Grow KU, a Student Senate coalition led by Morgan Said and Miranda Wagner, is hopefully the last in a long string of undergraduate political campaigns. For this run, I was given more responsibility and the title of Marketing Chair, working directly with the slate on messaging, promotions, and strategies.
Ad Astra's victory was great. However, Marcus and co. wanted to make sure that future elections would be much more fair by establishing new elections codes that leveled the playing field. While admirable in its intentions, these rules became more hindrances than equalizers.
- Budget cap at $1,000
- All materials (except T-Shirts) must be printed through the campus print shop
- T-Shirts can't be given out to students not on the slate
- Election season is limited to approximately 31 days of school-time
- One banner per coalition; banners may not be hung on Greek houses or buildings
That said, my personal skills had a lot of room to grow. Past campaign experience and a larger rolodex provided a stronger foundation to build upon.
- A dedicated, crack marketing team: Almost all Ad Astra graphics were designed by me, but having a crew made things infinitely better and smoother with graphic designer John Reynolds, photographer Max Mikulecky, and videographer Elle Ternes.
- Social media emphasis: Limited budget forced us to take advantage of "free" channels
- Videos: Elle spearheaded this, but I helped write scripts and concepts.
More than anything, this campaign has been a lesson in strategy—timing social posts, measuring engagement and personal responses, developing tactics slowly and not in an immediate, gushing push. So beyond the graphics and website, everything was more calculated and deliberate than other campaigns.
Originally, the idea of a blooming sunflower had stuck firmly in my head. I wanted to show it growing, coming to life, but it never felt right.
After talking it over with new friend John, he put together his vision in a few hours—something more simple, more iconic, more identifiable than my design.
Admittedly, this sucked the wind out of my sails. My biggest gain from these projects is the visibility: seeing people wear, showcase, walk around with your brand and never knowing that you're behind it gives me goosebumps. A full year after we gave them out, I still see at least four Ad Astra shirts a week.
But his design was better, and it was for the good of the campaign. Perhaps out of concession to my pride, or maybe he just liked Avenir, John didn't touch the type treatment and allowed me to annex the slogan and candidate names on appropriate versions.
The slate really, really liked Heley Pinto's website. But our branding doesn't include gears, and the ribbons would only work with a steady filler inbetween. However, from that site and an unsolicited volunteer's critique of it, I realized the importance of making the candidates immediately visible and identifiable. Our opening includes a string of the candidates beneath a prominent action button.
The flower petal is the proverbial gimmick of this site as it fans out on scroll entry.
This video is atypical for presentation's sake: all the petals are immediately filled in. In production, only the first two petals are initially colored. As scroll continues, the petals in the corner logo begin to fan out and appear, and though the large flower is out of view, its petals are gradually colored as well. Ultimately, on reaching the final section, YOU, all petals are visible and colored in both the large flower and the micro one in the corner.
Platforms was a tricky section to cover. The team really liked the way Heley Pinto worked: images behind platform titles with explanation on hover. But doing the same shtick twice is not nearly as much fun.
So for the initial platform release I used a blueprint style illustration with an icon symbolic of the platform in white outline. For the website's version, I pinched the source of an SVG animation tutorial.
On Social Media
The slim budget encouraged a massive social media push, with cover photos for events and a downloadable package for supporters.
Most of the pre-Spring Break posts were penned by Miranda's all-star roommate Aleksandra Milewski, but I wrote nearly all of the public-facing statements when we came back.
Taking a quick page out of the Heley Pinto book, we recycled the Get to Know You post by extending it to our entire slate. These were exceptionally well-received by Facebook friends of the candidates.
Positive Counter Campaign
While not a particularly outstanding graphic design, this sub-campaign is one that I'm fiercely proud of. The opposition was found to be in violation of a number of rules by the Elections Commission, and they were ultimately disqualified eight hours before the polls opened.
Immediately, they went on the offensive on social media, slamming the Commission, the ruling, and our coalition. It got ugly fast.
So at 3 a.m. on Election Day, Morgan, Miranda, Alex, and I made a strategy to not counter with more arguments and negative campaigning, but instead with a message that brought the election back to the student body. In the end, it really isn't about who's in office, it's about who they're representing.