Politicians, political commentators and older generations often complain about the lack of young people’s interest and involvement in politics and voting. If millennials got a dime for every time someone said, “Young people don’t care about politics,” we would probably no longer have crippling student loan debt.
It is true that young people have not been as involved in politics as older generations, and millennials don’t have the best track record of showing up to vote. However, do young people not care about politics, or does politics not care about young people? Are campaigns and politicians really trying to involve young people?
Whether it is good or bad, design has a huge impact on how people react to and invest themselves in an idea or brand. Advertisers know it, Instagram startups know it and consumers know it. However, this seems to have eluded politicians and political campaigns.
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If I go to just about any current political candidate’s campaign website, the visuals and language are the design equivalent of the heavily starched, never worn American flag print button-up shirt hanging in my grandfather’s closet.
The visual language of political campaigns is seriously lagging behind contemporary visual culture and design. If political campaigns are so desperate for young people’s engagement and involvement, why aren’t they using language and design that engages them?
It’s evident from the successful design campaigns of companies such as Glossier, Warby Parker, Reformation and Outdoor Voices that clean design and a conversational tone are key to building an engaged and loyal young community around a brand. Additionally, time and time again, the most successful brands grow from using their social media channels as a site for exchange and conversation and not as a one-way broadcasting and advertising platform.
Image is key in politics. Political campaigns could use design solutions similar to Reformation’s breakdown of their clothing’s environmental impact to create more transparency and make information more accessible to everyone. Politicians are missing a huge opportunity by not designing a visual identity and merchandise their supporters would actually want to display and wear (free advertising!). Huge strides could be made if a campaign fully embraced and took advantage of the visually focused nature of millennials and Gen Z instead of critiquing or resisting it.
Millennials make up the generation that is arguably the most engaged in contemporary culture, social media and social movements. The problem is not that young people don’t care about politics or want to engage in things – they do. Rather, politicians and campaigns aren’t engaging with young people in an effective and meaningful way.
It is unlikely a candidate or a campaign’s success would be determined solely by design and audience-focused branding. However, successful branding will do the job it needs to: get noticed.