Best of Election Season Innovation
Private confessions, citizen voyeurism, a shot at redemption, why it pays to have famous friends, and how graphic design changed politics forever.
By Maria Popova
In the year of the YouTube election, innovation in political communication spanned virtually every medium. As the big day is upon is, we look back on an incredibly tumultuous political season with our selection of the smartest, most revolutionary election-related ideas.
In a political climate where the “get out and vote” message seems to be spewing out of everywhere (and rightfully so), it’s worth taking a step back and asking ourselves the simple question: Why are we voting today?
That’s exactly what design studio Gershoni did with their experimental sayHear project, which assigns a toll-free number to each of the 4 voting options – Obama, McCain, 3rd party, and non-voter – and invites people to call with the reason for their choice, then displays the results in a neatly designed interface.
You can hear all the confessionals on the project website, ranging from the fully serious to the giggles-in-the-background prank calls. Listen to one particularly funny one here.
The best documentaries record monumental events that change the course of history. That’s exactly what The New York Times is out to do with their Polling Place Photo Project, the first-ever nationwide experiment in citizen journalism.
The project aims to create the largest photographic archive of the actual battleground of every presidential election — hum-drum polling places — capturing the richness and complexity of voting, a visual record of human behavior in that final stretch of choosing our political destiny.
Notorious filmmaker and whistle-blower Michael Moore made movie distribution history this year with his latest political documentary, Slacker Uprising, which became the world’s first feature-length film to launch as a legal free release.
The film, covering the filmmaker’s failed attempt to save the Democrats from themselves in the 2004 election by rallying people to vote with a grassroots tour of 60 cities in the battleground states, is above all a call to action in hope for redemption this time around.
(We covered it in detail here.)
After Barack Obama’s New Hampshire primary speech in January, artist will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas got overwhelmed with the desire to prevent the “unfair, backwards, upside down, unbalanced, untruthful, corrupt” process of the last election. So he called up a massive lineup of celebrities to produce a revolutionary music video based on Obama’s speech. (We first covered it here.)
The video became the most-watched election-related video on YouTube, with over 30 million views across its various uploads, and set off an avalanche of buzz across the social web. It inspired an equally moving spinoff, the HOPE.ACT.CHANGE. project, which invites Obama supporters to upload images of themselves and rebuilds the video into a gloriously designed multimedia mosaic of them.
In January 2008, artist Shepard Fairey did what he does best to show his support for Barack Obama – he designed a poster.
Little did he know the 350 limited-edition PROGRESS screenprints would sell out in minutes, the HOPE print would go on to become part of the Obama camp’s awareness campaign, and the posters would become the most iconic images associated with this presidential campaign.
Here’s to the power of supreme graphic design and art direction.
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There were, of course, a ton of other tremendously innovative efforts. A few more of our favorites included the Obama social network; the efforts to give voice to those who are impacted by the American election but can’t vote, like the nation’s 29.1 million home-owning, tax-paying legal aliens or, you know, the world; the clever and tremendously amusing Things Younger Than McCain site-turned-book (which is funnier if you skip back through the archives); and the Field of Hope crop circle in Pennsylvania.
But what we really hope is that all this innovation is indicative of a greater cultural hunger for change. And as the 11th hour of this grand race is upon us, we can almost taste it.
So get out and vote today — and enjoy it. Your children will read about it in the history books.
Published November 4, 2008