Campaign signage at the corner of Hildebrand and US 281 Southbound towards downtown San Antonio features mayoral and District 1 races.
Campaign signage at the corner of Hildebrand Avenue and southbound U.S. Highway 281 demonstrates a variety of design styles. Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

You’d never know voter participation is low in San Antonio, given the forests of campaign signs that have popped up as the May 4 city election nears. Popular sites such as Lions Field, the Hildebrand exit from southbound U.S. Highway 281, South Roosevelt Drive, and East Commerce Street are littered with signs from nearly every race in the city, offering an ideal chance for visual comparison.

In the spirit of the election season, a group of San Antonio graphic designers agreed to critique some of the most eye-catching signs and weigh in on their varied graphic styles.

Spoiler alert: If designers had their say, Bert Cecconi, a retired dentist who has run numerous times unsuccessfully for City Council, would be San Antonio’s new mayor!

The main trends the designers spotted are boldness in color choices, evolving away from the usual, staid traditions.

“For so long it’s been white letters on navy blue background and a star element,” said freelance designer Robert Gonzales. “Still, locally both Democrats and Republicans are too scared to think outside the box and are way too stylistically conservative and politically conservative for my leanings, but I think that’s beginning to change.”

Below are eight designers’ takes on an assortment of campaign posters and signs:

Ron Nirenberg for mayor

The campaign poster for Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
Campaign signage for Mayor Ron Nirenberg Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Ron stands out because of the symbol that he used, but I don’t know if it’s standing out in the right way. They do a nice job focusing on just the “RON” name, minus the Tower – there’s something funky going on with that sort of connection there. I can appreciate that someone took a risk, but they might not have thought that one through.  – Doris Palmeros, assistant professor teaching graphic design at University of the Incarnate Word

The standard local icons are tired, and should be retired from local campaign posters. We don’t need to see another tower, or Alamo, to tell us what city he wants to run. We know it’s for San Antonio, so it serves no communicative purpose. Unless his message is that downtown is his main priority, then I guess it works. – Rolando Murillo, design principal at H-E-B

Greg Brockhouse for mayor

Campaign signage for Greg Brockhouse
Campaign signage for Greg Brockhouse Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Not bad, but seems like it was picked from a stock book of pre-formatted logos. I’d guess that somewhere a congressman from Michigan or a mayoral candidate from Dayton has this same logo. – Gonzales

He runs a marketing group, so it’s understandable that he’d have a more professional look. It’s really nice, but it’s very conventional and very traditional, a little bit more conservative, but maybe that’s what he’s going for, which could be a good thing. – Palmeros

Bert Cecconi for mayor

The campaign poster for Bert Cecconi.
Campaign signage for Bert Cecconi Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Something about the naïveté of this campaign actually appeals to me as a designer. Everything is so absolutely wrong, that it ends up standing out in a sea of sameness. – Jamie Stolarksi, logo and brand identity designer 

OK, this one stayed with me after I first saw it. It was weeks ago and I had to take a snapshot to share. … The way the type is “designed” is the opposite of what any visual communication designer should do. It’s hard to read. … If the designer’s intent was to get me to stop pumping gas in my truck just so I can walk over and spend time [deciphering] the message, to take a photo to share it, then the designer deserves the top award for brilliance in the discipline. – Murillo

Other designers might dislike it for it being unconventional but I think it has character. The sizing and solid drop shadow on “Cecconi For Mayor” takes me back to fifth grade when I was trying to jazz up the title of my book report with WordArt. … The red heart and yellow rose are the best part of this sign. I’ve seen something similar tattooed on the neck of a woman in line at my credit union. I like to think he got the idea from her. – Isabel Ann Castro, a Southside visual artist, art director, and co-founder of Latina/x feminist magazine St. Sucia

Cecconi seems to be very popular in the design world only due to some good ol’ design rule-breaking. Use of multiple fonts, layout, and an illustration of a friendly San Antonio rose. Kinda sparks memory of ’90s San Antonio vibes. – Ana Garcia, designer and illustrator for Texas organizations and nationally touring bands and musicians

Matt Piña for mayor

Campaign signage for Matt Piña.
Campaign signage for Matt Piña Credit: Courtesy / Campaign

This logo says Latino, but without any of the design clichés. It gives me the impression he might have new ideas. — Gonzales

I noticed … he used the Mexican flag colors, instead of the traditional red, white, or blues. – Garcia

I was disappointed to see that there was no pineapple (or hand grenade) imagery in the poster. “Piña” means pineapple (or hand grenade) in Spanish. I’m sure he gets that all the time. Neither would make any sense to Mr. Matt Piña’s position, I assume, but these images would have given this design more interest. The conservative color scheme gives this poster a militaristic stars and stripes feel, so maybe a hand grenade isn’t a bad idea. – Murillo

Roberto Treviño for City Council District 1

The campaign poster for Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1).
Campaign signage for Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

They took another risk using an illustration instead of a photograph. The illustration is for a younger audience, probably. I don’t think it’s hurting him. The color scheme is nice, it really stands out. Again, you have all these posters and billboards everywhere that are all wanting to get your attention. You have to be unique and take some risks so that you stand out. – Palmeros

The Treviño caricature is fun, friendly, and memorable, the [tilde] and re-elect in gold pops with relevance, and the skyline – sans the Tower with just trees and houses – emphasizes his focus on neighborhoods. –H. Michael Karshis, a freelance designer with a client list including USAA, Rackspace, and Blue Star Contemporary

Justin Holley for City Council District 1

The campaign poster for Justin Holley.
Campaign signage for Justin Holley. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

They did quite a bit of design, with the papel picado motif. Personally for me, it’s just overkill.  Some people might like it, but then maybe I’m not the audience. – Palmeros

Shirley Gonzales for City Council District 5

Campaign signage for Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) Credit: Courtesy / Campaign

They are going very simple, [and] the pop of pink color helps her stand out. In recent years, colors are changing from the red, white, and blue convention. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did it with yellow and purple. All the campaigns are coming out with a variety of colors. That’s a more purposeful risk to take, and then apply it with simple typography. – Palmeros 

Melissa Cabello Havrda for City Council District 6

Campaign signage for Melissa Cabello Havrda Credit: Courtesy / Campaign

Cabello Havrda’s emphasis on “SA” with the star at the end of Melissa is genius and the color scheme is sophisticated without being pretentious. – Karshis

Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe for City Council District 8

Campaign signage for Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe.
Campaign signage for Frankie Gonzales-Wolfe Credit: Courtesy / Campaign

Frankie has the most colorful of the posters I’ve seen. … There’s a lot of her personality in the branding due to the colors chosen and type choices. The “Frankie” is very catchy, but all the attention is on the image of her, and that could be the purpose, but everything else gets lost. … Having your personality in your brand is good, but it’s crucial to remain in the field in you’re playing in and not go too far, especially in politics. – Rae Cabello, senior user interface/user experience designer for H-E-B

John Courage for City Council District 9

Campaign signage for Councilman John Courage (D9)
Campaign signage for Councilman John Courage (D9) Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The “your neighbor” is friendly enough, but the rest reads as a nod to early Soviet-era design. After reading his bio, there might be a disconnect between the branding and the candidate. – Gonzales

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...