Jon Akkari for Dearborn City Council

Posted on 04/27/2021

Along with all of the other great work the good people at The Guerrilla Politic are doing, I had the opportunity recently to help a local candidate with some graphic design work. Like a lot of people, I’ve been getting more involved in politics and civic life over the last few years. For me, that means using my skills as a designer, writer, and marketer to help progressive groups and candidates in my area.

One of those candidates is Jon Akkari, who’s running for Dearborn City Council. Dearborn is an important city in Michigan for a lot of reasons—it’s the home of Ford Motor Company and has the largest Muslim population in the United States, among others. But it’s not without its problems.

Jon has a lot of work ahead of him and wants to get Dearborn working for its residents by pushing for more comprehensive and transparent public safety services, investing in more affordable housing, and seeking environmental justice by taking action against corporate polluters and investing in green initiatives around the city.

Since Jon’s campaign is themed around the concept of work, he wanted a logo that brought to mind hard working organizations from the past. One built on Dearborn’s history of industry. From the mood board:

Dearborn was built on hard work. It’s the city of Henry Ford and home to much of his workforce. It’s a city of immigrants who have worked to build new lives in America. It’s the city enshrined in Diego Rivera’s famous murals. But it’s a city that needs someone to work equally as hard for its citizens—to rebuild the mechanics of government and public services. This direction focuses on hard work and industry. Solid, stable graphics and language that gets straight to the point and focuses on getting things done, no matter how hard.

He also wanted to incorporate a non-traditional color palette, something you don’t see often in politics: Purple and yellow. Combining the two requests, I came up with an emblem that feels like a modernized sign you might see on one of the factories scattered around the city, or pressed into the metal grill of one of the old train engines you see at The Henry Ford Museum.

The logo for the Jon Akkari campaign

Purple and yellow are tricky to work with (unless you’re the LA Lakers). To prevent things from getting garish, I balanced out the brightness of the main purple and yellow with a dark plum color to act as the base for print and web designs.

Logo variations for the Jon Akkari campaign

For his website, we used Squarespace, which I’m convinced is the perfect platform for most candidates and smaller organizations at this point. It allows designers like me to put something together that looks and works well quickly that the client can update moving forward with minimal training. It also has a bunch of features built in that other platforms require plugins or custom code to get working.

A section of Jon Akkari's campaign website

My favorite work for Jon, though, was his initial walk lit—the postcard-sized print pieces that are the foundation of every campaign. They’re what get passed out when knocking doors and at events and serve as an introduction to the candidate, where they stand on key issues, and a reminder of when and how to vote.

One side of a postcard showing Jon Akkari's key campaign issues and information on voting

Again, the bright color palette is balanced with the darker plum. And his star icon, which is used as the favicon on the website, is brought over as bullet points for his key issues.

As I mentioned, Dearborn has the largest Muslim population in the U.S. There are a lot of families that speak primarily Arabic, so it was important for Jon to help them understand his message by providing Arabic translations for key messaging.

This posed a bit of a challenge in English versions of Adobe InDesign, as copying and pasting right-to-left (RTL) languages doesn’t really work by default. After some investigating online, I found a workflow to make it easier by:

  1. Creating a new text frame in the document
  2. Going to Type > Fill with Placeholder Text
  3. Holding down ⌘ while pressing Fill Placeholder Text
  4. Selecting Arabic from the modal that pops up
  5. Selecting the placeholder text that is generated
  6. Then pasting in your actual copy

A lot of local political campaigns get by with stock photography, logos designed in Microsoft Word, and poorly built websites. But a little bit of good design can go a long way towards helping candidates get their messages across more clearly and rallying folks to their cause.

I’m glad I was able to help out someone working to create a more progressive and inclusive Dearborn. Learn more about Jon on his website.

Thoughts on this post? Email me and let me know.