How to Choose Design Colors for a Political Lawn Sign

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Henry Ford said you can have any color Model T as long as it is black.  Awhile back a survey by the University of Florida claimed that a yellow background with black lettering was the best color combination for a sign for attracting attention.  In the packaging industry “red” is the favored attention getting color down the supermarket aisle.  So there you have it!  The experts agree to disagree.

So what color is best for your yard sign?  Answer: Take your pick as to what suits ‘you’ best.  In addition to not picking your opponents colors, here are some other helpful suggestions as to what not to do.

Consider Color Value

Never use a low value color (light color) with a low value color.  For example, pink lettering on a white background will not show up.  All pastels (e.g. pale blue, yellow, pink, light green) will not contrast CO1against white backgrounds.  Interestingly fluorescents, though appearing very bright, will not contrast on white.  Choose a dark (high value) color (e.g. black, navy blue, burgundy, red, forest green)

Similarly never use a high value color with a high value color. For example black lettering on a navy blue background will not show.

Lettering and background must always be of contrasting value in order to be readable.

Consider Environment

First remember white is the principal base stock color – and it is free. Red (or for that matter blue, green, orange, etc.) lettering on a white background is a one color print.  So also is white lettering on a red background a one color print.  The red is printed as what is referred to in “reverse”.CO2

For Northerners, avoid white signs in winter.  To not have your sign “lost” against the white snow, use reverse printing (i.e. bright colored printed background with white letters).  Similarly green backgrounds can get lost in more lush territories and/or seasons, as yellow signs can against arid backgrounds.  For a sign to be recognized it has to be a color that is “out of place” in its environment.  Avoid khakis, gray and brown background colors for that reason. For standard ink colors consult a screen printer’s ink colorsgallery.

Two Colors vs. One Color

There has never been a one color design that can not be improved by adding a second color.  Remember white, as a base stock color, is free.  Two color printing to produce a yellow/black sign or a red/white/blue sign or a fluorescent green/navy will always stand out with greater impact. CO3

For the printer, two colors require two films, two screens, two setups, two runs and two cleanups.  This costs money.  So for a two color sign always expect to pay more per sign – but it may be worth it.

Hopefully these suggestions will aid in your color decisions for lawn signs.  For a wide range of ideas, it is helpful to consult galleries on a screen printer’s web site.  If you have questions, do not hesitate to consult directly with your screen printer – they have the expertise to help.

Aerial Billboards and Messages

Aerial Billboards and Messages

by Robert Franklin, Aerial Advertising Services

Campaigns have at least three communications goals that Aerial media supports –

Branding Communications – Delivering a consistent message and image for a candidate or about issue. The goal is to present this to the pool of potential voters and then give them periodic reminders

Targeted Communications – Presenting a position on a selected issue or topic or disrupting the presentation of a competing campaign. The goal is to present a short high impact message that will resonate and stay with the viewer.

Get Out the Vote – On Election Day, remind voters that they need to be at the polls.


The challenges are that budgets are always constrained, there are always more signs on a corner or pole than a person can read, static billboards quickly become part of the scenery, direct mail often goes straight to the recycle bin, and television ads are used for comfort breaks. What to do?

The solution is to add an aerial campaign to the media mix. Each of these and can be shown as many times as needed. The options are:


Aerial Billboards – These can be as large as 30x100 (3,000 square feet), are bright and colorful, and can contain graphics or text.

Aerial Letter Banners – These can be as 5 or 7 feet in height, with up to 50 characters on the message, are bright and colorful.

Aerial Billboards with Letter Trailers – The billboard portion can be as large as 20x40 (800 square feet),, are bright and colorful, and the message portion can be up to 30 characters.

Aerial Billboards and Banners are typically about 25% of the cost of radio and television, and when used over commute traffic, sports events, and concerts, and cuts across all other media.

Typical exposure rates will be in the 100-200,000 per hour range when advertising over commute traffic. Regional and national campaigns are easily constructed with simultaneous message deliveries in any combination of the top 300 SMSAs.

Production turn around time for billboards can be as short as a week, and letter banners can be turned around in a day or two.

Federal regulations are friendly to Aerial Advertising, in that there is a specific exemption from the draconian attribution and disclosure requirements that is imposed on other media.

Sign Design

All of Your Questions about Sign Design are Answered Here
by Tomas W. Keefe, Patriot Signs

The most significant impact a yard sign can have for a candidate is to help insure name recognition when the voter steps into the voting booth.  In relative terms nothing else is very important.

If we operate off of the above premise let’s take a closer look at the workhorse of political campaigning - the yard sign.  Since most signs will be viewed by those in automobiles or other modes of transportation, you have a very short window to get your name across.  Anything that distracts or limits the visibility of the candidates name should be avoided.

In no particular order, we would like to offer some points to consider when developing your yard sign.

• What about party affiliation?  Should your campaign involve a locale where party affiliation is even more important than the candidates themselves, the R (Republican) and D (Democrat) on the ballot itself will suffice.  In this case nothing else is very important.  Using party affiliation is terrific if the majority of voters are from the same party.  Not such a great idea if you are in the minority.

• What about photos?  They are nice, often flattering but take up valuable space and are often distracting.  We have done some wonderful photos, but anecdotal research suggests that the potential voter remembers that great looking picture, but can’t tell you the name of the candidate.  In most jurisdictions, photos are not on the ballot.  In our culture where we read left to right, a picture on the left will be quickly seen but little if any time is left to find and assimilate the candidates name.

• But we have a great slogan.  Save it for direct mailing, television , radio, newspaper or other media that do not require visual and cognitive recognition in 3 – 5 seconds.  If it is absolutely essential to the integrity of your campaign, make it large enough to be read by walkers or stopped traffic, but no so large as to comprise the visibility of the name.  Remember, slogans are not on the ballot.

• What do we do with verbal imperatives?  Re-elect, elect, retain, vote, keep, etc.  View your sign as a resume.  You are trying to get a job.  Utilize those elements that establish your qualifications and avoid those that detract.  Many jurisdictions require that language used in political advertising not be misleading.  Therefore, state accurately your current position as it relates to the office.  Generally, emphasize your success … re-elect, retain, keep, etc.  Minimize your lack of experience … elect, vote for, etc.  Some may argue that incumbents are not very popular and  references to such should be avoided.  The facts speak otherwise.   Incumbents win and win big.  Familiarity may breed contempt, but it is also a terrific advantage in an election.  Many jurisdictions indicate incumbency on the ballot.

• I want to show that I am patriotic.  The most common colors we use on our products are red, white and blue.  However, too much of a good thing can reduce the distinct nature of a custom sign.  Don’t be afraid to mix and match colors.

 Is a Union Label needed?  A Union Label (often called a union bug) printed on your signs may be helpful in some communities and with some voter constituencies.  If a union bug is desired, confirm that the company supplying your signs is a union shop and/or has the legal right to use the union identification in question.  Just ask the company to fax you a copy of their current union licensing agreement.  You should never have to pay extra for a legitimate union label from a legitimate manufacturer.

• I can do some really neat things with my computer.  Want to see?  Not really.  Remember, anything that compromises the ability to read the important elements of the yard sign should be avoided.  Gradations, vignettes, multiple drop-shadows, etc. are very effective in TV and direct mail, but have limited if not negative impact when included on yard signs.  Don’t be concerned if all of your campaign materials match.  Be concerned that all of your media efforts are effective!

• Are there any legal loopholes I have to jump through?  Disclaimers are required in most jurisdictions.  From Federal to local, the requirements are quite varied and specific.  So make sure you read and include the small print if required by law.  It can be a PR problem if you violate the law when preparing your signs.

Thomas W. Keefe, is Vice President and General Counsel for Patriot Signage, Inc., the manufacturer of The Winningest Sign.

Political Lawn Signs - Type of Signs

Tips for a Successful Political Lawn Sign - Design Color
Type of Signs

Sheila Maas, Cross & Oberlie

 There are principally three types of yard signs for political campaigns. These are:

Poly-Bag Signs Corrugated Plastic Signs Fold-over Signs

Each can present an effective graphic as a sign for lawn placement; there are characteristics, however, that can set them apart.

Poly-Bag Signs - Signs produced on plastic film take the form of white plastic bags or sleeves that can be slipped over U-shaped wires; the wire frames must be the same width of the bag in order to hold the bag taunt. Bag signs are normally printed by a web process which is cost effective only on high volume sign orders. The bags are low in bulk and weight. There is a manufacturing and shipping cost premium for the wider wires. The tendency of these signs to "bow out" at the bottom with the wind detracts aesthetically from their appearance.

Corrugated Plastic Signs - Fluted, corrugated plastic signs are very rigid and weather proof. They can easily be put up and taken down. Thus they are appropriate if a candidate runs year in and year out and is committed to the same message and look. As the medium is not completely opaque, two sided printed signs do have a "show thru". As being the more expensive than the other types, replacement cost during the campaign, due to theft and damage, and after the election, due to being misplaced, should be factored into the total cost equation.

The typical H frames, which are welded when fabricated, with one or two cross braces, are more expensive than other bent type frames. A few suppliers do offer cheaper, single pole wires.

Fold-over Signs - The last type of sign is the plastic coated, paperboard sign. Quality printers use a water proof laminate - the interior being an all white, opaque, stiff, solid bleached, paperboard core which has been treated for water resistance. This stock is then extruded on both surfaces with a plastic film.

This sign is then printed, but on one side. A back-score allows the sign to be folded - and edges either stapled or glued to form what is referred to as a double sided, fold-over sign. The sign is slipped over a U-shaped wire frame, which because of the rigidity of the total structure, need only be 2/3 the sign width. Weather ability of this sign to wind, snow and rain is excellent. There is no printing "show thru".

Screen printing is the process utilized in printing both the corrugated plastic signs and plastic coated paperboard signs. Signs are printed flat. The screen printing process affords the greatest economies at the lower to mid-range sign quantities. Both sign types present the rigid, flat sign look. And screen printing offers the greatest color graphics punch.

Although selecting the type of sign for your campaign is not an easy process, it can be less formidable if you think about your priorities (e.g. price, quantity, re-use, image, etc), then let an experienced sign manufacturer walk you through the qualifying process of selection.

Political Lawn Signs - Color

Tips for a Successful Political Lawn Sign - Design Color

by Sheila Maas Cross and Oberlie

Henry Ford said you can have any color Model T as long as it is black. Awhile back a survey by the University of Florida claimed that a yellow background with black lettering was the best color combination for a sign for attracting attention. In the packaging industry "red" is the favored attention getting color down the supermarket aisle. So there you have it! The experts agree to disagree.

So what color is best for your yard sign? Answer: Take your pick as to what suits 'you' best. In addition to not picking your opponents colors, here are some other helpful suggestions as to what not to do.

Consider Color Value Never use a low value color (light color) with a low value color. For example, pink lettering on a white background will not show up. All pastels (e.g. pale blue, yellow, pink, light green) will not contrast against white backgrounds. Interestingly fluorescents, though appearing very bright, will not contrast on white. Choose a dark (high value) color (e.g. black, navy blue, burgundy, red, forest green)

Similarly never use a high value color with a high value color. For example black lettering on a navy blue background will not show.

Lettering and background must always be of contrasting value in order to be readable.

Consider Environment First remember white is the principal base stock color - and it is free. Red (or for that matter blue, green, orange, etc.) lettering on a white background is a one color print. So also is white lettering on a red background a one color print. The red is printed as what is referred to in "reverse".

For Northerners, avoid white signs in winter. To not have your sign "lost" against the white snow, use reverse printing (i.e. bright colored printed background with white letters). Similarly green backgrounds can get lost in more lush territories and/or seasons, as yellow signs can against arid backgrounds. For a sign to be recognized it has to be a color that is "out of place" in its environment. Avoid khakis, gray and brown background colors for that reason. For standard ink colors consult a screen printer's ink colors gallery.

Two Colors vs. One Color There has never been a one color design that can not be improved by adding a second color. Remember white, as a base stock color, is free. Two color printing to produce a yellow/black sign or a red/white/blue sign or a fluorescent green/navy will always stand out with greater impact.

For the printer, two colors require two films, two screens, two setups, two runs and two cleanups. This costs money. So for a two color sign always expect to pay more per sign - but it may be worth it.

Hopefully these suggestions will aid in your color decisions for lawn signs. For a wide range of ideas, it is helpful to consult galleries on a screen printer's web site. If you have questions, do not hesitate to consult directly with your screen printer - they have the expertise to help.