in contrast is more individual, softer, warmer and a bit goofy like a wobbly little kiss. Could it be a graphic ‘hanging chad’ that nudged a few of the undecided?
From a sweaty Nixon to a light bulb headed Kinnock via John Heartfield, Jamie Reid and the awesome Steve Hardstaff political imagery can swing political debate. We will never know if this time round it played a winning role. But it’s does highlight that design and creativity matters in the important things in life.
Time to sharpen your pencils people, because next year we take down the government.
Placard image via Getty.