Our resident design critic observes the differences in graphic design approaches as seen in Thailand’s political campaign images. We wonder if style can ever signify substance. And will his critique predict the kingdom’s next prime minister?
When it comes to elections, campaign posters and banners in Thailand have enormous impact. It used to be that voters didn’t care about issues or experience as much as they cared about whether the candidate had a good face or not. How better to choose a good face than simply to look at one of many likenesses on nearly every street? As a 30-something citizen of Bangkok who works in the design industry, here are my apolitical, purely visual responses to various parties’ efforts.
To me, the logotype is solid and streamlined, connoting newness and efficiency, as opposed to the more old-school, picture-based or emblem logos which to the contrary connote norms and tradition. In effect this logo suggests new ideas or changes as opposed to maintaining the status quo. The photography of Yingluck Shinawatra is done with sublime glowing lights in the background creating depth for the photographed subject. Despite any preconceived notions one may have of the subject, Yingluck’s photo has a human touch, and one would interpret this photograph as depicting a person rather than merely transmitting a neutral image. At the risk of being over-analytical, I suggest the light appearing to one side of her face hints almost at hope on the horizon.
The colour red is known both scientifically and also in fashion as a colour that provides captivating effect. Here the red is applied in good proportion with only one other colour, white, giving the posters and banners a single-minded personality. As to image hue, I would have preferred a bit more magenta in the printings so that Yingluck’s face looked less yellow, which can cause a subject to appear unhealthy.
One noticeable difference between Pheua Thai campaign material bearing an image of only Yingluck and all others, is that the parties’ other efforts are much less coherent and not nearly as well executed.
The Democrat Party needs to find a new art director immediately. Posters and banners appear a bit too monotonous with excessive blue used throughout, creating a flat visual effect. Whether a conceptual problem or perhaps poor-quality printing, the results suffer from poor contrast and don’t speak to the audience. Despite a use of modern typography, the overall layout doesn’t exude a sense of innovation or novelty.
Evidently, photography itself isn’t the strength of the Democrat campaign, as the subjects are too flat, appearing as images rather than persons. The poses of the photographed subjects, however, do connote decency and a sense of organization. The posing style almost reminds me of a university year book.
Even after having heard that the Democrat hired Anuthin, a famous new-age Thai font creator, to revamp their logo, I failed to notice the influence. It must be very subtle. In terms of the text, I would have preferred the wordings on materials to be in a serif-style Thai font, i.e. characters with shapes more rounded, because it takes less time for the brain to recognize and combine serif letters into words as you drive past. Final word of advice for Democrats, less cyan and more magenta in the printers please.
Unusually, here specific colours are used as a tool to imply policies. Rak Santi Party opts for a green background as part of their clean and green message. Unfortunately, the layouts are among the more sterilized designs on the streets, making for something of a hazard-free statement. The choice of denominating font sizes on each breaking line, a style often used by younger graphic designers, makes things appear modern and a bit cute, but the approach doesn’t quite make good use of the interface space. If anything, the focus on layout and not images makes the posters and banners look a bit one dimensional. Cuteness doesn’t speak to serious fundamental change. The Thai Romanised numbers likewise are a bit unorthodox, probably intentionally so, but are merely hard to remember.
Thai Nation Development Party or Chat Thai Pattana Party presents perhaps the most debatable design in terms of design and aesthetics. It is very kitsch, almost like a work by surrealist photographer David LaChapelle. But it is also one of the hardest to forget. The high-contrast, saturated pink background and yellow font aren’t quite in keeping with the campaign content, which is about harmony. Unlike the Peua Thai texts of small fonts suggesting confidence and humility, the Chat Thai Pattana’s font suggests a very intimidating, almost assertive tone. Nonetheless, Chat Thai Pattana makes significant use of pink and so their materials are some of the most noticeable on the street. Maybe not to the taste of many metropolitans, but perhaps spot on for rural voters. The words are vivid and forceful, visually anyway.
Also unusually for Thai campaigns, these materials feature people other than the candidates themselves as illustration. By doing so Bhum Jai Thai proposes a campaign addressing policies instead of highlighting leaders. The photography is done well with muted, toned-down colours conveying authenticity as well as hopefulness. The pictures seem almost to depict a pleasant memory while at once implying a very idealistic point of view.
Of all parties’ choice of font, Bhum Jai Thai’s is the most straightforward and honest. Set against a sober blue background, the font manages to connote both seriousness and youthfulness. The overall effect is of honesty and humility with a hint of perseverance in the mix.
The real excitement of all the campaigns on the streets must be Chuwit Kamolvisit and his very theatrical banners for Rak Pra Thet Thai. The font and texts are quite similar to those commonly used in political tabloids. In fact the composition results in something like an advertisement for an excitable monologist’s stage performance. After so theatrically making his point with such gurning and highly expressive gestures, Chuwit seems to have decided he’s a candidate without need to add his party’s number to posters and banners. In sum, the approach is novel and the layout does what it needs to, get attention, but whether it works or not as effective political campaign imagery one can only wait and see.
10/06/2011 - 13:24