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Color in campaign signs has a purpose

August 30, 1998

Campaign signsBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: MIKE CRUPI / staff photographer [enlarge]




The color of a campaign sign can say a lot about the candidate it advertises.

It can project an image, carefully crafted, meticulously cultivated, painstakingly planned.

Or, it can be random chance.

Andrew R. Humphreys said blue was the color that was available when he ran for the school board in 1996. As a Democratic candidate for Washington County Commissioner this year, he said he kept the color.

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"I just stuck with it," he said. "People tend to identify my name with the color."

There seems to be as many reasons for choosing a color as there are colors on the campaign trail.

Christopher B. Shank, who is seeking the Republican nomination for delegate in District 2B, said he initially considered using red and white but settled on black lettering on a yellow background.

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"I think that color scheme works the best," he said. "Yellow and black look the best together and they're Maryland's colors."

County Commissioners candidate Linda C. Irvin-Craig also made use of symbolism when she created her design, which includes red letters bounded by a blue border on top and green on the bottom.

For those who do not know, those are the colors in the Washington County flag.

"I knew there were going to be a lot of candidates and I wanted something that would set me apart," she said.

Irvin-Craig said she was contemplating the decision one day and gazed toward a miniature county flag on her desk.

Inspiration struck.

Irvin-Craig's signs have an arrow pointing to the side, which she said has confused many people. The arrow represents a ballot.

"That's how you vote," she said.

Ron L. Coss, president of the Impact Group, said he sells a great number of campaign materials to candidates, although they represent a small percentage of his business.

Coss knows what it's like to hit the campaign trail. He was a Hagerstown City Council member in the 1980s and ran unsuccessfully for mayor.

Often, Coss said he advises candidates on the best strategy for reaching voters.

"Dark against a light background is the best," he said.

Red is eye-catching, but Coss said it is also an inflammatory color and can work against a candidate.

Green can be a good color because it is relaxing and soothing, Coss said.

For his own campaigns, Coss said he favored black and blue because he viewed elections as a "fight to the finish."

Whatever a candidate picks, Coss said it is important to stick with it through Election Day. He said there are three important rules to running a media campaign.

"The first is repetition. The second is repetition and the third is repetition," he said.

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, has bright, red signs advertising his candidacy this year.

When he first ran for office in 1974, Munson said yard signs were illegal in Hagerstown. So to advertise, he said he bought blue signs that were placed on the tops of cars.

The signs were expensive, so Munson continued to use them in campaigns through the 1980s.

In 1994, he said he ordered rectangular signs with his last name printed vertically. Red was the only color available, so Munson said he used some red signs and leftover blue signs.

"That's when I began to see the advantage of red in combination with white," he said.

Another candidate who has changed sign designs over the years is County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers.

The five-term Democrat, who has used yellow and blue and yellow and red in past elections, bought signs this year that are black with white lettering.

"Issues kind of come down to black and white a lot of times," he said.

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