Photos by Riley Smith
I saw the sign, I saw the sign...
Being the critical voice for the arts and city politics that we are, The Coast gathered three opinionated experts to sit down and comment on the best (and worst) election signs dotting the HRM. (Also we thought it’d be funny.)
Chris Parsons (activist and occasional writer, @cultureofdefeat), Elizabeth MacMichael (illustrator, @lizmacdraws) and Matt Brand (satirist and editor-in-chief of The Brand Review, @m_brand) graciously took time out of their day to be our judges. Here are some of the highlights.
TIM RISSESCO (Dartmouth Centre)
ELIZABETH MACMICHAEL: All I can say is that I will vote for him because I think I will get ice cream.
MATT BRAND: It looks like Rissesco’s sign shivved Two If By Sea and stole all of its aura.
CHRIS PARSONS: I bet the artisanal cupcake shop that this is a sign for is super dope. The spacing, particularly on “Tim” is jarring. As is the wide variety of fonts.
MACMICHAEL: Why have centre justification throughout and have ‘vote’ being all independent and sassy? Consistency, people!
PARSONS: The overall effect is that if feels like a cute advertising template from VistaPrint or MailChimp or something.
MACMICHAEL: You could drive a bus through the space between the last two lines. I think of any of them, though, it’s doing the best job of being “modern” or “trendy.”
WARREN WESSON (Dartmouth Centre)
PARSONS: This sign is perfect for Wesson. He’s a one-issue candidate and this sign sums it up perfectly: His one issue is pre-amalgamation Dartmouth.
BRAND: This is basically the old Dartmouth city flag. This is a call out to Old Dartmouth, which is to say, he's likely going to have a referendum to separate Dartmouth from HRM.
MACMICHAEL: I mean, that block font is great? Blue is good?
PARSONS: Yeah, best font so far by a wide margin. I mean, aside from the obvious Dartmouth thing, this is good. His one issue is bad, but his sign conveys that one stupid issue really well.
SAM AUSTIN (Dartmouth Centre)
MACMICHAEL: I HATE THIS SIGN OH MY GOD. It reminds me of the sign for that fish-and-chips place in Truro. It was on a billboard and there was a giant french fry with a little crown. I mean, I guess it’s good that this sign is making me want fish and chips.
PARSONS: My first reaction was: ‘Oh, great, more old Dartmouth garbage.’ Second reaction: ‘OH MY GOD HE REALLY INCLUDED THE TULIP.’
BRAND: The tulip is the only thing happening. That and the yellow.
MACMICHAEL: Yellow lettering is the visual equivalent of squirting lemons in someone’s eyes.
PARSONS: Three years ago he got city money to help everyone on his street—Tulip Street! Get it!—plant tulips on their lawns and this is central enough to his politics that he put it on his fucking sign. Austin is a better candidate than this nonsense.
WAYE MASON (Halifax South Downtown)
MACMICHAEL: Yellow, yellow, my god, why do people choose yellow stoooooppp.
PARSONS: I don’t get why the “O” in his first name is highlighted. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The design is modern, clean and lacks any content: It’s everything Waye aspires to be.
MACMICHAEL: Chris with the ace.
SUE UTECK (Halifax South Downtown)
BRAND: I’m confused. Does she want me to vote for Sue Uteck, Sue Uteck or Sue Uteck?
PARSONS: Just in case we weren’t all clear about the fact that she’s the unofficial Liberal candidate in District 7, she helped out with the colour choice.
MACMICHAEL: I think it’s clever. Her name is easy to remember because of the way it sounds, and there’s a trick where you say someone’s name three times when you meet them to remember it.
BRAND: Is there a similar trick to help me forget?
BRENDEN SOMMERHALDER (Halifax Peninsula North)
BRAND: It’s the vanilla ice cream of signs.
MACMICHAEL: It gets the job done.
PARSONS: I am actually kind of impressed with Sommerhalder’s restraint here. Also, his last name is kind of a significant design challenger and the designer did their best to deal with that space issue.
LINDELL SMITH (Halifax Peninsula North)
MACMICHAEL: I love the checkmark placement.
PARSONS (noting that he donated $51 to Smith’s campaign): I don’t like the ‘ItsTime’ slogan, but I admire his commitment to using it throughout his messaging and visuals. The checkmark/clock hands thing is kind of clever and the proportions on the check are perfect.
BRAND: This is my favourite sign. I like the colours. It has a throwback quality to it.
STEPHEN ADAMS (Spryfield-Sambro Loop-Prospect Road)
MACMICHAEL: An abomination unto man. This is my most-hated.
PARSONS: His sign is the perfect argument in favour of term limits. Dude was elected to city council for the first time in 1991! This was probably his 1995 re-election sign!
BRAND: It looks like he stole it from a local scouting troop.
MACMICHAEL: I’m actually okay with his font choices, and the corner tag is good.
BRAND: You have to follow his sign to find the base camp.
MACMICHAEL: I get that yellow is eye-catching and stands out on a lawn, but a sign should be a warm welcome, a firm handshake, a visual hug...
BRAND: Or a kick to the privates?
MATT WHITMAN (Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets)
MACMICHAEL: I think we all know how I feel about this one. To be fair, I like the attempt at a slightly different layout on this
PARSONS: Interesting that Whitman is the first person to go with portrait instead of landscape.
BRAND: It looks like he just sprayed your lawn and this is the sign he puts up to warn the neighbours to stay off.
PARSONS: I do think that if he wanted to include that much text he should have gone with a larger or landscape layout.
BRAND: It’s missing ‘#powertrip.’
PAMELA LOVELACE (Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets)
BRAND: It’s like she tried making her own sign in MS Paint. This was her first attempt, and she went with it.
PARSONS: Yeah, it’s fine. I do think that given the size of the rest of the text, the URL is very small. Should have included that instead of a phone number.
MACMICHAEL: Holy shit, there’s a phone number. Is that normal? Why would you do that? She must get amazing phone calls.
PARSONS: It’s not something I would do. You want to push traffic to your website and collect contact info, not have people cold-call you.
BRAND: I think the phone number is there so you can call her and ask her why she put a phone number on her sign.
MACMICHAEL: “Hey Pam, is your refrigerator running? IT HAS A BETTER SIGN THAN YOU.”
BRAD JOHNS (Middle/Upper Sackville-Beaver Bank-Lucasville)
MACMICHAEL: I am going to refer to him as “BJ Smiles” forever.
BRAND: I think the sign was probably done without the smiley face originally. He looked at the sign and was like, “Not good enough. Needs an emoji.” Extra points for going the extra mile.
PARSONS: Emojis did not exist when this sign was designed and printed. This is the first sign we’ve seen with a sticker covering over outdated information (pre-re-jiggering of districts, he repped District 19).
MACMICHAEL: The smiley face makes me think he’s a conspiracy theorist, or he would have a Facebook group dedicated to Ron Paul.
KEVIN COPLEY (Middle/Upper Sackville-Beaver Bank-Lucasville)
MACMICHAEL: I laughed out loud when I saw this one the first time.
PARSONS: You look at that sign and you think: That dude has a LinkedIn account and he updates it frequently.
MACMICHAEL: That text! That tiny, tiny text!
BRAND: This sign screams: “I put my picture on a sign.”
MACMICHAEL: There’s definitely some things done ‘right’ from a design standpoint here, but also, that middle quote. It kills me!
PARSONS: I also like the Facebook and Twitter icons without usernames or URLs. Like you can just fucking click on the sign.
RUSSELL WALKER (Halifax-Bedford Basin West)
MACMICHAEL: I LOVE THIS SIGN. I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT IT.
BRAND: It’s like he stole the font from his first car.
MACMICHAEL: I applaud that insane font choice. This sign takes no guff.
PARSONS: I feel like I should hate this, but I don’t. The font looks like something I should see on the back of an old Airstream trailer. It makes me want to listen to “Night Moves.”
BRAND: The flare on that W is everything.
MACMICHAEL: It’s giving me goosebumps.
MACMICHAEL: Let it be known that Elizabeth and the Russell Walker sign are happily married. Delayed celebrations with cocktails and reception to be held in a garage.
BRAND: Elizabeth already has half a screenplay written based on the Walker sign.
PARSONS: Lindell’s sign does the best job of incorporating his core messaging into a visual design. Walker’s speaks to my soul.
BRAND: It gives me similar feels to Stranger Things.
PARSONS: I would just add in closing that academic research overwhelming suggests that signs actually do a very bad job of winning votes.