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Know me, Love me, Fear me...: The Anatomy of Poster Design. Candidate posters in the 2007 French legislative elections
Unformatted Document Text:  Know Me, Love Me, Fear Me…: The Anatomy of Poster Design Dumitrescu 1996) or “stage one” (Farrell 2006) forms of communication, while arguing that we are now in a centralized, all-reaching “post-modern” (or “stage three”) in the evolution of campaigns. Yet, while posters restrict communication by words, we have only just begun the study of the importance of visuals in election campaigns. Graber (2001, 1996) points out that visuals are much easier both to process and retain, than textual information. Brader (2005) demonstrates the persuasive power of visuals and music in candidate TV political ads. Moreover, studies have shown the power of local campaigns in multiple national contexts (Huckfeldt & Sprague 1995, 1992; Denver et al. 2004; Carty & Eagles 1999). Despite parties’ and candidates’ considerable expenditures on posters, despite citizens’ recurrent exposure to them at election time, and despite theoretical rationales pointing to the power of visuals in campaigns, we currently lack any systematic understanding of why political actors’ rely on this form of communication at all. What do candidates attempt to communicate through posters? This is the problem. To address it, I compare major and minor party candidates in the 2007 French legislative elections. By combining insights from interviews with French party officials in their 2007 campaign 5 , and based on visual design research, I propose two exploratory hypotheses: Given candidates’ limited access to mass media advertising in many countries (LeDuc et al 1996), the “posters-as-factual-information” hypothesis argues that candidates use posters to provide factual information cues on themselves (e.g. party affiliation, ideological orientation etc.). However, since parties often run parallel poster campaigns in each constituency (separate from the candidates), candidates should differ in the types of factual information they provide and the emphasis on different pieces of information, the stronger their party base in the constituency is. 5 Eleven interviews were conducted in France, in Paris and several suburbs with candidates, party officials in the party federation headquarters, activists, campaign managers February to July 2007. 2

Authors: Dumitrescu, Delia.
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Know Me, Love Me, Fear Me…: The Anatomy of Poster Design
Dumitrescu
1996) or “stage one” (Farrell 2006) forms of communication, while arguing that we are now in a
centralized, all-reaching “post-modern” (or “stage three”) in the evolution of campaigns.
Yet, while posters restrict communication by words, we have only just begun the study of
the importance of visuals in election campaigns. Graber (2001, 1996) points out that visuals are
much easier both to process and retain, than textual information. Brader (2005) demonstrates the
persuasive power of visuals and music in candidate TV political ads. Moreover, studies have
shown the power of local campaigns in multiple national contexts (Huckfeldt & Sprague 1995,
1992; Denver et al. 2004; Carty & Eagles 1999). Despite parties’ and candidates’ considerable
expenditures on posters, despite citizens’ recurrent exposure to them at election time, and despite
theoretical rationales pointing to the power of visuals in campaigns, we currently lack any
systematic understanding of why political actors’ rely on this form of communication at all.
What do candidates attempt to communicate through posters? This is the problem. To
address it, I compare major and minor party candidates in the 2007 French legislative elections.
By combining insights from interviews with French party officials in their 2007 campaign
, and
based on visual design research, I propose two exploratory hypotheses:
Given candidates’ limited access to mass media advertising in many countries (LeDuc et
al 1996), the “posters-as-factual-information” hypothesis argues that candidates use posters to
provide factual information cues on themselves (e.g. party affiliation, ideological orientation
etc.). However, since parties often run parallel poster campaigns in each constituency (separate
from the candidates), candidates should differ in the types of factual information they provide
and the emphasis on different pieces of information, the stronger their party base in the
constituency is.
5
Eleven interviews were conducted in France, in Paris and several suburbs with candidates, party officials in the
party federation headquarters, activists, campaign managers February to July 2007.
2


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