You’ll hear me say this many times on this blog: in political campaigning, yard signs are vastly overrated.
For a campaign manager, few elements waste more time and energy than yard signs. Most new candidates (and even some seasoned ones) seem to think that yard signs are far more important than they really are.
And many supporters, who could be helping with really important things like door-to-door efforts and phone calls, tend to pay too much attention to finding yard sign locations.
It’s worth repeating: yard signs don’t vote.
Still, every campaign needs to have yard signs, if only for the fact that the absence of them can create a bad perception among voters. You really can’t have too many yard signs, but it’s a mistake to devote too much time and money to them at the expense of other important aspects of your campaign.
We’ll focus on other key parts of yard sign strategy in future posts (like finding sign locations and how many to buy), but right now we’re going to talk about designing and printing your yard signs.
Let’s quickly answer the first question most new candidates seem to concern themselves with: no, it doesn’t really matter what colors your yard signs consist of.
I’ve been privy to far too many campaign meetings at which the candidates and committee members discuss the psychology of one set of colors over another. In reality, the color scheme you choose for your campaign literature and signs won’t help or hurt your campaign (unless you choose some totally ridiculous and outlandish combination of neon stripes and polka-dots or something).
I’ve known candidates who’ve done great at the polls with both safe, conventional yard sign colors and unusual colors. (One of my favorite campaigners was an Ohio state representative who was consistently successful with campaign signs that had a grey background and neon pink writing.)
Don’t spend too much time debating what color to make your yard signs. There are no studies that prove one set of colors make people vote for a candidate more than another, regardless of what some people will try to tell you.
One quick tip about your color scheme, though: I’ve learned through trial-and-error that white lettering on a dark background stands out a lot better at night than the opposite. Use that knowledge as you will.
Much more important that your yard sign colors is the overall design, layout and type font you use on them.
Again, the actual font you use is completely up to you, although I would steer clear of boring stuff and choose a font that is bold, unique and professional-looking. For my yard signs, I found a lot of success with a font called Impact (see the photo in this post).
If you’re lucky enough to have a short last name of only a few letters, you’ll be able to feature it much larger and more prominently on your signs. In my case, I have lots of letters and two words in my last name, so I made the decision to break it into two lines and not even include my first name (I was pretty sure no one else was going to be on the ballot with a last name even vaguely similar to mine, anyway).
I have seen some candidates only use their first name on their yard signs, which can work well in certain situations. If you are the only female in a race, for instance, and you want to capitalize upon that, then it might be a good tactic to simply feature your first name on the signs.
Additionally, if you are a well-known incumbent who has been on the ballot several times, simply putting your first name on your yard signs might work for you (Dennis Kucinich does that for his Cleveland area congressional races).
So, how big should you make your yard signs? A word of warning: before you decide to buy yard signs that are bigger than any of your opponents, make sure you check and see if you city has any ordinances that require political signs to be a certain size. Some cities do, and while there is some debate about whether or not such ordinances are constitutional, you might want to take it into consideration.
When ordering your yard signs, I highly suggest that you have them printed on Coroplast, or corrugated plastic. While these types of signs are slightly more expensive than the fold-and-staple cardboard signs, they will save you money in the long run because they hold up so much better in wind and rain.
Corrugated yard signs are waterproof and won’t rip or tear in the wind, so you’ll have a lot more of them to pick up and save for the next election when the campaign is over.
Oh, and one last quick thing to remember: make sure that you have your campaign disclaimer printed on all of your yard signs. It may seem like common knowledge to some candidates, but you’d be surprised how many new office seekers run afoul of election laws by forgetting to print their disclaimer on every piece of literature and signage.