Category Archives: Design Concept/Ideas

In part three, I continue my discussion of McCain and his ineffective use of the web. This is part three of six.

Excluding 50% of Americans
John McCain’s website does not have a ‘Students for McCain’ webpage. In fact, last Spring he had only three people group webpages: Lawyers, Women and Veterans for McCain. But still today, there’s no “Students for McCain” webpage. What gives? This would lead one to believe that McCain doesn’t value every voter, and only values his three favorite type of voters: Women voters, Veteran voters and Lawyer voters. Sure, these three groups are probably the most likely of any group to actually go to the polls and vote… but why exclude 50% Americans?

A Logical Approach with a Community-Driven Approach
Barack Obama didn’t exclude all non-women, non-veterans, and non-lawyers. He has webpages for many ethnicity’s, sexual orientations, and political parties. He also includes: People of Faith, Kids, Seniors, Small Business, Labor etc. Most important to my discussion is that he has a ‘Students for Obama’ webpage. This, combined with Facebook, MySpace, Twitter social networks is giving Obama a huge edge with getting young people’s attention. Within each page there are blog posts particularly relevant to that category. That is brilliant because now someone in that category can ‘comment’ and discuss issues with people like them. Building a community is central to Obama’s website; from his various blogs on people webpages to ‘MyBO’ where voters can get involved locally through events and more.

Shaping Up (kind of)
Sometime in the past few months (late Summer), McCain decided that he should have pages for more people than just women, lawyers and veterans. Maybe he finally realized that not everyone in American fit into those groups. I’m theorizing that he took a gander at Obama’s set of people groups and trimmed it down a little, leaving out many important people groups. Ironically some of the them being: LGBT and ‘Students for McCain’. He might not agree with LGBT voters or even Student voters but you got to at least try and reach out to them. He strangely added ‘Bikers for McCain’ (probably because Cindy McCain is a biker girl). He also has ‘Americans of Faith’ and thought it necessary to add ‘Catholics for McCain’ as if Catholics aren’t American with faith. He’s even got a news article on that page titled “Obama’s Catholic Problem.” Maybe Obama should put a news article up titled “McCain’s Young Vote Problem.”

He’s got people group pages, but their iss no community aspect.
These people group page on McCain’s website don’t offer community opportunities. For example, Catholics can’t interact with other Catholics for McCain while on the ‘Catholics for McCain’ webpage. So the result is saying: “See, I can write articles pay people to write articles about Obama’s Catholic problem and get pictures taken with Catholics”; instead of saying, “Here are some important issues to Catholics and a blog/comment section so you can discuss it with other Catholics.” The side columns to any people group webpage on McCain’s website offer non-related items, while Obama’s side columns offer some people group specific steps that can be taken along with non-related items.

In part four, I take a look at the recent website redesign by John McCain and compare it to his previously all black website.

In part two, I continue my discussion of McCain and his ineffective use of the web. This is part two of six.

As I said in part one, I spent last Spring studying the presidential candidates and how I could create some ‘advertising’ to help one of the candidates. This was when the democrats were narrowed down to Obama and Clinton and the republicans were narrowed to Huckabee, McCain and Romney.

A side-by-side comparison of McCain and Obama's website through time

The Facts
I began looking at web statistics for these remaining candidates, especially the number of Myspace and Facebook friends. We all know that if you want to reach young people, you need to go to where they are most of the time: Facebook and Myspace. There’s a phrase in the Church that says, “God will meet people where they are.” The candidates need to meet young voters where they are: the web (specifically Facebook and Myspace). What I found is that Obama had 800,000 Facebook supporters while McCain had 117,000. Today, Obama has over 2 million supporters and McCain has 575,000 – this has to worry McCain when it comes to young people not being excited for a McCain presidency. Last Spring they were presumed to be the nominees, and yet were getting very different numbers in terms of young support – today is no different. If that wasn’t enough evidence, I looked at website stats from Quantcast.com and 88% of McCain’s website visitors were over 24. Today, Quantcast reports that 63% of his website viewership come from people over 34 years old. Today, McCain’s website draws 4.3 million visitors a month. That’s a lot, right? Well, double that number – 7.9 million – and that’s the number of visitors a month who visit Obama’s website.

I know, I know – McCain’s support lies in the senior citizens of America and they don’t use the web as much as younger people do. But the question will be: Will young people who support Obama via Facebook actually go and vote. Similarly, will seniors who support McCain actually go and vote. We shall see on November 4.

So, as you can tell, McCain has a problem with young voters. Not only because of the web statistics, but also because he’s not speaking to issues directly relating to them. He doesn’t mention much at all about technology, or college tuition. He wants to keep the Internet free (wow-who doesn’t) and for college, he doesn’t offer anything as substantial as Obama’s $4,000 tax credit for students. But I set out to find those issues that would connect to young voters, even if in a very indirect way.

My Small Contribution to McCain
I decided to pretend I worked for McCain and wanted to get young people to vote for him, because I could tell that Obama had the young crowd in the bag… and still does. The reason I decided on this was because I searched and searched and couldn’t find a “Students for McCain” website. No place for students to call their ‘online home’ if they were checking out McCain or were already Republicans. I set out to make McCain seem ‘exciting’ to more young voters.

My work in Advertising last semester resulted in this website: a blog style website that allowed students to interact with the campaign and each other on issues that were important to them. It also highlighted the lighter side of McCain via photos and video (videos no longer work since they were deleted from youtube). This website would theoretically allow students to take action and network with McCain via social networking websites, which was hidden or not there at all on his real website last Spring.

In part three, I will talk about what McCain has done with his website to reach a different audience.

In part one, I introduce the dilemma McCain has in effectively reaching young people on the web. This is part one of six.

As a designer I’ve constantly looked at the candidate websites and tried to imagine how people of different age groups would react and interact with them. These next six blog posts will be a culmination of this research and thought process.

John McCain’s age is not helping him reach young voters. An ineffective (or not as effective) use of his campaign website is hurting him in this area. Simple things such as branding, color scheme and number of times photographs of him are used on a single web page all drastically effect a person’s impression of him as a candidate. McCain’s brand: a militaristic star (seen on the right), is not a good choice in a time when more than half Americans aren’t happy about the wars we are in. McCain’s color scheme last Spring was black, and a little bit of blue. This just enhanced the idea that McCain would be the oldest person to be president if elected. Black, to me, symbolizes death, not ‘Country First’. His biography once had over 10 photos of him. 10 reminders of his age – all were in black and white. He also hasn’t embraced social networking. This could be done easily by making his campaign website a central hub for connecting with him through various social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace etc. Although, I believe he has recently adopted this concept. Good for him.

On the flip side, Barack Obama’s age and central theme is helping him. An effective use of his website is helping him in this area. Obama’s not even THAT young, so it can’t be solely because he is younger. Ron Paul was the second oldest candidate during the primaries and was generating more online buzz than Obama or McCain (for a small period of time). The creative typography, effective circle logo (seen on the right), colors, and key concepts of hope and change have really catapulted Obama. The design of everything involved with his campaign is great. The circle logo is reminiscent of the Midwest. It might be that the first time I saw his logo was on a sign placed in a corn field in Iowa, so I always think that the logo represents a corn field and sunset. The strong themes of hope and change have done well for him, especially with McCain’s lack of theme.

I spent the Spring of 2008 studying campaign websites of all 20 or so candidates from both sides for my Advertising course. I started the project simply researching and finding something I could zone in on. What became apparent was that many of the candidates weren’t attracting the same buzz online as Barack Obama and Ron Paul were. Ron Paul has sense fallen off the face of the earth while spewing the same phrase, “It’s all about the value of the dollar declining.” Obama’s success online and overall has continued throughout the whole campaign. This is apparent in the over 1 million facebook friends Obama had versus his next highest opponent who was Ron Paul at the time, with half as many friends. I forsaw McCain being the Republican candidate, so I wanted my class project to focus on generating online buzz for McCain – I know, it was a tall task. McCain never did and still doesn’t have a ‘Students for McCain’ website, while Obama does.

In part two I will look at exactly what is hurting McCain and his online presence.

I’m in a ‘Motion Graphics’ course here at Truman. Our first project was to use Wonder Bread as part of stop motion animation.

I chose to play on the fact that Wonder bread was the ‘first’ to sell sliced bread and is an american icon. So I focused on another series of American “firsts” – An African American getting the nomination of a major political party. My ad made the 87 year old company, Wonder Bread, a character throughout civil rights movement history and show that “wonder was there all along.”

The music is from the 2003 MO-IL Bi-State Band Concert. It’s titled “After the Thunderer” It was commissioned by our director, and I got to perform in the band under his direction on this recording. Also, this was first time to use Adobe Premiere.

I’ve been working with a high school friend to develop a brand and website for his newest endeavor – to offer free online financial planning to lower-middle class people. He currently lives in Chicago as a financial planner. He had a good idea of what he was looking for. Colors, imagery and wording were some of things he had a good idea about. So I took his ideas along with new ideas I had come up with and created a few versions.

Sketching and ideating: I also wrote some keywords that I thought fit his service. ‘moving forward’ and transform finances were some of the more important ones and what I guided me to abstract the globe to two swooshes. Notice I used his some of his ideas at the top to build from.

Although I knew a globe would probably not be best, I created variations with it so he could see what the result would be. I feel it was important to not throw out his ideas because they are great building blocks for the final idea.

I then created an abstraction of the globe and wrapped it around the wording. Typefaces were switched also. The tagline was way too small here, and also the wrong wording.

I changed the typeface for ‘financial plan’ and nested ‘my free’. Tagline is still too small

Blue and orange have been adjusted and changed typefaces and the tagline is working much better here.

The final version! I’ve capitalized “My Free” and made the tagline larger and black.

*side note*
I’ve been keeping track of my blog’s visitor statistics and my first post about newspaper ads is the most popular of any I’ve written, with an average of 15-20 views a day. It also is ranked high in search engines when searching for ‘how to make great advertisements.’
**

With that knowledge, I decided that I would write part two…

In part one, I talked about some reasons to be different, aesthetically. Here are a few more reasons, along with thoughts about the ad’s message.

  • limit the amount of content you have. An ad should grab attention not inform the viewer of every single detail.
  • Use only a few sentences, bullet points or short phrases. Similar to writing for the web, you want to give the viewer a break from the massive amount of content in the stories surrounding the ad.
  • Aim your message at a targeted audience. Be sure your audience isn’t just all males or all females.. that’s way too broad. The broader your target audience the less effective your message becomes!
  • Try to portray the uniqueness of your product/service that is being advertised.
  • Steer clear from using most free fonts in the ad. They are generally very poorly designed, have poor default kerning, etc. There are some great free fonts out there, but be picky and be prepared to do a lot of work on your typography to fix the flaws.
  • Be sure your ad is appropriate for where it is placed in the newspaper. Newspapers usually control this, but just in case… it’s probably not a good idea to put a beer ad next to the comics. Your kids will end up seeing that ad.
  • Take advantage of the placement, if possible. If you know the page your ad will be on, try tying your message to the subject matter of the surrounding stories. Or ask if your ad can be placed near certain subjects/stories.

Some of these items apply to graphic design and advertising in general as well as newspaper advertising. Are there any other tips you would add?

Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media DesignerI just received the book MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer by Hillman Curtis I skimmed through it and caught some insightful words:

A common mistake of designers is thinking of themselves only as visual communicators. We’re fortunate to speak the visual language fluently, but we also need to translate literal and thematic messages. In other words, we need to be bilingual. As a designer I need to listen and ask questions… …without (that), I’m as good as blind.

I’ve talked a lot lately about branding myself as a designer, so it was nice to hear what Hillman had to say about it. I came across the part where the author talks about designing his design firm’s website (hillmancurtis inc.) Hillman had some insightful words:

My thought was to design something bold and cutting-edge, so I studied the work of my peers: designers who I thought were doing new and exciting work. Still nothing was working. The designs I turned out fell flat, and every night I went home empty and depressed.

He goes on to say that his wife told him about a poetry conference she went to at which C.K. Williams said that when he’s creatively blocked, he falls in love with a master. He looks back to those who perfected their craft and takes cues from their mastery. For designers, that might be Paul Rand, Saul Bass and many others.

Who are you looking back to, that perfected their craft?

Posters should have a definite style or brand yet carry that style out with minimal content. Here are few posters I’ve designed in the past.

This was created in conjunction with a pamphlet that targeted the idea that finding WMD was a slam dunk case. And yes, the CIA director actually said that. I put statistics of the war and came up with the tag “Not Quite a Slam Dunk” This was intended to have a David Carson feel, with the typography… I’ve realized I’m not the “experimental typography” sort of person.

I created this poster for my senior portfolio, along with a CD design, website and bar coasters. I drew the guitar in Illustrator and then finished it in Photoshop. Check out Paul’s music at Myspace.


 For an ongoing freelance job for Meadow Heights Church. This concept started out as a small web ad and later became this 11×17 poster.

Do you need a poster designed?

If you are looking for someone to help you design a poster or anything (business card, brochure, website, logo, etc). I’m your man. You can get in contact with me and I’ll create something meaningful and awesome for you next project.

I don’t know too much about logo design, since I focus most of my time with magazine design and web design, although I will try to list some things I’ve learned.

Effective Logos…

  • …are distinctive
  • …are visible
  • …are usable
  • …are memorable
  • …are universal
  • …are durable
  • …are timeless
  • …do not sell, only identifies.
  • …derives its meaning from the quality of what it symbolizes

Here are a two of my more successful logos. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on branding/logo design. Leave me a comment!


Here are a few of the blogs I follow that give me inspiration, knowledge and cool design resources.

  • Design View / Andy Rutledge
    This guy always has some great thoughts about web design and web standards. His personal portfolio is pretty amazing too!
  • CSS Newbie
    Very cool website that has some useful resources for web design, programming and CSS. This guy actually works in the IT Department where I’m interning – August Home.
  • Creative Curio
    This gal writes pretty interesting stuff about graphic design. If you are looking for web design info, you’re in the wrong place here, but there are great tutorials for the Adobe Suite.
  • Just Creative Design
    This dude is three years younger than I am but blogs about some pretty interesting stuff. His blog is similar to mine, in that we are both in college and blogging about our experience doing freelance work and about we are currently learning. He is a little different than I am, because he actively searches for freelance work, via his website, while I never search for work and yet it still finds me. He seems to have more of a business and a central website for his blog/website/portfolio, while I keep mine separate for various reasons. I should take some cues from his overal model though!
  • Seth’s Blog
    He isn’t a designer but is certainly relavant to designers. Seth blogs mostly about common sense business and marketing practices. His posts are eye-openers for me.
  • Tom’s MAD Blog
    Tom is an illustrator for MAD Magazine. He does some pretty cool caracatures and has great thoughts about the design process. He has some cool video tutorials on illustrating with a tablet and Photoshop.

Do you have a cool web design/graphic design blog you follow? Let me know about it.