Calgary Civic Election 2010: Voting by Design part 1


Having difficulty deciding on the best candidate for Calgary’s next Mayor? Tired of searching for clarity through the mud-slinging? Looking for an easy way to see through the empty, deceptive promises? If so, this post is for you!

By using the powerful knowledge of an experienced graphic designer we’ll analyze several leading candidate’s campaigns to reveal the true intentions of each potential mayor. By analyzing their advertising for subtle nuances and repressed themes, the discoveries made in this post will not only give you clear picture of each candidate’s personal motivation but save you hours of mind-numbing research.

It should be noted that this post does not reflect any views or opinions of the blog owner nor has this technique been approved for actual voting purposes – although it may be one day. This post is also not a commentary on a candidate’s prior behaviour or personal character. With that cleared up, let’s jump right in.

Ric McIver:

Ric McIver

Campaign breakdown: This is a campaign for the ages – all the ages. The conservative and traditional nature of the red, white and blue signage would feel equally at home in any era. The Arial Black choice for the main typeface makes no attempt to be anything other than a solid and trustworthy partner of the boring check mark – an exhausted excuse for election imagery. The photography used in the campaign is unremarkable, utilitarian and lacks any hint of creative flair. A strong design correlation between this campaign and a typical North American vehicle dealer is expressed strongly in his signs, website and posters. Ironically, his campaign headquarters is a vacant Chevrolet dealership on the corner of Glenmore and Mcleod.

Future Predictions: By analyzing the the design of this campaign it is clear that Mr. Mciver has clear intentions of moving Calgary along a linear path of low risk, low return trajectory that may not differ much from the ideals that guided mayors since the invention of civic government. In four years, Calgary will be very similar administratively, satisfying to most residents, and a tad less stylish.

Barb Higgins:

Barb Higgins

Campaign Breakdown: For semi long term residents, it gets difficult to remember whether Barb Higgin’s advertising is for a mayoral election or a nightly newscast. The crisp, clear imagery is classic Higgins, it’s well designed, bright and convincing. Myriad is a modern font choice with deep roots and is used effectively in all situations. The light blue is calming and reassuring, the dark blue is strong and solid. Overall, the aesthetics are pleasing to the eye but her signage does not offer much in terms of useful information.

Future Predictions: It’s clear from the campaign design that Barb Higgins will improve the way Calgary is perceived by residents and visitors alike. The glossy, professional nature of the campaign reveals that perhaps Ms. Higgins may look the part and be able to the talk the talk, but when it comes to getting involved in the day to day, she may be hesitant to roll her sleeves up. If Higgins is elected, we may see a future Calgary that presents well but may have deeper issues that do not see resolution.

Wayne Stewart:

Wayne Stewart

Campaign Breakdown: This campaign may just be the most intriguing of them all. The design is an awkward hodge-podge of unrelated elements that somehow serve to give the campaign a memorable look. How is this possible? Let’s break it down. Using stacked text is a common format for film posters. Add the word “Wayne” from Wayne’s World, the Wal-Mart corporate colours and font (Helvetica Black) and you’ve got yourself something familiar. Despite the familiarity, the campaign sends mixed messages about focus and speaks to a poorly hashed out platform without a sense of priority. From the layout of his signs, it’s also quite apparent that Mr. Stewart may be distanced from social media and is not comfortable with technology.

Future Predictions: If Calgary becomes Wayne’s World, there may be some question of the priorities the new mayor has. He may gather information from multiple sources and remix it for a new perspective on the way Calgary politics usually looks. His campaign speaks to a certain level of versatility but a scattered and priority-less style of leadership. At the end of his four year term he may have started a number of projects that have not been completed.

Naheed Nenshi:

Naheed Neshi

Campaign Breakdown: Nenshi’s campaign is new. Scary and new. Not that scary really, maybe just for the older folks. The use of purple is brave, daring and used without regard for tradition. Most signs advertise texting as a method of communication which is unheard of in most local voting circles. It promotes texting-while-driving – which is generally regarded as a dangerous practice. The use of the purple to black gradient and the arms-crossed posture is a strong sign of hidden things lurking beneath the surface. Whether these mysteries are good or bad discoveries is obviously yet to be determined. Remember to be aware of this as you cast your ballot.

Future Predictions: If Mr. Nenshi becomes the favourable choice of Calgarians, this Mayor will be in the media with greater frequency than the current mayor. We may be surprised by and interested in decisions that are made. The way council conducts business is not something that will not continue in its current form. There will be a general uproar among older citizens. And don’t forget the mysteries that lie beneath – they will make themselves apparent during his term.

Considering voting for Joe Connelly, Bob Hawksworth, Jon Lord, Craig Burrows? Find out what their campaigns say about them in part 2 of this exciting series. Coming soon!

Update: It seems as a part two to this series, although half written, is not necessary after the majority of the other candidates have decided to throw in the towel.

  • Alexander Zagoumenov

    Neil, thanks for a great article! And for adding positive thoughts to otherwise grey and boring election buzz.