Category Archives: Politics

In a previous blog post, I said that Obama and Romney have failed at replying to Twitter followers – as noted by the ‘no replies’ that can be found on their Twitter profiles. They or their campaign have never replied to any of their followers. I said this was an utter failure because they could at least devote a campaign worker to this task, and occasionally have the candidate send a reply to someone.

It’s not rocket science. It’s like texting a friend. After all, a text and a tweet are both limited to 140 characters. It’s like when someone says something to you, you don’t, then, regurgitate your next talking point, you respond to them and acknowledge them. I know, this sounds like a high standard – but it shouldn’t be looked at this way.  We’ve just set the bar really low.

Others agree

So after coming to this conclusion on my own, I saw this great article, that was shared by a professor I had in college. In one part of the article, they bring up the same point. They said:

Neither campaign made much use of the social aspect of social media. Rarely did either candidate reply to, comment on, or “retweet” something from a citizen-or anyone else outside the campaign. On Twitter, 3% of the 404 Obama campaign tweets studied during the June period were retweets of citizen posts. Romney’s campaign produced just a single retweet during these two weeks-repeating something from his son Josh.

And by ‘Rarely did either candidate reply to…’ they mean that they NEVER replied to anyone.

It’s the right strategy

If the candidates truly want to get around traditional media (or lamestream media, as Sarah Palin would say) and talk directly to voters, they need to listen and respond. Otherwise, what’s the difference between saying your latest talking point on Cable TV and tweeting it (besides maybe the audience)? The difference is that on Twitter, you can be ‘social’ with your followers. That’s why they call it social media. It’s a dialogue not a monologue. Twitter is not a real-time digital billboard to push out your BS to anyone who will listen (although, that’s what it’s becoming), it is a real-time conversation with your followers where you talk, listen and respond.

Let’s get practical

  • The candidates could tweet a question and then monitor the response and reply to select people.
  • The candidates could monitor for a keyword. Let’s say the economy is a hot topic this week; the candidates could monitor tweets relating to the economy and reply with a great news article on the candidates’ website or news website that sets the record straight or just gives more information on what the person is asking. Or, they could simply reply to agree with or acknowledge someone.

In conclusion

With the election only 70 days away, will the candidates actually use social media the way it should be used? Socially? By following this strategy of interacting with followers, there isn’t an easy way to measure the return on investment. But that’s not really the point. Sometimes you should do the right thing without caring about ‘ROI’.

Before it was cool

I’ve been on Twitter since 2006 and have tweeted 9,651 times (at the time of this writing). I was on Twitter years before it was cool. I’ve watched Twitter ‘grow up’ in a sense.

It’s a small world

In the last few years, I’ve really started to notice how celebrities have embraced Twitter to interact with their fans. Twitter has provided that ‘small world’ feel in the palm of your hand. A celebrity might actually reply to you, answer your question, or otherwise acknowledge you. For the celebrity, this is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, they literally have their whole fan-base in their pocket – via the Twitter mobile app. They can talk to their fans at any moment and have real interaction. That couldn’t happen before Twitter (at least to this extent).


Not to brag…

Here are a few folks that have interacted with me on Twitter. They are great examples of people who use Twitter to have a dialogue rather than a monologue (digital billboard):

  • Don Lemon (CNN News Anchor) – retweeted and replied to me about Romney VP pick
  • Stefan Bucher (designer/illustrator) – conversation about his book
  • Andrew Garcia (American Idol finalist) – conversation about DSLR cameras
  • Candace Cameron-Bure (DJ Tanner from Full House) – answered a question about John Piper
  • office of the president called me when I tweeted about them (in 2006)

I can’t send you a Twitter reply, but give me your money

I don’t believe Obama or Romney have ever replied to a fan/follower on Twitter (as noted by the ‘no replies’ text on their twitter profiles). Are you kidding me?!?!? You want us to give you money, ‘get out the vote’ and actually go and vote for you come November and you can’t reply to some of your followers by answering questions, etc? Could you not spend 5-10 minutes of your day to read a few twitter questions/concerns and personally reply? Heck – make a campaign minion do it… that would be a start.

It’s gotta be an enjoyable habit

To sum up, the reason celebrities interact with fans by replying and retweeting them is because using Twitter and interacting has become a habit for them. They enjoy it and do it regularly. They also understand the importance of interaction with fans. Conversely, I think you can figure out why some only use Twitter as their digital billboard – never to interact with anyone…. because they don’t understand Twitter and it’s not a habit for them. They haven’t seen the value and don’t realize how enjoyable it can be. Twitter can’t be a forced task, it has to be part of your life, habits and what you enjoy. You can’t just ‘learn’ Twitter, you have to learn to enjoy it.


I couldn’t help but notice a few striking similarities between current GOP candidate websites and Obama’s 2008 campaign website and the current White House website.

Glowing Blue Background

It seems that the new political design trend is going to be glowing backgrounds. Most of the candidate’s sites use a glowing blue background of some sort (see and

Home Icon & Typography

The designers for Ron Paul’s website must have been inspired by because the navigation typography is almost identical. The flag icon on links to the homepage, while the home icon on Paul’s site links to the homepage. While not similar in design, the unique idea of using a homepage icon in that particular position is pretty similar given the other similarities.

However, I give props to Ron Paul’s web guys for actually making the navigation real text and not images, like the White House site. To be fair, has their full sitemap in real text in the footer.

Right Column Shadows

This one is minor, but I had to mention it because of how similar other elements are between and Ron Paul’s website. The right column on both sites are the same exact width as well. Inspired much?

The hokey, ‘look inspired and into the distance’ Photo.

Also known as the 40-year-old virgin portrait look. This is only funny because I really want to imagine the photographer holding up a picture of the Obama 2008 website and directing Bachmann to pose similarly. I feel like she forgot where the camera was one other time too… I kid, I kid!

Is there anything wrong with this?

Of course not. There is no copyright infringement here. Is it funny when you notice it? Yes. Mostly because of how different these candidates are from President Obama in every other way.

Here’s to great design that draws some of it’s inspiration from Obama 2008!

Looking for someone to design your website (or logo)?

I’m your man! Check out my portfolio and get in touch with me. Let’s make your next project awesome!

Just yesterday, I spoke to Lambda Pi Eta, the communication department’s honor society at Truman State University. I was connected to them by fellow Mountain Dew and Twitter addict, Don Krause (@santee). I was über nervous about speaking, as I always am, but I think I overcame that fear.

I talked about my experience with social media as the owner/designer of Creative Improv and why brands need to care about social media.

A few quick notes, I had tweeted to UPS and FedEx 3 times in the last few days (once during my presentation) and hadn’t received a response from them until just now. @FedExRobin responded – you can see her tweet here.

Check out my presentation below. I recorded it a day after I gave the presentation to the folks at Truman.

Since the 2008 presidential election, I have become aware of design in politics and how the quality and effectiveness of the design effects particular candidates.

As designers, we have a lot of responsibility to design for the greater good and not put forth an image (both meanings of the word) that is misleading, untrue or inciting of any negative action. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have a responsibility to not oversell something or someone, if we want a clear conscience.

Below I’ve outlined a few examples of design that has a played a role in our perception of a the candidate.

A few examples, off the top of my head:

Yes we can… make you think I’m God-incarnate

Overtly and overly optimistic political campaign website for Barack Obama. Did we all really think he was going to be ‘God-incarnate’ and a perfect president (note the glowing blue sky/cloud feel)?

The problem with this website design, as I’m starting to see, is that if I were to design a website for ‘God’ – it would probably look pretty close to this. Same colors. Similar logo. Similar quote in the header (at least the ‘I’m asking you to believe’). This is a problem, because he’s not God, but was pretty much marketed as such.

As I wrote about on this blog in the past – this was a great website design, logo and branding. The best that national politics had ever seen. But my question is: Was it over-selling Obama? Just a bit.

Did we think he would be anything more than a politician with skin on? If we bought into the design/marketing – maybe.

There’s an Alaska-shaped lake in the US, don’tchaknow?

To all you middle school kids who have taken geography, you know this map is NOT accurate. It is outrageously false. I know that Palin’s goal was to express that she was the governor of a state that is very large in comparison to the continental United States. Do you want to highlight something in your career that you only put half your effort toward (Palin resigned before finishing her first term)? Why create something that is false, misleading and very untrue? Clever, maybe – but I don’t see it winning any design awards. This logo opens up the floodgates for more people to question the intelligence of Sarah Palin. Why open that door?

LBJ mushroom cloud commercial

Misleading. Fear-Mongering.

It’s not a direct ‘design’ piece but is marketing and political in nature. The commercial worked and drew on the emotions of the American people. Drawing out the fear of a nuclear war and pointing a finger at Barry Goldwater was the goal of this commercial. It worked, and as Milton Glaser is quoted in this article saying, “And even though you knew it was bullshit, your heart swelled anyway.”

You betcha they’re surveying symbols!

Most recently, this graphic has been the center of debate. I don’t subscribe to the idea that Palin is responsible for the recent Arizona shooting. However, her advertisements and words and those of other talking heads need to be scrutinized when violence against politicians arises. Taking responsibility for your words and actions is a necessity. That means acknowledging when something you say or do is in bad taste, as this graphic was. We learned this as a child – why is it that politicians forget this fundamental rule of responsibility? (Another example is when Sharon Angle’s was quoted about using  ‘second amendment remedies’. That is an incitement of violence and nothing less.)

One explanation of this graphic was that it was simply using ‘surveying symbols’.  Maybe that was the intention, but how many American’s are surveyors and would get this reference? It’s more likely that it would be interpreted as a gun sight. You can’t tell me that the Palin folks didn’t know this is how it would be inferred? After all, it’s the perfect graphical symbol to appeal to hunters and gun rights activists around the country. If it should have been a surveying symbol, shame on the designer for not correctly ‘visually communicating’ a surveying symbol. My guess is that the designer was directed to use a gun cross hair – and they did that effectively. Palin and others needs to be more careful about the graphics they present and the words they use.

Wrapping up

We have all seen political ads, designs and words that over-reach their boundary. The question becomes – how do we know how over-reaching it is? How do we know how much violence something or someone may incite with their words or ads? The answer is: We don’t. This is why politicians and the designers that work for them need to be held to a very high standard. They need to realize how much sway they have with their ‘supporters’ – especially their fringe supporters.

What political ads, designs and words have you heard or seen recently that were inciting violence or simply overselling something?

Just a quick thought here –

Does anyone find it very interesting that Sarah Palin has taken her voice to Facebook and Twitter almost exclusively? She is calling the shots and making the mainstream media report on what she just wrote on these social sites. It is unprecedented that a politician could so overtly avoid any tough questions or interviews and still get the coverage that she gets.

Is this responsible journalism? Is this responsible politicking? (did I just use responsible and politics in the same sentence?)

Your thoughts?


I just read this interesting article on CNN about why America is growing tired of Palin. I ‘bolded’ the part that seems to echo what I was pinpointing above.

The hope for some Republicans is that Palin will literally tweet her way out of our hearts. The books, the reality TV, the family psycho-dramas, the never-ending internet “thought bubbles” could just be enough to drive even those who like her over the edge. And, sure, we in the press are part of this uber-coverage, behaving as if every 140-character thought is worth some conversation. It isn’t. As Erick Erickson, the editor of the conservative and a CNN contributor, told me, it’s not really about what Palin has achieved. “By 2012,” he says, “people are going to be so tired of her they’re going to want to avoid eye contact. It’s not fair, but it’s reality.”

Photo by Stephen Emlund in Des Moines, IA

Since it seems like my six-part series on the 2008 presidential election has disappeared within my blog, I wanted to re-highlight it since I spent hours researching various aspects of that election.

This series focuses on the websites of Sen. John McCain and then-Sen. Barrack Obama. It was a culmination of a semester of research in an Advertising course. While I was writing these posts (in the Fall of 2008), I was also producing many 30 second ads (Motion Graphics) supporting the Obama Campaign. These videos will posted in the next blog post.

Yes We Can from Stephen Emlund on Vimeo.

A Celebration of Freedom & Democracy from Stephen Emlund on Vimeo.

Not Walk Alone from Stephen Emlund on Vimeo.