Political campaigns are greatly influenced by changes in technology and communication, from FDR’s ‘Fireside Chats’ to JFK’s embrace of television. Now a combination of technologies allows almost everyone to create, reproduce, transform, and share images with friends and family, or with the world. Individuals and grassroots organisations can communicate using images alongside mainstream media, corporations and governments. There is now a great need for all of us to develop the visual literacy – or graphicacy – required to interpret and recreate images, to communicate as educated equals in this new political environment.
Political advertising can use graphic design to make implications that they wouldn’t be willing to say explicitly, invoking cultural ideas and associations to make their case, sometimes misleadingly. This paper will look at some of the techniques that are commonly used in political campaigns, and discuss how we can teach people the skills they need to ‘read’ campaign materials and make informed judgments about the arguments being made.
Graphicacy is a necessary skill if all citizens are to fully participate in public debate, rather than remain passive audiences. A picture may tell ‘a thousand words’, but as with all political communication it is always open to interpretation. Just as the prevalence of the written word requires literacy for all in a democratic society, so too must we ensure that graphicacy is not a skill that is limited to a small section of the community.