Graphic designers give their verdict on the general election leaflets sent to Sheffield voters

Colourful, confusing or just plain dull? Graphic designers give their verdict on the general election leaflets sent out to Sheffield voters this year.

Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 6:00 pm
Updated Friday, 6th December 2019, 12:57 pm

Most voters have been awash with general election bumf recently - there’s traditional election addresses, “while you were out” leaflets, personalised letters, fake newspapers and cards in an array of colours, styles and texts.

We asked three graphic designers to give their expert opinions on whether they would read them - or put them straight in the recycling bin. Vix Southgate, the owner of Vixen UK, was with Skratch Design’s managing director Alistair Farrant and creative director Andy Fanthorpe.


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Graphic designers (l-r) Vix Southgate, Alistair Farrant and Andy Fanthorpe

There was just the one leaflet to discuss which said “A message from…” and the candidate’s name. It received a mixed reaction.

Vix said: “There is very little information and a lot of space, if it was on the doormat it would make me bend down to pick it up and see what the message was.

“It’s easy to read with good sized text and digestible chunks so I don’t have to read the whole thing. For a political leaflet it’s not too bad.”

Alistair disgreed. “Direct mail lands on the doorstep and can be among three or four other leaflets and catalogues so for me, it needs to be something that instantly grabs you. I’m interested in this but it doesn’t make me want to open it. It needs to be more attention grabbing.

“If you got it and couldn’t be bothered to read it, all the key messages are in the headlines and it gets across the key policies. Even if you throw it on the side, at least you may take in some of the key messages.

Andy added: “It’s clear it’s from the Conservatives but there is quite a lot of information and I’m not sure I would read it all.”


A card showing a train which criticised the Tories and featured newspaper headlines caught the panel’s attention.

“I prefer the card as the design is on the front with key policies,” said Andy. “Pictures of candidates don’t say a great deal to me. This is straight to the point and stuff you really want to take note of. It would make me pick it up and read it but I don’t want to see them bad mouthing the other parties.”

Vix agreed: “I instantly know it’s Labour but I prefer parties who don’t slam each other.”

Alistair was impressed with the straight forward style: “The instant messaging is very strong and the newspaper cuttings is a way of stating fact.”

Green Party

The panel aren’t fans of candidate photos and found a photo of a Green MP from outside Sheffield puzzling.

Andy said: “I quite like the look of the leaflets but I don’t see that it makes a difference what the candidate looks like. The leaflets look slightly more professional but it’s less obvious they are from a political party.”

Alistair agreed: “Is Sheffield Greens the name of a newsletter? I don’t even see the Green Party on it, it could be from a local leisure centre.”

Vix also picked up on the photos: “I don’t like candidate photos, it’s not

“There’s also a big photo of an MP which is a bit pointless and needs more explanation.”

All three were critical of one leaflet which had text running up, down and all around. Alistair commented: “It’s really poor that you have to keep turning it around. Trifold is a good format for a leaflet but this seems to have been printed upside down.”

Liberal Democrats

This party had by far the most leaflets with the biggest variety - everything from fake newspapers to personalised letters.

A black and white card about education got a mixed reaction. Vix said: “It atrocious, really bad. You don’t get the info you really want, they have wasted a whole card just about schools.”

But Alistair said he didn’t mind it. “If they are planning on sending out a lot of information I actually think it’s quite a good thing to break that down. You can slowly take the information rather than having a massive newsletter or chucking everything into one leaflet. The design isn’t brilliant.”

Andy agreed: “From a design point of view it’s not engaging and would go straight in the recycling bin.”

Another leaflet with a jumble of words, logos, headlines in orange boxes and grey watermarks left the panel unimpressed. Alistair said: “People who are visually impaired wouldn’t even be able to read it. It’s terrible.”

Top tips from the panel are:

- Keep leaflets simple

- Think carefully about photos

- Don’t attack the other parties

- Get your key messages over