Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I don't have much to say about the debates and attack-ad embarassment that hasn't already been said, and better; Paul Martin & Co. seem increasingly to be at the point of losing their minds. For that matter, Paul Wells also points out something that hadn't even occurred to me, on the "Soldiers. In Our Cities. In Canada" meme - soldiers (and sailors, and airmen too, etc etc) are everywhere in Ottawa. They're on the street, at the bus stop, in the mall, and at your local sub shop; DND facilities dot the city, and the Major-General Pearkes Building, national HQ, is about as close to the centre of the city's infrastructure as is possible. Knowing this, and being well aware of how much of a non-issue it is - Liberals are shamelessly Ottawa-centric, if anything, and should logically be mildly aware of their surroundings - how did the mental calculus behind that ad even make it to approval for the so-called "draft" stage? The backlash from this one is going to be just delicious. Nonetheless, the Liberals can still pull this off. Backing predators into a corner will tend to make them more vicious and unpredictable than usual, after all. But at this point, it's looking like longer and longer odds that we won't have a new PM in two weeks. That said, with Martin's thunder today delightfully being stolen by the Red Book leak, here's something flippant I've wanted to do for a while: analysis of the various parties' campaign design and typography. In the interests of equal time - but mostly because their logos are almost universally hideous - I'll even include the fringe parties. The Contender: Who? The Typeface: Which font dominates? The Colours: Instant subconscious associations, ahoy. The Logo: What do the non-textual parts of their graphic identity say? What It Says: Does the aggregate logo imply anything in itself? Rating: How effective is this as a brand?
The Contender: Bloc Québécois The Typeface: Gill Sans Bold for "Bloc," FF Meta Bold for "Québécois." The Colours: Dark red, dark grey-blue, light blue. The Logo: A smoothly incorporated fleur-de-lys makes this one of the more inherently iconic of federal party logos. What It Says: The Bloc's logo is smooth and modern-looking, skillfully blending two grotesques - a typeface created in 1929 with one of the early 90s - with colours that can't possibly be mistaken to represent anywhere but Quebec. The smooth curve of the fleur-de-lys implies movement and progress, while subtly pointing towards the textual portion of the logo. Excellent and clean. Rating: A-
The Contender: Canadian Action Party The Typeface: Varies. In the official logo submitted to Elections Canada, seen above, the party name appears to be Handel Gothic; I'm not sure, as it's too low-resolution. "Hope" and "Espoir" seem to be in one of the knock-offs of Albertus designed to mimic the typographical quirks added to that font when used in the titles of cult TV classic The Prisoner. On their website, it varies between Arial, in the logo seen in a Flash intro page, and Interstate Condensed. Can we say schizophrenic? The Colours: Bright red and dark blue, in fitting with their delusion of being a nationalist party capable of knocking off both Liberals and Tories. The Logo: A map of Canada. An entire map of Canada, including all the fiddly bits that reproduce poorly at small sizes. What It Says: We cannot be trusted. Between occasional use of Arial (more on that below), and the use of radically over-complex imagery in a logo (a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to draw a memorable logo from memory), this screams amateurism. Albertus - or whatever knockoff in particular that is - should never be used with any kind of optical distortion, and that the Prisoner variant (the lowercase E is clipped, quite distinctively) is in use here just prompts further questions vis-à-vis the CAP's motives, competence, and sense of irony. Paul Hellyer's loons are still Paul Hellyer's loons whether or not he's still with them. Rating: D
The Contender: Christian Heritage Party The Typeface: Custom logotype in the central "C," Arial in the party name. On their website, the party name is in Eurostile Bold Condensed, for no apparent reason. The Colours: Pale maroon, inexplicably. I have no idea what that's in aid of. The Logo:Nice use of negative space with the maple leaf; most party logos aren't so creative with it. The letterform of the C itself, however, is very 60s-70s, à la Eurostile or similar heavily-geometrical gothic faces. What It Says: Some people hate Comic Sans. They're not wrong to, but I hate Arial more. It's not a Microsoft product per se, unlike Comic Sans, but they did popularize it as a crude and cheap-looking alternative to the exquisitely clean-looking and ubiquitous Helvetica. Anyone who knows the difference will usually avoid Arial like the plague, choosing either the former or another face entirely; that it's managed to make it to an official copy submitted to Elections Canada is not a compliment to the CHP's marketing skill or hiring wherewithal. The use of Eurostile in an updated logo is only slightly better, but does nothing to prevent the unconscious admission of being stuck at a particular spot forty years in the past. At least the central logo itself is simple and recognizable. Rating: C
The Contender: Communist Party of Canada The Typeface: None. Impact - a face in similar bad company with Arial as one of Microsoft's awful substitutes for a bold sans serif font included with Windows by default - on their website, but none in the official logo itself. The Colours: In actuality, red, yellow and blue; that it it simply converted to a recognizable B&W version is a credit to the designer. The Logo: A highly stylized conjunction of wheat and a gearwheel superimposed on a maple leaf. What It Says: Honestly? I love this. It's clean, it's simple, it's stylized, and the imagery is immediately recognizable. You don't have to understand a word of English to see the imagery of maple leaf + farming + industry = Canadian communism. That it nods to Russian constructivism in its imagery is likely no accident. They may be evil, but communists certainly do tend to end up with great graphic designers. Rating: A
The Contender: Conservative Party of Canada The Typeface: None in logo itself; Frutiger Bold Italic elsewhere in literature. The Colours: Blue. Solid Tory blue, with all the parliamentary tradition that implies. The Logo: Mobius strip-looking stencil C, still - in my opinion - a bit too close to the CanJet logo. What It Says: Bland and inoffensive; focus-grouped to death, I'm sure. I see this as presenting quiet competence, with a good, timeless mid-century Swiss-inspired typeface. Not very exciting, but that's not the goal, is it? Rating:B+
The Contender: Green Party The Typeface: None; Century Gothic or Avant Garde in their signs. Either way, it's futurist and gothic. The Colours: Green and yellow, more or less healthy-looking. The Logo: Maybe it's supposed to be a sun or sunflower, but to me it always brings to mind the very similar pattern of the BP logo. What It Says: Not much. It's bland, a bit too complex in the particular flares of the sun/sunflower, and doesn't really thematically connect to the party. Neither, for that matter, do their fonts; both imply a very 30s or 70s style of design. (Well, maybe that is intentional.) Rating: C+
The Contender: Liberal Party of Canada The Typeface: Antitle Bold Italic, which offers some delightful quirks with dropped serifs; look at the lowercase B, for example. The Colours: Red. Pure Red. Canadian Red. (Obviously.) The Logo: It reminds me a bit of the Canwest crescent, but makes a nice stand-in for a horizon. What It Says: Slick. Maybe a bit too slick. It shows definite professional influence, and not a little bit of graphical panache. Pace what Warren Kinsella said a little while ago about this election being Tim Horton's-vs.-Starbuck's in terms of values, it might be too hip for the Liberals' own good. Rating: A
The Contender: Libertarian Party The Typeface: Arial. Gah. The Colours: Green. The Logo: Reminds me of an airplane tail's corporate livery, and needless duplication of the maple leaf seems odd. What It Says: Professional graphic designers? Hell, we can do that ourself and save a couple hundred bucks, right? Rating: D
The Contender: Marijuana Party The Typeface: Arial. Gah, again. The Colours: Sickly puce ecru and sage, I suppose meant to bring to mind the funk of pot smoke, grease and sweat that trails after proponents. The Logo: Thankfully simple: Marijuana leaf and a checkmark. Not bad. What It Says: Another evident do-it-yourself effort, but single-issue parties can afford such things, no? Rating: C+
The Contender: Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada The Typeface: Arial. Arial Bold, this time, which isn't really an improvement. The Colours: Too many. Red, maroon, pink, grey, and salmon. The Logo: Too many layers, and the symbolism loses meaning when submerged in borders within borders. Surely they could have managed to come up with something using just the hammer and sickle, or socialist rose, no? What It Says: Like the CAP's, this logo is just too busy. The acrostic of the party acronym is fantastically overkill. I guess the splitters didn't manage to attract any of those sharp designers when they left. Rating: C
The Contender: NDP The Typeface: Futura Extra Bold. The Colours: Orange and green, in what have become their signature colours for no particular reason. The Logo:A fluttering maple leaf in green; a nice touch to imply movement, progress, and environmentalism, to be sure. What It Says: Blunt and humourless, but certainly earnest. The use of a heavy gothic typeface is nice for a party of technocrats. Rating: B+
The Contender: Progressive Canadian Party The Typeface: Gill Sans, maybe. With an awful embossed effect. Sweet Zombie Jesus, people. The Colours: Pale blue and pale red, as befits former Red Tories too fainthearted for the new CPC. The Logo: An outlined maple leaf in the background. What It Says: We've got a copy of Microsoft Word, and nothing else. Rating: D
The Contender: Western Block Party The Typeface: None; sloppy hand-lettering. The Colours: None. The Logo: A map of the west. A badly sketched map of the west. What It Says: We actually scanned the bar napkin we sketched this out on and sent it to Elections Canada; that is, in fact, how useless we are. Rating: D-
The Contender: First Peoples National Party of Canada The Typeface: Papyrus, a calligraphic face inspired by Carolingian letterforms in a faux-Egyptian effect, which is a decidedly odd choice. The Colours: Red, white, orange, yellow, black, and grey. The Logo: Appears to be a mystery-meat navigation aid for a GeoCities-hosted website, circa 1998. One that might involve fantasy literature. With dragons. What It Says: You're not going to vote for us anyway, so why not play up the generic imagery of the Exotic Other, despite it not fitting our particular socioethnic group very well? Rating: B- Much like the Devil gets all the best tunes, it appears that the Liberals and assorted socialists collectively have the best logos. Ominous!

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