What Mukilteo candidates’ signs say about them

By Sara Bruestle | Oct 09, 2013

Just for fun, The Beacon asked Mukilteo designer Ron Hansen to analyze this election season’s political signs for their overall effectiveness and what they may say about the candidates’ political leanings.

An award-winning designer, Hansen created the political signs for Snohomish County Judge Tam T. Bui. Her signs were apple green with white type.

“It stood out well, and she won,” Hansen said. “I helped her out.”

Locally, Hansen has also designed logos for the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival, the Mukilteo Community Orchestra and the Mukilteo Farmers Market.

He is the owner and president of Ron Hansen Label Design Co., a food and beverage label and brand design company located in Mukilteo. He has designed advertising campaigns, billboards, print ads, brands and more.

Like most of us, Hansen sees the eight mayoral and City Council candidates’ signs plus one more anti-candidate sign when driving around the city.

He said that none of the signs stand out to him – that they’re boring, dull, bland.

“Most of them have no style,” Hansen said. “Very few of them are unique.”

Signs don’t define a candidate, he said, but they do give voters a sense of who they are: They are essentially mini-billboards for their personality.

“It’s all you know about the candidate until you vote,” Hansen said. “It’s a key message to the voters – not that they’re good or bad at politics – but of their personality.”

Here’s what Hansen had to say about each sign:

No Joe

Hansen’s take on a political action committee’s signs that attack Mayor Joe Marine’s leadership: They’re ineffective.

Citizens for a Better Mukilteo has staked signs on which the universal 'no' symbol is stamped on top of the mayor's name. Their colors are black and red with white type.

City Councilmember Kevin Stoltz created the PAC, bought the signs and designed a website, which blasts decisions made by Marine during his eight years in office.

“The ‘No Joe’ one is wrong,” Hansen said. “That’s just poorly done. It doesn’t accomplish anything.”

Hansen said a more effective design would have been a sign with just two words on it – “No Joe.”

Joe Marine

Mayor Joe Marine’s re-election signs are twice as big as the others – City Council candidate Ted Wheeler’s excluded – and sport the colors yellow, blue and white.

Hansen said Marine’s choice of yellow was a mistake. He said yellow needs to be more golden to catch the eye and that Marine’s yellow and white combo tends to “bland out” the blue.

“Yellow is not a very good color to put against white,” Hansen said. “If you see it, it looks almost the same.”

His political take away from Marine’s signs: The mayor is in the middle. Not necessarily conservative and not necessarily liberal.

Hansen was right: “I consider myself to be an independent, non-partisan mayor who leans conservatively,” Joe Marine said.

Jennifer Gregerson

Also running for mayor, City Councilmember Jennifer Gregerson posted signs that are purple and green.

Like Marine’s yellow, Hansen said that Gregerson’s green was also a mistake. He said her choice of emerald green is outdated and doesn’t contrast with the purple enough.

“That shade of green doesn’t match very well, because they’re the same tone,” he said. “If you squint your eyes, they’re the same color.”

He said a brighter or lighter shade of green would have looked better with the purple. If it were up to him, though, Hansen said he would scrap what she has and design a Starbucks green sign with white type.

“It would fit her personality more, and it would be a successful one,” he said.

Looking at her sign, Hansen said Gregerson is likely liberal.

He was only halfway right: “I'm socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” Jennifer Gregerson said.

Ted Wheeler

Ted Wheeler, like the mayor, has staked several big political signs. His color choices are what Hansen calls the “typical” blue and white. Although they are stereotypical, he finds the overall look of Wheeler’s signs fitting.

“It’s OK,” Hansen said. “It’s bold.”

Wheeler is taking on Terry Preshaw in the race for Position 1, which is open due to incumbent Kevin Stoltz’s decision not to run again. He also ran for council in 2011 against Steve Schmalz.

Hansen guessed that Wheeler is conservative. Was he right? Mostly, yes.

“I’m very conservative with money and how I raised my children,” Wheeler said. “But I also believe one has to understand the compassionate side of any puzzling situation, with a helping hand. This seems to be the more liberal side of me.

“So I guess to summarize... I would say I’m 80 percent conservative and 20 percent liberal.”

Terry Preshaw

Terry Preshaw’s signs are in the patriotic red, white and blue – white is the background color – and include her name, slogan and website.

Hansen said that Preshaw’s signs have too much information on them.

“Hers are too busy,” he said. “She has too much copy on hers. When you’re driving by, you only have a couple seconds, maybe five seconds [tops], to really read them.”

He said that all she needs on her signs is the message: “Terry Preshaw for City Council.”

Preshaw ran for council in 2011. She lost that race by a margin of just one third of 1 percent to incumbent Emily Vanderwielen.

Is Preshaw liberal or conservative, based on her design? Hansen thinks liberal.

“Terry looks liberal because she picked a fairly nice typeface and included a lot of information,” said Hansen, who knows Preshaw personally.

“That matches her pretty well. There’s lots of things going on. Her sign really does say a lot about Terry.”

Preshaw, however, said that “one size fits all” labels don’t work for her.

“I am fiscally conservative, middle of the road socially, and liberal in terms of advocating for immigration reform,” said Preshaw, who is a lawyer and practices U.S./Canadian immigration and nationality law.

“For the council race, [I have a] conservative stance on requiring the municipal budget to be balanced without drawing from our reserves or increasing our taxes.”

Bob Champion

Bob Champion is running for City Council Position 2, against Richard Emery. Champion’s signs also sport patriotic colors and show a checked voter box by his name.

Hansen said Champion’s are very safe color choices – meaning that they’re boring.

“They always do red, white and blue, all these political guys,” he said. “You don’t get exciting political palettes.”

Hansen didn’t have much constructive criticism for Champion’s signs, just that he wished that Champion would have picked different colors.

With Champion’s patriotic design, Hansen couldn’t figure out if he is liberal or conservative.

Perhaps that’s because Champion doesn’t label himself.

“I think that human beings are too complex to be summarily ‘labeled,’” Bob Champion said. “I use discovery, observation, quantitative and qualitative data in my quest for knowledge.

“The net result is I try to act on fact – which can run the gamut of the ‘left’ and ‘right’ spectrum.”

Richard Emery

City Councilmember Richard Emery’s re-election signs are also the “typical” blue and white, but his sign still stands out. Why? The E in his last name is in extra big type.

It may stand out, but Hansen said he doesn’t know what Emery was trying to do with his E design.

“I just thought that was weird,” Hansen said. “It really didn’t make very much sense.”

Hansen said he would understand the big E if Emery is campaigning as the “E candidate” – meaning “environment.”

If the E stands for environment, Hansen said Emery is probably a liberal.

The incumbent, however, said he is neither liberal nor conservative.

“I would rather think of myself as someone who works hard to understand issues and questions from as many perspectives as possible, and who strives to make decisions on what is best for the city and residents without ideological labels,” Richard Emery said.

Fred Taylor

Fred Taylor is running against Randy Lord for Position 3 on the council.

His signs are white with purple and red type. They have his slogan, website and a reminder to vote Nov. 5.

Curiously, Taylor’s is the only political sign with just a last name, no first.

Hansen said he isn’t impressed with Taylor’s design: He said the signs show a poor choice of colors, bad fonts and, like Preshaw’s signs, they offer too much information.

“His is probably one of the worst,” Hansen said. “It’s not that great.”

He said the white background on his signs leads him to think that Taylor is conservative. Is he right?

“[I’m] neither, really,” Taylor said. “I'm more of a Constitutionalist Libertarian – a small 'r' republican.”

Randy Lord

Councilmember Randy Lord’s re-election signs feature an image of a mountain top in navy blue with white and orange type.

Hansen said he can see that Lord was trying to be different, but that he didn’t pull it off.

Instead, he said, Lord’s signs look like they’re “on the Halloween side.” The navy looks like black from far away.

“I see what he was trying to do, but it was a little hard to read,” Hansen said.

He said he couldn’t tell if Lord is a liberal or a conservative based on his design.

“That one is pretty neutral,” Hansen said.

The incumbent is OK with that description: “I am fiscally conservative (but willing to pay for essential and critical services), and social liberal,” Randy Lord said.

So, who has the best political signs this season? Hansen has a top three: Joe Marine and Ted Wheeler’s are the boldest, and Jennifer Gregerson’s is the most unique.

“The rest are just so-so,” Hansen said.

His guess is that those three signs get read more often than the others.

However, Hansen said that a great sign doesn’t necessarily mean a candidate will win the election.

Here’s a designer’s tip: If he’s trying to create a “winner,” his go-to color combos for political signs are green apple with white type, red with white type, and black with either white or neon green type.

“They’re powerful colors to strike someone’s attention,” he said. “They are bright and positive. They would be really effective.”

Why? Because color has more influence in an election than you’d think.

“Color says many, many things,” Hansen said. “Obviously, you don’t elect a candidate because of a pretty board, but you can certainly have a positive feeling about them.

“Then again, I’m a designer, and I’m probably more serious about it.”

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