Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments (82) Posted 11.03.04 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Jessica Helfand

Am I Blue


Despite a moment last week when things were looking up for both graphic designers and democrats, things aren't looking too good for the Kerry campaign this morning. And while I've been quite vocal in my dismissiveness about graphic design's power to save the world, I briefly found renewed hope yesterday in this feisty, if frustrating campaign season.

Bumper stickers and lawn posters aside, Americans showed their concern on election day 2004 by standing in epic lines at polling centers around the nation, but also in certain subtle, discreetly visual ways. From dressing in all blue (or red) to wearing "I voted today" buttons, there has been a kind of silent visual communication effort steadily in play for the last 36 hours.

And then, last night around 2:00 am EST, it all seemed to boil down to a pretty basic color war, as results trickled in and an increasingly dense swath of red cut its way slowly across the US map. (If actions speak louder than words, then what do colors do?)

While media pundits endeavor to deconstruct election results, there are hints, here and there, of entire critiques of the political system in general — and the voting system in particular. That this voting system is deeply rooted in principles of communication design was soberingly revealed to us four years ago with the debacle in Florida: from dimpled to hanging to pregnant chads, the butterfly ballot reminds us that good design may be more than pleasing to the eye. It may, in fact, prove to be a demonstrable catalyst for change, helping to cure a social and procedural process that remains deeply flawed.

In a New York Times editorial a few days before the election, this essential design imperative was described thus:

There is no great mystery about how to do better. Graphic artists, including the nonprofit Design for Democracy project, know how to make ballots that are simple and intuitive. Unfortunately, our election system leaves ballot design to the whims of local officials, who often make bad choices.

Just as there is no great mystery, so there is nothing simple or, for that matter, intuitive about what is going on this morning in Ohio. Call it provisional or call it a pipe dream, there is a great deal more at stake here than moral issues. And I, for one, am feeling bluer than ever.
Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


Stewart Mackinnon: Ruptured and Remade


Demonstrations, Democracy and Design


Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot


Occupying Wall Street: Places and Spaces of Political Action


Accidents Will Happen: Lessons on Honey, Smoked Pig Fat, Atomic Disaster and the Half-Life of Truth



RSS Subscribe to Comment Feed

Comments (82)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Perhaps through the whole election thing, (with all those emotions flowing) some here missed assassination of filmmaker Theo van Gogh (yep Vincents relation). The BBC states:

"Van Gogh, who had made a controversial film about Islamic culture, was shot and stabbed in Amsterdam on Tuesday."

So what was the "culture" van Gogh was documenting? The supression of women in Islamic society. I wonder just how Never-Gonna-Be-President-Kerry would have dealt with the "nuisance" of this brand terrorism? Well, at least we all can feel a little better the women of Afghanistan have a voice, and in January, so will the free women of Iraq.
Brian Collins
11.03.04 at 11:32

John Kerry has just conceded.

Unfortunately, Paula Scher's assessment of Kerry's Logo was correct. It was weak and didn't help.

Totally agree with Legendary Identity Designer Consultant Jerry Kuyper's assessment of Gore Lieberman's Logo. GOD AWEFUL !!!!!

Didn't help that Al Gore endorsedHoward Dean. From that moment Howard Dean wore a target on his back. Which allowed Kerry to be the front runner. Perhaps if Dean were allowed to be the front runner. The out-come of this election would've been different.

Hindsight is...

Off topic: I had such high hopes of rebirth of the much needed Federal Design Improvement Program.

And revitalizing Ramond Loewy's Air Force One, with Michael Bierut. (others)

Such is life. A Dream Deferred !!!!!!!
DesignMaven
11.03.04 at 11:42

i feel like #333333
Jemma Gura
11.03.04 at 11:43

I'm a graphic designer and things have been looking up for weeks now, including last night when I decided to head upstairs to bed confident that Bush would be re-elected. Of course, you would think our voting system '...remains deeply flawed' and of course you're blue. And I've got $10 says the rest of you feel the same. Am I the only republican designer that visits this website?

Cheer up. It's not the end of the world, and Kerry didn't lose because of his lackluster serifs.
Jesse Courtemanche
11.03.04 at 11:47

You're not the only republican that likes this website...
Levi
11.03.04 at 12:13

As a (normally) right-leaning independent who proudly voted for Kerry, I am disappointed in the outcome of yesterday's beautiful exercise in peaceful American revolution. Nevertheless, I think it is safe to say that I'm more relieved that it's over than anything else. The campaign season has been draining and I'm looking forward to getting on with life and moving on.

Having been on the left side of the election this time around, I do understand the concerns and dismay of the outraged Left, some of whom are now (sarcastically, I hope) threatening to move to Canada. But having been caught in the middle on a number of the issues, I likewise hope the sadness and bitterness soon melts away into a kind of hopeful, forward-looking gaze. As Jesse said above, it's not the end of the world, and it seems plain that more than half of the country is overjoyed; this is not the will of a few misguided folks. I firmly believe that an election's results, once certified, must be accepted if the country is to have any hope of going forward in unity. Furthermore, I am glad those of the minority persuasion in the design community do visit this site, and participate. We need all of us together to keep things moving, as long as we keep it moving with civility.

So, when Senator Kerry concedes this afternoon, as his stature as a statesman dictates he must, may we all breathe deeply and look to the future, and embrace one another as neighbors.
Don
11.03.04 at 12:23

Jesse,

The thing is, a bunch of us really do think this could be the beginning of the end. I was racked by this election not because i am fearful of terrorists or because of the direction of the economy or even because of bush's egregious immorality. I'm terrified for the lives of my unborn children, and I wish I were joking. The world will have outgrown itself in 50 years; I don't know how constructive Kerry's leadership would have been but I know I'm scared shitless for the additional damage to expect over the next four years.
ahrum hong
11.03.04 at 12:26

Okay, I'll say it, "Isn't 'Republican Designer' an oxymoron?"

John
-Libertarian Designer
John
11.03.04 at 12:32

Look at the bright side: maybe in four years we will have (at least) two good choices for president.
kadavy
11.03.04 at 01:29

What you need to feel sad about is not which puppet won, but that you were given two bad choices, which is worse than being give no choice at all, since the illusion of freedom of choice inhibits the critically-needed outright rejection of the fundamentally rotten core of the entire system.

hhp
Hrant
11.03.04 at 02:19

There may be Republican designers, but the fact remains that most designers work in big cities, and most people in big cities vote for Democrats. I don't see that changing any time soon.

I think that this election, along with the last, made it clear that Americans are ready for some kind of change. Unfortunately, I didn't realize they were calling for a right-wing moral revolution. Many of the exit polls asked people what their biggest issues were, and many said that they voted based upon the moral ground of the candidate. And those who voted for moral reasons voted overwhelmingly for Bush. People want a moral change in government, and they want it to the right.

History has shown that liberals are about 40 years ahead of conservatives on social issues. Things that are popular with liberals today will be the conservative norm 40 years from now. I worry that this trend, which has progressed similarly for 200 years, may be reversing. Four years from now, we Americans may come out of this with fewer rights, rather than more rights - a scary thought.

I am just as blue as Jessica; unfortunately, I come from a state that is seeing red.
Ryan Nee
11.03.04 at 02:56

Cheer up. It's not the end of the world, and Kerry didn't lose because of his lackluster serifs.

Hilarious retort Jemma.

Blaming weak design for Kerry's failure reminds me of the old adage, you can't polish a turd. Design is the messenger and Kerry was the message. Don't kill the messenger.
TJ Lomas
11.03.04 at 04:13

threatening to move to Canada

I am currently accepting proposals of marriage (handwritten mail more likely to impress).

But if anyone really does want to move here, you're going to have to relearn a little political colour lesson (starting with how to spell "colour"). Our parties have fairly distinct colour identities. Up here blue is Conservative (right of centre) and red is Liberal (dead centre). To the left-ish of centre is the NDP, and their colour is orange ... or green? ... or something other than blue or red.

This colour thing was confusing to me last night as I watched your states turn red. The signage for Republicans and Democrats seemed identical in colour, so I was surprised that red=Republican. Isn't red for Commies? It makes no sense.

So anyway, if you get your Canadian citizenship before our next election, just remember, if you vote by colour you have to switch it around. Or better yet, just vote for that other colour.

p.s. My condolences.
marian bantjes
11.03.04 at 05:06

well, all those "reds" in the Bible belt whose kids join the military (or get drafted), who work in factory or other lowtech jobs that will be outsourced overseas, and who rely on social security and medicare/medicaid the most. these idiots are going to get what they deserve. their kids will be wounded or killed, they'll be unemployed, and they'll be stuck with giant medical bills. sadly, the rest of us will have to suffer the total loss of what little is left of our standing in the world, the loss of civil liberties, and, essentially, a return to the stone ages in terms of human rights.
Here we go. 4 more... er...40 more years.. backwards
felix sockwell
11.03.04 at 05:36

Now, to be fair, not all of us here in the Bible Belt are gun-totin' rednecks. There are some very smart people I know that voted Bush. I wasn't one of them, mind you, but a lot of people had good reasons to do so. What I hate is those who only vote one way because either their "faith" dictates it, or because they're sheep. I'm willing to bet there are a lot of sheep on either side, Red or Blue.

Personally, I think the best thing that could happen to the Democratic party is to have the lot of them join the Republican party. There are a lot of moderates (me) who hate the policies of the extreme right and want our party back, and I always figured that the best way to incite change is from the inside. Just a thought.
Greg
11.03.04 at 06:27

Blaming weak design for Kerry's failure reminds me of the old adage, you can't polish a turd. Design is the messenger and Kerry was the message. Don't kill the messenger.

No-one is blaming Weak Design soley for the failure of the Campaign. The Graphics contributed nothing possitive. Neither were they uplifting.

Bad Design is Bad Business.

What won it for the Bush Campaign:

1. Fear Mongering: and parading Osama Bin Ladin's picture 48 hours before the election.

2. Millions of Dollars spent on Swift Boat Ads. Denigrating Kerry's Record.

3. Nine Percent of the Latin Vote.

4. Moral Issues: Stem Cell Research, Same Sex Marriages and Civil Unions.

5. Kerry's hesitation in defending his Military and Political Record.

6. CBS airing the phoney documents; without thoroughly researching their legitimacy.

Credbility Issue.

DesignMaven
11.03.04 at 06:50

Dear World,
in case you hadn't heard, my people have decided to renew George W Bush's contract; he's going to be the most powerful man on earth for another four years. In fact, my people voted even more for him this time than they did last time, and gave him a small but clear mandate.

Now, you're probably thinking that they made some kind of mistake, considering how he lied to everyone about Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction in order to launch an invasion of Iraq. Maybe you think that my citizens are blind and deaf because they asked him to stay in his job while hundreds of their soldiers are dying in Iraq, and he has no plan to win the peace over there.

Or maybe you're confused about my stated love of "freedom" and "liberty", since my folks want to be led by a man who will overturn laws which guarantee a woman's right to choose, and who regards homosexuals as second class citizens, undeserving of the same legal rights as heterosexuals.

Nope, you're not confused, and my residents didn't make a mistake; just over half of them wanted George W Bush to be our chief executive officer for four more years. More specifically, a majority of people who live in Ohio and a few other states wanted him, and that's how I work things over here.

So, World, I hope that you and I can continue to be great friends. And that you'll continue to do all o the things that I ask or tell you to do.

As always,
United States of America
USA
11.03.04 at 07:28

Regardless of who you voted for, Bush won the majority and the Republicans solidified their control of Congress. Maybe sore losers should turn their anger with the Republicans around to changing the platform of the Democratic party, and choosing better candidates.

Kerry failed on numerous points, and even with Michael Moore and most of the media gunning for him, he couldn't overcome the simple and clear positions that Bush articulated: 1. Lower taxes boost the economy and 2. Enemies of the USA are screwed. As a fiscal conservative and a cautious hawk, I think Bush could have done far better - but geez, Kerry didn't even come close.

The whole gay marriage issue, like guns and abortion, is a manipulation by both parties that is used for raising donations. Neither side has an interest in solving any of these hot-button single issues because they drive contributions. But, when polls show over 70% of America is against gay marriage, and every gay marriage plank has been obliterated, you've got to ask yourself one thing, "Do you believe in democracy afterall? Because that means majority rule, like it or lump it." Sorry.

What really bothers me about the campaign was how true to form "the elites" were in their dismissals of Republicans and Bush especially. While Bush does himself no favors by stumbling through the English language, the so-called dummy has put together an organization that has clearly won, while accomplishing the major tasks put before it.

See you around when Hillary and Obamma run together - 2008 is going to be a hellavalot of fun.
Frank
11.03.04 at 08:44

Yes, please, no more of that idiotic European apologetics of "we like you, we just don't like your government". What a farce of a coping mechanism. See the beast for what it is, and confront it, instead of being "proper neighbors". Because after Syria, Iran and North Korea, you're next.

hhp
Hrant
11.03.04 at 08:51

> Do you believe in democracy afterall?

Good question.
Of course not.

Its only real use is getting peons to sanction the raping and pillaging of the world to benefit the rich. Democracy has become the most nefarious weapon in Capitalism's arsenal, merely a tool to distract and deceive. This pride and joy of the West is nothing but a whore.

Wake up.

hhp
Hrant
11.03.04 at 08:58

Where do you teach?
Frank
11.03.04 at 09:02

Online. Duh.

hhp
Hrant
11.03.04 at 09:13

I agree about the design, but it's the choreography that really matters. The impatience with two and three syllable words, and the constant blood-sport, killed another decent man. So we get a skilled political cheat who's a total fuckup at governing. I write and illustrate for a living; here, for what it's worth, is my take on the recently ended streetfight: http://pasquino.blogspot.com/2004/09/lincoln-is-boring-know-it-all.html
pasquino
11.04.04 at 12:33

News polls indicated that the enormous swell of Republican voters was linked #1 to "moral values," which sounds to me like a politically correct way of saying blocking gay marriage, stem-cell research, and abortions. My biggest concerns in the election were the environment, the war, the economy, and healthcare. Kerry pushed policies and Bush pushed ethical buttons: you're with us or against us. Now that the Republicans are going to have the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the Executive, there's not going to be much in the way of healing and crossing party lines to get things done. As a Jewish American I value the secularism of the United States and am bloody scared of my civil liberties disappearing in the years to come while I die hacking and wheezing from mercury poisoning (and my kids are paying off the national debt). My swing-state voted Kerry.
Jordan Winick
11.04.04 at 12:35

The so-called dummy has put together an organization that has clearly won, while accomplishing the major tasks put before it.

From what I've read, Bush was recruited for his name recognition by a team of longtime political pros. Please don't suggest that W is some kind of master strategist. His business career strongly suggests otherwise.
Marc Oxborrow
11.04.04 at 01:37

Am I the only republican designer that visits this website?

I voted for Bush if that's what you mean? I consider myself neither Democrat nor Republican nor Independent or Liberal. I like to stick with the issues and not which side is better. Certainly the message on both sides were heard and we have our winner.

Although Bush did have a strong poster with a nice CAPITALIZED San Serif font I doubt it swayed anyones vote. It was more about "Look who I'm voting for" rather than "Hey vote for me I have nice BIG Letters and Red, White and Blue!"
Chris Dun
11.04.04 at 09:42

Frank, majority rule is not what this country is about. We need to protect the rights of those that would oppressed by the majority. Its all about letting all citizens share in what's possible in America.
Jerome
11.04.04 at 10:07

To take this back to a design driven conversation, I want to refer back to the New York Times quote in Jessica's article.

There is no great mystery about how to do better. Graphic artists, including the nonprofit Design for Democracy project, know how to make ballots that are simple and intuitive. Unfortunately, our election system leaves ballot design to the whims of local officials, who often make bad choices

Being a student myself, I will soon (hopefully) enter the "professional world" and I am wondering how difficult it actually is to get clients to not make 'bad choices' and to let 'simple and intuitive' work actually get produced. Its so refreshing to look a most of the work in the design annuals and think that a lot of creative work is being done, but looking around New York City these days, its really depressing me. Even in college with the "no-holes-barred, do whatever you want" mentality, people just conform and create boring work (most of the time).
Lenny Naar
11.04.04 at 10:27

In a murderous time
the heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
through dark and deeper dark
and not to turn.

- Stanley Kunitz
William Drenttel
11.04.04 at 10:52

So what was the "culture" van Gogh was documenting? The supression of women in Islamic society. I wonder just how Never-Gonna-Be-President-Kerry would have dealt with the "nuisance" of this brand terrorism? Well, at least we all can feel a little better the women of Afghanistan have a voice, and in January, so will the free women of Iraq.

As a budding graphic designer, I have been following this blog for a while, so I'd like to apologize that my first comment has to be off topic. I just wanted to respond to the above from the second comment on this post.

First, why would a President Kerry be responding to terrorism in Amsterdam?

Second, I just think the idea that a free democratic nation can emerge from Iraq overnight (or even in a year or two) is really missing a lot of political and cultural history in the region. The whole concept of "imposing" Democracy seems an oxymoron to me.

In any case, I have enjoyed Design Observer a lot, but I realize that every blog and every message board I subscribe to, regardless of topic, is focused on the election right now.
flygrrl
11.04.04 at 11:02

This country - with our fixation on instant rice and five-minute dinners - does not have the attention span necessary for nation-building.
Anthony
11.04.04 at 11:57

I'm feeling your pain, Lenny. Design school is all about fitting in to the professional world not artistic and intellectual exploration.
Jordan Winick
11.04.04 at 12:15

John Kerry was attacked — what a surprise! — by Dick Cheney for saying that there are "Two Americas". The division Kerry had in mind was socio-economic, but to look at the state-by-state map of Red versus Blue one would think that the division was Coastal + Great Lakes versus Flyover.

But check out this map on USA Today's site and the waters muddy. I thought that there might be a direct correlation with population density, but a comparison with this map from the Census Bureau didn't immediately confirm that hypothesis.

I layered the two maps to see if anything cleared up. I've posted those images here. (I shifted the hue in order to give the blue and red equal strength against the black of the population density map.)

Then I went back to the votes by county map and checked out the figures under the map, which are genuinely staggering, especially the "Square miles of counties won" numbers.

I wondered about Colorado, a Red state with large population centers. Bush won the state with 52.5% of the vote, but in Denver and Boulder counties, Kerry was the winner.

Similarly, in Ohio, which Bush won with 51% of the vote, most of the urban centers went to Kerry: Cuyahoga county (Cleveland), Franklin county (Columbus), Lucas county (Toledo), Montgomery county (Dayton), and Summit county (Akron). The only urban center which went to Bush was Hamilton county (Cincinnati).

I posit that John Kerry was right, there are Two Americas: Urban & Rural.
chester
11.04.04 at 01:18

You know what's dumb? This message board gives equal weight to the names above and below the post, so that it is difficult to tell whether the author of the post is the name above or below the post.

And you guys want to design better ballots...
Frank
11.04.04 at 02:43

Chester, I agree.
And I think religious faith is generally proportional to boredom and isolation, although there are exceptions, as always - if also other reasons to be religious.

hhp
Hrant
11.04.04 at 03:06

But I think that's somewhat misleading because you can choose what team you're on based on what you agree with.

I think the central reason for Bush's victory is obvious: religion. What we've facing is essentially the Taliban of the West. The Taliban were probably supported by about half their population too... Except they didn't permit televisions (as Bush gasped three times -I counted- during his State of the Union address) and the one religion benefiting most from all this is of course Capitalism*. So most Americans don't think there's anything wrong with religious fundamentalism. As long as it's Christian of course. You are your enemy.

*
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3949239.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3981455.stm

hhp
Hrant
11.04.04 at 03:34

And I think religious faith is generally proportional to boredom and isolation, although there are exceptions, as always - if also other reasons to be religious.

yea no kidding, I heard a great quote a couple of days ago:

In the Bible it says that man was made in the image of god. But it was really god that was made in the image of man.

I hate to see so many people blindly follow something because it has been engrained into them since day one.

What are the lessons that we are supposed to learn from Bush, it is ok to screw over the world as long as your in church on sunday?

And seriously, what ever happened to the seperation of church and state?
Tristan Benedct-Hall
11.04.04 at 05:37

It's simply no longer fashionable.
People believe what you tell them, and mass ideology is subject to trends just like shoes.

hhp
Hrant
11.04.04 at 06:12

Design issues aside--it was Ben Affleck's fault. Had he stumped for Bush I would have voted "blue" too.
Douglas Dearden
11.04.04 at 10:37

Although I can't be surprised I'm still fascinated by the idea of an intelligent graphic designer voting republican this election. Who are you? I'll admit my first vote at 18 went to bush senior but then I was naive and grew up in Orange County, or as they used to say "behind the Orange curtain." What is your excuse? Please enlighten me as to how you reconcile your own political sensibilities with the values the disciplines of design have fostered and preserved for over a century. Let's start with the modernist notion of transparency for example, specifcally graphic design's alleged responsibility to serve as a rational aid, conduit and framing device for objectivity and discussion within a democracy. I would imagine you (Mr. Courtemanche and Mr. Dun) would subscribe (with qualification) to the notion that design in some coarse but still well intentioned way strives to attain transparency with the messages it's responsible for delivering. If you would subscribe so, how could you possibly affirm the communicational policies of this administration with your vote? This, a group of people who have capitalized so ruthlessly on spin and doublespeak? Any insights would be appreciated.
Will Temple
11.05.04 at 12:40

The image of Michael Moore crying into his nachos on Wedensday was enough for me to toss in with Bush.

Frank Vollono
11.05.04 at 03:21

Placing the onus of ruthless capitalization of spin and doublespeak on a single set of shoulders is a tricky balancing act.

Another component of the modernist canon is being true to the elements employed. Namely, don't make wood look like metal; or veneer isn't bad as long as you're honest about it. Granted, it pertains more to the use of materials vs. communication design, but it seems applicable to the discussion.

In years of watching politicians (showing my age, remember waxing stats and mechanical boards? Sigh...) I have yet to see one, from either side of the aisle, be completely true to their "elements." Whether they are introducing a piece of legislation, greeting a microphone bouquet, or sitting nervously with Tim Russert on Sunday morning--I anxiously await seeing any politician present their case without a sherpa load of backroom baggage in tow. Maybe it's the nature of the process: the need for compromise, the fear of showing too much of one's hand. Regardless, it's a challenge to pull the intrinsic truth on any issue out of either side.

To pick up the glove Mr. Temple threw down, my excuse? I'm not sure of the premise: Republican designers are either naive to design history or simply too dense to "reconcile [our] own political sensibilities" with that history. I think this is this the part where I'm supposed to start dancing around and smacking my self in the head with a plank of wood. (I hope this isn't reading mean-I'm not taking it, or intending it as such. Mr. Temple put it so well, it required quotations.)

My excuse for voting Republican. Haven't got one. Thank you! Goodnight! Grew up in a very political household with very liberal parents. Card carrying member of the Sierra Club (I think it was a present for my 14th birthday). Owned a Volvo with 160,000 miles on it (catalectic what?). For me, having children and owning a business changed my perspective. It wasn't a matter of taxes or withholdings or FICA. It was a matter of having the right to fail and consequently the right to succeed. Does the Republican party stand behind every tenet of my beliefs? No. But they are closer to my ideals than the Democrats. It's a personal choice (and please, puh-leeze, no Roe v. Wade woman's choice retorts) which lies far beyond any reconciliation with the history of what I love to do.

Then again, that Woody Guthrie thing Springsteen had going with the harmonica and the guitar... I dunno.
Douglas Dearden
11.05.04 at 04:33

Under a Democrat, I probably couldn't hire an employee. Under a Republican, I probably will. And I might even stay alive, because there haven't been any of those terrorist "nusiances" on US soil since 9-11.
Frank
11.05.04 at 07:43

Post-election there has been a lot of punditry declaring that if Kerry had only come out against gay marriage and abortion and stem cell research — those moral issues — he would have won. In other words, if Kerry had lied about his beliefs and done what was "politically correct" for the majority of American voters, he would have been given a ticket to the White House.

Incredibly, Kerry seems to be an honest man who develops his opinions and feelings about issues after research and reflection, and who can empathise with people feelings he doesn't necessarily share, but who need his help. I think that Kerry would make a very good designer; he's very rational and thoughtful.

I'm sad that Kerry lost not because Bush lied about him to the American people, but because Kerry himself didn't lie enough.
chester
11.05.04 at 08:50

> because there haven't been any of those terrorist "nusiances" on US soil since 9-11.

But, boy, they sure do like to keep us on our toes about it don't they? Feeling yellow anyone?
Armin
11.05.04 at 09:03

Wow. So now 51% of the population of the United States are religious sheep! What a profound insight! Do you actually know anyone that truly practices their religion, or just hang out with your spiritual/athiestic pals and talk about how enlightened you are and how stupid religious people are?

Wasn't the Bible Belt all Democrat 40 years ago? Why the shift? Gee, it must be religion. The same religion that is so slow to change that it's 40 years behind the rest of the "enlightened" world. Hmmm...

I definitely didn't vote for Bush, but it's pathetic to see someone blame religion (and not the actions of it's members) for the downfall of the Dems. I guess it's tolerance for ideas you accept. Not those you don't.
Rusty
11.05.04 at 10:20

Under a Democrat, I probably couldn't hire an employee. Under a Republican, I probably will.

Ah yes, the beleaguered entrepreneurs.

My excuse for voting Republican. Haven't got one. Thank you! Goodnight!

Mr. Dearden you seem to be among a vast majority of political participants who make no thoughtful effort, even within a public forum such as this one to examine your own actions and provide a reason for them. I'm asking a sincere question for which there must be, I imagine, an effable answer. The fact that you resort to humor suggests not that there is no answer but an ease in indulging in the privilege of not having to provide one. Your response reminds me of the shrugs I received from white people who I approached at the polls on Tuesday asking politely if they would like a sheet enumerating their rights as a voter. As you are, like Mr. Bush, entitled to not account for your actions, they saw no need to know their rights, because they of course may indulge in the privilege of not knowing them.
Will Temple
11.05.04 at 11:47

I agree with Rusty that reducing the election results to (Christian) religious versus not is not only simplistic, it is also intolerant. I'm an atheist, but I don't judge other people for their beliefs, and if someone wishes to live their life in accordance with religious scripts and teachings, they should be free to do so, but they shouldn't try to impose their beliefs on others. That's the golden rule. President Bush breaks the golden rule by imposing his religious beliefs upon everyone in the country.

The First Amendment to the Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Nowhere is it stated that there is a separation of church and state, but we have come to understand and expect in this country that laws will be made and enforced in a secular manner; that the personal beliefs of police, judges, representatives, and the president will not effect how they interpret and uphold the law.

Do people vote according to their religious beliefs? Sure. Just as they vote according to their scientific, moral, and fiscal beliefs. To chalk Bush's victory up to the religious beliefs of Americans does a disservice to us all, and further propagates the idea that Americans are divided along religious lines.
chester
11.05.04 at 12:14

Mr Temple, I think you're being unfair to Mr Dearden. He stated his reasons for voting for Mr Bush thus: "Does the Republican party stand behind every tenet of my beliefs? No. But they are closer to my ideals than the Democrats. It's a personal choice [...] which lies far beyond any reconciliation with the history of what I love to do."

Yes, he talked about hitting himself on the head with a plank, but he did give an answer which we have to accept.

Would it be better in this country if voting was compulsory, as is the case in Australia, where they get 94-96% participation? If it was easier to vote; yes. Would the results of the most recent US election have been any different if we did have compulsory voting? I doubt it. Such conjecture is pointless, as is wondering if things would be different if we had a parliamentary system.

The horrible beauty of American democracy is that we can participate in it and practice our rights as citizens without even knowing what those rights are. People spend their lives in prison or are killed as crimials because they want democracy in their countries; they want to have what we take for granted.
chester
11.05.04 at 12:42

Actually, maybe there are two Americas: dumb and smart.
Just statistics, folks. We report, you decide!
Michael Bierut
11.05.04 at 02:32

The maps, both state and county, seem to indicate that proximity to cold navigable water encourages voting Democratic.

More seriously, why is it that IQ tests are ethnocentric, biased bunk when used to denigrate non-Asian/non-Caucasians but not when demonstrating that Republicans should hold their voter registration drives at the Special Olympics?

It is fairly clear that a large number of those who reject the Democratic party and liberalism do so because they think liberals are arrogant assholes who look down on them largely based on hypocritical social and religious bigotries. I guess they can't be wrong about everything.
Gunnar Swanson
11.05.04 at 03:59

Here is another link to the map MB posted ( better quality)

I think i am broken because this election saw a huge number of people voting and they voted on their moral values. If this is morality i reject it. morality is dead.
Aashim Tyagi
11.05.04 at 05:00

It's a personal choice [...] which lies far beyond any reconciliation with the history of what I love to do.

I (personally) cant fathom the idea of the personal being far beyond a reconcilation with the history of something that i love. I also cant imagine loving something without also loving its history. Its all personal - the choice, the practice and the history. I dont know how to compartmentailze personal choice from professional actions or from my imagination of that profession's past. It's all interconnected. Thanks to chester for pointing this out this as a response.
Will Temple
11.05.04 at 06:31

Will—I'm confused by your insistence on the history of design inevitably describing the politics of designers. Do Marinetti's contributions to typography require me to adopt fascism? Does my love of John Heartfield's work require that I become an apologist for the second biggest mass murderer of the 20C? Do Eric Gill's contributions require that I convert to Catholicism or bestiality? Do you object when graphic designers write odes to the Situationist International, a group that hardly valued political transparency and governed themselves in a manner more like mullahs pronouncing fatwahs and edicts then like some ideal parliament searching for transparency and rational discourse? Hey, how 'bout them Cuban posters we love so much?

BTW, I grew up in Orange County and voted against Nixon and every Republican presidential candidate since. I never thought I needed excuses. I suspect one of the DO list owners can say the same (except that his youth made him miss out on the joys of our boy from Yorba Linda.)
Gunnar Swanson
11.05.04 at 07:49

First off, let's scrape away the partisanship: State IQ

Will, sorry, "beyond" was a poor word choice. And thanks for the personal jab at compartmentalization--is this my birthday or what? You're positively correct, there is no separation between what I do and who I am; I don't go home in the evening and take off my designer hat. I couldn't fathom such a thing either. There are simply some things in my life which go deeper and are more interwoven than design and it's history (right with you Gunnar on Gill--whew, still recovering from his biography). Granted, I was born with an inate love of the pure nature of design; can't get enough, can't stop. It's always present. Yet, please forgive me for getting personal, my inert sense of being a good dad is even more pervasive.

If that seems foreign I understand; that's fine. This is my life. My political ideologies stem from all of these things. My love for Garamond No. 3 over Simoncini has a bearing on my choice of cereal in the morning. Loving the history of design and modernism shouldn't preclude me from leaning to the right. I think I can be a Republican and still desire owning an original Neutra house. Do I have to agree with Milton Glaser or Michael Beruit to appreciate their differing approach to design?

I am a conservative because I believe we help others best by working with them one on one. I believe strong families are the foundation to a strong society. I believe I can't really be of service to anyone else unless I've got my own ducks in a row. This is why I'm a conservative. How does all this jibe with the rich history of design? Just fine. You can say this is evidence that I really don't understand design and it's history. That's fine too. I'm not here to win anyone over to my side or say anyone is wrong for believing otherwise. I can't get it right all the time--often I'm dead wrong. At the end of the day it can't all fall on the product of endless intellectual machinations. Some of it is as simple as what you feel and what you believe. And, as the [bogus] state/vote/IQ chart showed, I don't have the brain power to fully understand why.
Douglas Dearden
11.05.04 at 09:33

It's interesting how woolly the thinking gets, even among people who think for a living. "Under Dems I couldn't afford to hire anyone." Would someone go pull Steve Forbes' membership in this conversation. Seriously, when was the last Republican administration that didn't seriously screw up the economy before they were done? Ever since time and data began Dems have been better stewards of the economy; look it up. Let me give you one example: lower a working stiff's taxes by several thousand and he buys a car, a refrigerator, a semester of college; lower a billionaire's taxes by a hundred thousand and he buys his wife a tennis bracelet. Lower corporate taxes and the corporation buys out the competition (cutting jobs). Neither of them buy products. Topheavy tax breaks help people at the top---full stop. Unless you are an interior designer the money from Republican policies doesn't accrue to you.
paquino
11.06.04 at 12:29

"Paquino"—"Even among those who think for a living"? In characterizing the differences between the people on this list and others I wouldn't have said that this group stood out for thinking for a living. I would have said that communicating and persuading were distinctions. I guess I was way off on that, wasn't I?

"Even among those who think for a living"? Jesus. Someone can't be wrong. They've got to be morons or evil or otherwise something to be dismissed. It isn't good enough to state your argument. You need to be insulting first. (I know that I used the phrases "arrogant assholes" and "hypocritical social and religious bigotries" in this discussion but I was talking about how people are regarded and comparing that to specific displays of arrogance and bigotry. Please note that I was confrontative but not dismissive. Please also note that my argument is bolstered by your post.)

Speaking as one who disagrees with Dubbya's economic policies as strenuously as you do, I'd have to say that your analysis is not worthy of someone who thinks for a living. Affording to hire people is based on a range of factors that are affected by government. Many "Republican" policies do ease hiring. Whether they are right/good/best in a larger view is another discussion.

Since you use Forbes as your straw man, it's worth noting that his tax proposals would make hiring much easier. The many reasons I think he was wrong do not refute that.

Even though your economic statements are not to the point of the comment you claim to refute, they are worth examining. Like it or not, billionaires buying expensive stuff you don't approve of does stimulate an economy. There's a strong case to be made that focusing tax reductions at lower income people would have been faster and more efficient but rich people buying crap that pisses you off is, indeed, a real economic stimulus. Pretending otherwise does not make you look like the analyst you pretend to be. It makes you look like as much of an ideologue as the Republicans are.

Making blanket statements that Democrats are good for economies and Republicans bad or vice versa is just plain silly. The economic policies of various Democratic and Republican presidents are not consistent enough to attribute to political parties and economies don't start and stop in vacuum-packed four-year boxes. The problems that the Republicans blame on Carter were largely the result of Nixon attempts to ameliorate problems caused by Johnson (and Nixon) trying to wage the war in Vietnam without figuring out how to pay for it. It is worth noting that part of Dubbya's economic policy seems like a caricature of the worst of LBJ's. FDR's accomplishments were great but applying his policies to very different economies would not necessarily cause equally laudable results. Clinton's economic record was fairly good. Some of it he could take credit for. Some was luck. Some can reasonably be attributed to actions forced by a Republican legislature.

Does anyone remember the Lenny Bruce routine about liberals? "I'm so liberal and understanding! I don't understand why they don't understand me." I largely agree with you guys and you piss me off. Think how successful you'll be at convincing people to change their minds.
Gunnar Swanson
11.06.04 at 12:20

Paquin's sophmoric analysis of economics needs some refutation. And Michael Beirut's posting of the IQ piece (and those that keep referencing it) is simply irresponsible, considering the magazine itself retracted the piece. If you're interested fact-substantiated truth, read on. Otherwise, we all should get back to topics of design.

First, Steve Forbes is a rich dude, but he doesn't hold a candle to George Soros. See what Forbes says about George. But both should be able to spend their money anyway they'd like without the rest of us dictating our own set of values (or revenge) upon them.

The current unemployment rate is identical to the beginning of Clinton's second term. And as to the deficit, the truth is that both parties have done little to curtail the national debt with the exception of the Clinton administration. So how did they do it?

The largest contributors to Clinton's budget surplus came in the form of higher taxes (Social Security being significantly raised), defense cuts, and slashed intelligence spending. We can certainly argue how that led to 9/11, but let's not go there. The other factor was a hyperactive stock market, arguably started by Reagan for its 20 year run. Remember, the recession began with the fall of the stock market in March of 2000, a good 10 months before Bush took office. It was grossly under-reported in the main stream media, but notheless, history tells a different story.

With few exceptions, taxes were raised across the board (not simply income taxes but sales tax, fuel tax, and popular sin taxes most often driven by Democrats to help fund social programs). But who pays the lion share of the tax burden? High wage earners. For a more comprehensive look at these statistics, go to the Congressional Budget Office's website.

The top 5% pay more than 55% of all income taxes, and the top 1% of wage earners (those earning $293,415 per year -- try rasing a family on that in Democrat-dominated San Francisco) pay more than a third of all income taxes while only representing 19% of the nation's income. For complete stats, here's a piece that appeared in the AP.

So, how much more should we stick it the motivated, talented and successful in our society? What other failed social programs should we fund at the expense of those who work to avoid government assistance? And who are we to decide how much to steal from others in an attempt to level the playing field for those of us who can't get it together?.

Without the wealth, investment and spending that these high wage earners contribute, we'd be stuck with the economies of Europe, or worse yet, the Carter administration. But myabe that's not all bad, we'd be a "unified" nation of mediocre achievers.
Brian Collins
11.06.04 at 02:16

And one more thing. There's a great comment about mediocrity, and liberal self esteem-driven correctness in Pixar's The Incredibles. It's quite possibly the most shocking anti-Disney (Eisner's Disney not Walt's) pot-shot ever.
Brian Collins
11.06.04 at 03:51

"So, how much more should we stick it the motivated, talented and successful in our society? What other failed social programs should we fund at the expense of those who work to avoid government assistance? And who are we to decide how much to steal from others in an attempt to level the playing field for those of us who can't get it together?."

For a long time, I wholeheartedly supported this "pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps" approach to living. Perhaps in many ways I do.

But you can't tell me that a kid whose parents can afford to send him to Art Center and a kid whose parents can afford to send him to the local Junior College are going to have equal opportunities, experiences, and contacts in the design world.

I'm the kid at Junior College. I work two jobs. I go to school. I want to go to Art School, but the cost is extremely prohibitive. Maybe if I'm lucky one of those failed social experiments will help me get a grant or student loan, but it still will probably be too much money.

I'm not alone. My best friend teaches in a school where 95% of her students' parents can't afford to buy their children lunches. It's not because they are lazy; over 75% of them have two incomes...either from two parents or one parent working multiple jobs. These children, no matter how hard they work, will face obstacles that children whose parents own two cars, two televisions, and who take vacations to the Bahamas will never face.


Will some be successful? Certainly. They will work harder, and they will succeed. These students will be people to admire, and they will be the ideal of the American Dream. But there are many more who could probably be successful with a little extra support, access, opportunity.

On the other side, there undoubtedly will be some mediocre students with wealthier parents who don't work as hard or who don't do anything innovative, but will make a decent life for themselves by riding the coattails of their fortunes. We don't criticize these people for not being creative or innovative or bringing anything to the world.


As a country, we lose something when people with potential are kept from opportunities because of their lack of access. It's an investment in our collective future to ensure that they succeed. Yes, there are people who are lazy. But they aren't just the people who are on government assistance (which I might add, I've been on once as a child, which did keep me fed as my mother looked for a job after a massive layoff). Visit any private university (or design school, for that matter), and I'm sure you will find people who have been admitted on priveledge, not on talent, and who will benefit at some point in their lives from this opportunity (some might even argue this of our current president).

I suppose I agree with you that we should reward creative, talented, hard-working people. I just think that if we make this argument,we should be offering equal opportunities, rewarding across socioeconomic levels, and, frankly, not rewarding purchased mediocrity.
sdc
11.07.04 at 01:05

So now 51% of the population of the United States are religious sheep!

I agree with Rusty that reducing the election results to (Christian) religious versus not is not only simplistic, it is also intolerant.

I can only assume that these comments are aimed at me, since I was the only one to bring up sheep. In fact Felix was the angrier of the two of us, and my comments were designed to rebut his notion that people from the Bible Belt were all religious fanatics. However, I am perfectly willing to defend my sheep comment.

The fact is that a majority of voters voted on what political analysts loosely termed "moral issues." Also widely held is the notion that religion played a great part in what these moral issues were, i.e. gay marriage, abortion, and various other hot button issues. So one can only assume that many people thought that Bush was the champion of these moral issues since he personally is against them. I don't think the conservative right in my party will be able to do a thing about the moral issues in question, since that would alienate portions of their own party and they would need a greater than 51% majority to ratify any constitutional amendments, nor do I think they even wish to. The conservatives were very good at getting evangelical christians out in large numbers, while minimalizing the effect of liberal "get out the vote" campaigns.

That said, I don't believe that all of the people who voted for Bush are sheep, and that was what I was getting at in my original post. There are several people who voted based on taxes, or the terror war (another hot button issue), but I would guesstimate that around 30-35% of the Bush vote was not on issues, but on assumed morality. I also think that the same number of people voted for Kerry based on their wish to be viewed as intellectuals, or because their ethnicity dictated it. My point wasn't that people who voted Bush are sheep, it was that people who voted without thinking were sheep. There are sheep in each party, it's just which sheep are more enabled.
Greg
11.07.04 at 10:57

Also...regarding the IQ scores vs. voting Kerry/Bush, looking at those scores, I would venture a guess that higher average IQ equals higher population, which gets back to urban vs. rural. Also, it doesn't take into account the need for those with higher IQ's to get away from rural areas.
Greg
11.07.04 at 11:07

I hadn't intended to involve myself in this discussion beyond pointing out problems with the counterproductive attitudes and self-defeating rhetoric but neither "side" of the economics conversation seems satisfying so I'll take a stab at redirection.

While the Republican rhetoric leans toward encouraging "the motivated, talented and successful," much of the actual policy functionally does the opposite. It institutionalizes privilege by rewarding the (already-rewarded) children and grandchildren of the motivated, talented and, successful. I'm a big believer in an ownership society but the stability and pride brought to communities by people owning their housing is not easily translated into taxing income people for "active income" (the money people work for) but not "passive income" (the money people get for already having money.) Jim Hightower's line about Dubbya being born on third base and thinking he'd hit a triple applies to a whole class of people.

Tax policy does not just affect some "fair share" scale (although that argument is not without merit.) Progressive taxes put a drag on the tendency for wealth to be collected in more isolated bundles. Even if it's not "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" from the old song, "the rich get richer and the rest stay somewhere around the same or maybe do a little bit better" is ultimately destabilizing to society and undermining of democracy.

A rational society wouldn't discourage wealth-building and innovation. Society will be richer if individuals within the society get richer. The guy who buys his wife the diamond bracelet that Paquino decries means the jeweler and the jeweler's janitor and the jeweler's janitor's grocer all eat. "Trickle down" may not be the solution to all ills but it's better than nothing to trickle. Many moves that are intended to ensure "social justice" tend to harm social good. But petrifying that wealth into inherited privilege means that power will be concentrated and others will have less chance to build more broadly useful wealth. The power that comes with wealth means democracy is undermined and the wealth-building machine is dragged down by power being vested in those who gain wealth and power by accident of birth.

While too many "conservatives" rhetorically embrace market economies and work to stifle markets in favor of the already rich and powerful, too many "liberals" see that lie and react to it by attacking markets instead of their erosion. Markets need to be protected to be of short-term value.

BTW, if you think that "markets" is a code word for the unfettered power of wealth (or that "values" is a code word for cultural exclusion or that the American flag and "patriotism" are codes for mindless state violence) then the rational and most hopeful reaction is to vilify the undermining of the actual good rather than ceding others their phony signifiers and, by extension, control over the territory of the actual good.

Markets are not the solution for everything but they are the best solution to most complex problems. Design Observer and Speak Up, while not completely-unfettered markets, demonstrate the value of the marketplace. The tax discussion seems to take place over Franklin Roosevelt's grave. Maybe we need to look to Theodore Roosevelt for help.
Gunnar Swanson
11.07.04 at 12:11

Former congresswoman, Patricia Schroeder, summed up what is most disturbing about this election. Performance did not matter. People voted on beliefs/ideology. As a child, I attended Sunday School and recall a bible verse: "Faith without works is dead." Maybe this is a message we Democrats need to disseminate: "Faith (religious talk/imagery) without works (valuing human life/int'l laws ...Abu Ghraib, soldiers without a plan or body armor, seniors without medicine, air that is toxic, etc.) is dead." To drive home these points further, use examples of infamous people who have used religion as a front for their scurrilous behavior - Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart and Aimee Semple McPherson.

In my opinion, this gets to the heart of the problem we face.
Christina
11.07.04 at 12:32

As a Design Observer reader I would like to note my appreciation for sdc who wrote an articulate, thoughtful post earlier today. The author contributed a viewpoint based on personal experience without adopting the indignant and uncivil tone that exists elsewhere in this particular discussion—thank you!
cassandra kegler
11.07.04 at 06:49

I believe Gunnar Swanson was being facetious upthread when he said "The maps, both state and county, seem to indicate that proximity to cold navigable water encourages voting Democratic."

Today's New York Times has a piece that comes to that same conclusion put forward as absolutely serious analysis. It makes about as much sense as anything else.
Michael Bierut
11.07.04 at 08:54

And yet one wonders: when did red go from being the color of revolution, to the color of the Republican party, to the color of the Christian right? Perhaps the best metaphor for the current state of affairs is what Holly Golightly used to describe hyperanxiety in Truman Capote's novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's. She called it the 'mean reds' — in her words, "when you're afraid and don't know what you're afraid of."
Jessica Helfand
11.08.04 at 09:42

Isn't the Red v Blue colour choice arbitrary in the same way that the Elephant and Donkey identification? (I'd be curious to know where THAT came from.) From what I've seen, this country identifies more with its flag and its colours than any other. We're really proud of our "Red, White 'n' Blue" so it makes sense that red and blue should be used to identify political parties. (I'd love to see a third party claim the white.) Did the parties choose their colours? Or was the Red v Blue imposed by the media at some point?
chester
11.08.04 at 10:44

Paula Scher was interviewed by Kurt Andersen on the branding significance of red and blue on this week's Studio 360. You can listen to the show here; the segment is titled "Design for the Real World."
Michael Bierut
11.08.04 at 10:48

Thanks Michael; it was an interesting piece. Nancy Reagan's dress sense, huh? (Good thing she wasn't a fan of mustard as a colour. Or brown. ("What can brown do for you?"))

The election was not close by political standards — it was a clear victory for President Bush — but it was very close numerically. Since graphs and charts show numbers, and the Presidential election was binary, it all came down to winner and loser. On the national level, the U.S. map would be enitrely red: there are no prizes for coming in second.

The electoral college apportions political power in the country in such a way that results in the individual states are important, which is why we saw state-by-state maps on our TV screens and in our newspapers and websites. State-by-state was the relevant informational level; less information wouldn't have helped, and more information would have confused things. If there was no electoral college, the only figure we would have watched was the tally of votes for President: no map necessary. If we were curious about how people voted where, we would have seen maps with less red and blue, and a lot more purple and white and grey. The best way to represent voting would be to have each vote represented as a single colour dot; this would mean a dense and muddy view from a distance, especially in urban areas, but a Muriel Cooper-esque zooming into the information would provide clarifying granularity.

The President won the election, but only by a couple of percentage points; it wasn't the blowout that those election night maps would seem to indicate. This is not a Republican country, just as it was not a Democrat country 8 years ago. This is the America of Lincoln, the America whose "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." It is the job of every American to continue to make Lincoln's words ring true.
chester
11.08.04 at 11:50

Cold navigable water causes liberalism. High altitude and large expanses of flat land each causes conservative voting: http://www.princeton.edu/~rvdb/JAVA/election2004/

Four years ago when the blue/red maps were introduced I suspect that red was assigned to the Republicans to avoid implications of Democrats = liberal = leftist = commies.

Both the elephant and the donkey were invented/popularized by 19th century cartoonist Thomas Nast. He was a Republican and the elephant was meant to shown grandeur and power. I think the first use of the elephant was an 1874 cartoon of the elephant destroying a structure with planks labeled inflation, repudiation, and reform. Other animals are shown fleeing (except for an ostrich that didn't move until at least 2004.) One is a donkey in a lion's skin with a collar that says "N.Y. Herald," another a unicorn with a collar that says "N.Y. Times."

I think the first use of a donkey to represent Democrats was a cartoon (I can't remember the date right now) with the jackass labeled "Copperhead papers." (The term "Copperhead" was used by Republicans against northern Democrats.) It was kicking a dead lion labeled "Hon E.M. Stanton" The caption was "A live jackass kicking a dead lion. And such a Lion! And such a jackass!" Edwin Stanton was Lincoln's Secretary of War and Johnson's attempts to dismiss him were what precipitated Johnson's impeachment but right now I can't remember the specific occassion of the cartoon.

Nast also created the images we know of Uncle Sam, John Bull, and Santa Claus and is perhaps best known for his cartoons against Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall.
Gunnar Swanson
11.08.04 at 11:52

I hope it's not a breach of decorum to mention Speak Up on Design Observer but Mark Kingsley and Debbie Millman have a nice collection of maps and graphics at http://www.underconsideration.com/speakup/archives/002130.html#002130
Gunnar Swanson
11.08.04 at 12:00

Thanks for the info and background Mr Swanson. (And much agreement with your earlier posts from this reader.)

As a reader of Punch magazine as a young person, (as well as college study of Hogarth, Swift, and Gogol,) I know that satire and politics make oddly happy bedfellows. But it seems incredible to me that the Democrats would have accepted the donkey they were handed. Would they have done so had they been given the ostrich? ("A fine bird! A large and flightless bird!") While the Elephant isn't the greatest symbol — a huge, slow-moving beast, almost prehistoric — at least there's something noble about the creature.

Maybe the Dems should hire someone from the world of sports branding to help them reinvigorate their base. (Perhaps the (blue state) Vermont-based JDK, who designed the logo for the best-ever-named sports team, the Nashville Predators, could be consulted.)
chester
11.08.04 at 12:16

To reply to Gunnar (thanks for the history of blue and red). Yes, to whatever extent a connection can be made between a designer and the conditions of their value system and to whatever extent that connection influences my interpretation of a work, I am in turn, implicated in the conditions of that value system. How can you both understand these systems and not be in some way determined by them? It is all the same stuff to me. Marinetti seduces because his writing is, fascistic and that value system is, in part very attractive. I happened to pick up the issue of transparency because it seems like a more enduring factor in the theory of graphic design when "in good faith" with itself and yet an approach which would effectively destroy the very functioning of the bush administration.

Thanks to Mr. Dearden for fleshing out his reasons for voting for George Bush for president. I wish our president was as seemingly self possessed. I would say to him that my world is essentially relational, not personal. I could therefore never get all my ducks in a row because I would inevitably be messing with other people's ducks. In general, I think we all should have a rationale for political action particularly when asked. Indulging in the right to not, may be as chester suggests part of our "horribily beautiful" country but I find little to appreciate in such sublimity. It's looks a lot like silence, smugness and self-involvement. Something somewhere is being undermined and its no one's fault but ours.
Will Temple
11.08.04 at 12:49

Like Gunnar said, Debbie Millman and Mark Kingsley's collection of maps and charts at Speak Up has everything you've seen in the last few days and a few things you haven't. Great job.
Michael Bierut
11.08.04 at 01:47

Brian and Gunnar who questioned my nonexistent credentials as an economist would do better to read Michael Kinsley on the subject of whether Dem or Repub presidents are better stewards of the economy: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A29205-2004Jul30?language=printer

I do think that throwing money at rich people has an effect, just that it's not a helpful effect. Without broad demand, like you get from working people with the confidence to spend, investors are motivated to use sudden money to pay down their debt and sometimes, as I said, to remove their competition by buying them out. I'm sure a few buy their wives tennis bracelets too. The point is that money has gravity. When money concentrates upward so do the goods and services that money buys. When the working man and woman aren't in a spending mood, Main Street suffers, small business suffers, consumer advertising suffers (except in Town & Country) and people at every level of the economy are motivated to ingratiate themselves with the "better sort of people" just to stay in business. We all become monkeys. What we're seeing is a more obedient America, not a swashbuckling entrepreneurial one. When people are afraid they tend to do as they're told.

I also believe that a lot of people vote Republican because they think elephants are big and strong and donkeys are kind of stupid. I really believe this is true. It would explain a lot.
pasquino
11.08.04 at 05:30

Well, now that's simply pessimistic.

Your refutation, aside from the refernce to a journalist (I'm already suspect, considering that he works for the Washington Post) still lacks any sourced facts. You appear to be very wrapped up in an opinion that seems closer to emotion than hard fact. Your response didn't contradict the hard facts and sources I opined.

As to Michael Kinsley, because someone chose to publish him does not mean he is correct -- both theoretically and practically. I spent the first seven years of my career at a daily newspaper, and will never take a journalist's word as hard fact. They have the entire world to save (kind of like the participants in this blog) and only their way to save it (now who's being pessimistic!)

It's difficult to argue statisitcs that are gathered from unbiased sources, and I would certainly investigate where Mr. Kinsley gets his numbers and especially the way he interprets them. Afterall, that's what marketing is all about -- how the message is packaged. And the Post certainly has something to market, it just didn't work this election cycle.

I agree that when the "working man and woman" aren't in a mood to spend, main street suffers. But I still think we are at our best when we are working -- not being paid by a social program not to, or pretend we're really trying to get a job when we lack the the most important quality a person needs to succeed: Determination. And often determination is born from need. If a person's basic needs are met, for some, why try to do any better?
Brian Collins
11.08.04 at 11:30

Coincentally to a previous post of mine, Mark Slouka makes a direct comparison between the futurists and George Bush in his "On the Virtues of Idleness" in this month's Harper's.

Is anyone else concerned about the conservative commandeering of "the moral" in this election? I'm a proud intellectual, elitest, coast dweller and moral too. I'm also a former born again christian. All this talk about luring the moral back to democratic party seems wrong headed. In contrast to some voices in this discussion, the "majority" can be dead wrong. I was just waiting for an oil change when I overheard the propaganda news phrasing of a t.v. commentator in the background. Of course it was Fox News. The "moral vote" is only as moral as such media can produce the imagination of the immoral. How else do you mobilize the morally righteous to the polls? Do you augment/inform/reflect upon their idea of morality? No, you capitalize on their imagination of the immoral - bring on images of unreproductive sexuality and aborted fetuses. Related to my previous comment about being implicated in the conditions of a value system as it is produced by a system of representation, I am now positioned (and slipping deeper into) an immoral camp. My moral position will not be strengthed by some new courting of the heartland. It will only be weakened by it. And by the way, "evangelical" is what we used to call a fundamentalist.
Will Temple
11.09.04 at 01:19

There has been much talk about the Democratic Party base getting fired up and not wallowing in post-election self-pity. The folk(s) over at »ahem« "fuckthesouth.com" are certainly fired up... [While the language may be a bit crass, the facts are compelling.]
chester
11.10.04 at 01:32

Fascinating cartograms of the election results can be found at this site. The cartographic representation based upon state populations is an improvement as far as information resolution goes, but I'd love to see what the map would look like if every county was thus weighted.
chester
11.11.04 at 03:28

Thanks for the info and background Mr Swanson. (And much agreement with your earlier posts from this reader.)
coskunlar vinc
04.28.09 at 04:45


|
Share This Story



Jessica Helfand, a founding editor of Design Observer, is an award-winning graphic designer and writer and a former contributing editor and columnist for Print, Communications Arts and Eye magazines. A member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and a recent laureate of the Art Director's Hall of Fame, Helfand received her B.A. and her M.F.A. from Yale University where she has taught since 1994.
More >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Jessica Helfand

Scrapbooks: An American History
Yale University Press, 2008

Reinventing the Wheel
Winterhouse Editions, 2002

Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture
Winterhouse Editions, 2001

Looking Closer 3
Allworth Press, 1999

Paul Rand: American Modernist
winterhouse Editions, 1998

More books by contributors >>