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[whitespace] campaign signs Crackpot Campaigns: The kooky campaign signs posted on every major thoroughfare have become something of an art in San Francisco.


Evaluating Campaign Signs

By Millie

'She'll stand up to willie brown." So says Rose Tsai's ubiquitous pink and green horizontal campaign sign, featuring a picture of a large fluffy rose. The caption implies what most of us already know--that this particular rose has thorns even if they're not pictured here. Still, the image and the caption are catchy, and that's the trick when it comes to an effective campaign sign.

The election season is upon us, and even if you're not following the race to fill five seats on the Board of Supervisors, it's impossible to escape the candidates' signs. Cluttering up store windows, posted high above every main thoroughfare and crammed into apartment windows, kooky campaign signs are an art in San Francisco.

The simple red letters against a blue backdrop that might cut it in other, less artsy, locales just won't fly in San Francisco. Just ask Frank Jordon, Angela Alioto and Ben Hom, three previous mayoral candidates who worked red-white-and-blue campaign signs right into obscurity.

San Franciscans expect a little more creativity from their politicians. Think of the teal and maroon Achtenberg signs from way back. With a humble Noe Valley skyline poking up into a creamy white backdrop, a boldface "ACHTENBERG" settled in nicely underneath. Attractive, yes. Electable, no. The whole look seemed too humble, the colors too cozy and comfortable. When compared with Willie Brown's aggressive collegiate font, all-caps on bold diamond-shaped posters, Achtenberg's poster design was simply too lesbian. This year's race brings with it a host of signs that provide a unique glimpse into the character of the candidates.

Mabel Teng, in hot contention for the president of the Board of Supervisors, hit early and hard with her oversized signs. All along Van Ness, Teng glowers down from her posters in a regal red business suit, looking no nonsense and, well, tiny. That's the risk you run when you put yourself in your own campaign poster. When it's repeated, telephone pole after telephone pole, one can't help but think the little Mabels high above are like flying elves.

The same goes for Andrea Shorter's school board campaign signs. Shorter is not a tiny woman. But you wouldn't know that from the little picture of her on her campaign signs. Lucky for her, there aren't too many of them. Perhaps no one will notice.

Eddie Chin's campaign sign for school board is downright sinister. It features an oblivious schoolgirl on a bicycle dwarfed by a looming "CHIN." The effect is the same as some creepy horror-movie poster.

Gavin Newsom is smart enough to know that a pretty face is an asset. His bus shelter posters are 80 percent face and only 20 percent content, not unlike Gavin himself. He's gonna do just fine.

Amos Brown apes Willie Brown by stealing his typeface. His signs emphasize "BROWN" and de-emphasize "AMOS." The cityscape silhouette up above is a nice touch, but the caption below is too small to read--some pabulum about "Working for the City ..." blah, blah, blah.

Ammiano's signs are oddly shaped, almost square and hard to read when posted high above Castro Street. However, the picture is pure Ammiano. In it, Ammiano holds an American flag behind him like a big terry-cloth towel he's using to dry his back. The whole thing is undeniably campy.

It probably won't play so well out in Glen Park, but Ammiano's quirky approach to the campaign is bound to win a sizable number of votes. Good for him. City Hall could use a lot more merry pranksters and a few less thorny roses.

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From the November 2-15, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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