Effective political yard signs

It’s campaign season again, and yard signs for candidates are starting to pop up around Bloomington. The only contested races are in the Democratic primary, so all of these signs are for Democrats. For anyone running for elective office, here are my thoughts on how to make the best use of your signs.

(Hopefully, only Republicans will follow this advice.)

So what makes a good political yard sign? To answer this question, we need to establish the purpose of the signs, which is to increase the name ID of a candidate for elective office. A yard sign needs two primary things: the name of the candidate and the office that candidate is seeking. There are legal requirements on reporting who paid for the sign and so forth depending on jurisdiction, but the purpose of this post is political strategery, not election law.

On a political sign, you have a few precious seconds to get your message across. This means your sign needs to be simple and easily read by motorists whipping by at 40 miles per hour. If your name and/or the office you seek is in small, obscured or otherwise unreadable font, you are wasting your money.

Because you have so little time to get your point across, the only thing that should be on your sign is your name and office. Do not bother with slogans, because the point of a yard sign is not to make a policy argument. Save that for your literature, advertisements and campaign website. Keep illustrations, graphics and photographs to a minimum – or better yet, remove them. The goal is to advertise your candidate, not to be artistic.

I’ve seen some good and bad yard signs. Mark Kruzan’s signs are some of the best I have seen. (Kruzan is running in a contested Democratic primary for re-election as mayor.) Big bold white letters on a bright red background catches the eye of the passing motorist. The name and office sought are easy to read, and those are the only things on the sign. The signs are simple, effective and to the point.

Other yard signs are not so good. Chris Sturbaum’s signs feature his name and office (city council) wrapped around a large illustration of a tree. The sign is too cluttered and the text is too difficult to read in the precious seconds passing motorists have to read it. As a political junkie, I make an extra effort to notice yard signs, but if I was not specifically looking for them I would be much less likely to know what those signs are advertising.

While they cannot win an election by themselves, there are a number of advantages to yard signs. In order to get the maximum value from your signs, you have to get the most critical message across in the shortest possible time. As part of a larger political campaign, yard signs can help you win, but only if those signs are effective enough that people know your name and what you are running for.