What These Kansas Abortion Amendment Court Signs Really Say


Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Eric Thomas directs the Kansas Scholastic Press Association and teaches visual journalism and photojournalism at the University of Kansas.

Kansas neighborhoods have been flaunting new landscaping in the form of political signs as they prepare for the Aug. 2 vote on whether the state constitution protects the right to abortion.

As next-door neighbors announce their conflicting worldviews, it’s easy to use the number of street signs on either side as an indicator of the vote to come. In our opinion, whoever has the most signs is the most likely to win. Some Kansans might be tempted to count road signs.

Or maybe you use the signs to understand your neighbors’ politics so you don’t say the wrong thing at the next Little League game. (You can alternatively know exactly who you want to face on that same ballpark.)

Me? I’m obsessed with the design of these posters and what these decisions say about the groups that made them.

As a lifelong visual communicator, I like to pause and watch the visual choices made by any brand: Juul or LEGO or the GOP. I teach my students to critique designs, photos and videos for the visual messages they send – conscious or not.

After taking my visual storytelling course, a student said to me, “I can’t appreciate anything anymore. I constantly criticize the things I see. If she’s still curious, this summer’s yard signs asking to vote “yes” or “no” should give her plenty to analyze.

Here is my breakdown of the visual choices each group made when designing their garden signs.

(Eric Thomas/Kansas Reflector)

“VOTE YES!

This sign has been the most common during my travels in Kansas, partly because it’s about the only “yes” sign I’ve seen. This type of unified messaging is a hallmark of contemporary conservatism. A bold voice leads an unwavering choir.

The sign itself is effective in several ways. First, he speaks visually and verbally. The choice of purple is sly: it nods to both femininity and royalty. Purple also works as a midpoint between conservative red and liberal blue, positioning the pro-life stance as centrist.

The illustration on the left of the poster creates a symbol with three literal meanings. The silhouette of a mother and baby – hands holding each other – is the most obvious. The two figures combine to create the outline of a heart, though completing the heart shape involves decapitating the mother, a dark prospect. The other weird twist to the illustration? The negative space between mother and baby creates the shape of a hammer.

The wording of the poster takes advantage of one of the greatest advantages offered to those hoping to pass the amendment. Because voters will select “yes” on the ballot, the campaign poster can be positive in their language. Add the exclamation point to the all caps “YES” and you get a message of enthusiasm. (Imagine the reprimanding tone of an exclamation mark combined with “NO” on the opposite side.)

The conciseness of the poster is also admirable. It only takes 12 syllables to read the sign aloud. This careful word choice makes individual words huge for in-car reading.

(Eric Thomas/Kansas Reflector)

“STOP THE BAN”

If the poster for “Value Them Both” is able to use positive language, this poster slips into the dreaded land of the double negative. Readers may need a moment to relate the slogan to the perspective it advocates. This rhetorical position hampers persuasion.

Reading the last line of the panel – “on the constitutional amendment” – seems almost impossible from the seat of a passing car. The feeling – that a constitutional right is in jeopardy – has resonance. But can a sign carry this message?

The colors are interesting as an allusion to Kansas, especially the colors of KU without the crimson. Of course, the campaign sign for a liberal cause could cleverly omit the red.

The centerpiece of the design is a sharply angled sans serif font that sets a decisive tone. With its precise circular O’s and sharp edges towards the V’s and N’s, the font mixes contemporary curves that speak of femininity while displaying definitive angles.

(Eric Thomas/Kansas Reflector)

“ENHANCE YOUR CHOICE”

This poster is the toughest rival to the purple “VOTE YES!” yard sign. The gradient illustration – fading from blue to pink to red – shows the profile of a woman pointing to the right. This specific direction speaks of the value of moving forward (left to right) and political consensus (from the left side of the aisle to the right).

Floating hair also refers to a woman in motion. Of course, this reference to an active woman speaks to American values ​​of freedom and progress.

“Valuing Your Choice” is more upbeat and energizing than “Stop the Ban.” Of course, politicians have always managed to cultivate fear (like the worry of a ban) as a driving force. However, the pro-choice as a political perspective could use the positivity of this poster after years of being labeled as “baby killers” and “murderers.”

As for a concise message, this poster is brief. Its bold font is instantly readable, while emphasizing voter education to vote “NO”.

My apologies to the designers responsible for these panels, but it’s hard to imagine that any of the micro-decisions I’ve applauded or criticized here will make a difference in the vote count that will define reproductive rights in Kansas.

Nonetheless, how we express our political messages – whether visually or verbally – matters. Signs like these help define our political arguments and reflect our political values.

The choices between sans serif and serif will not determine our fate as a state. But seeing how different parties use these tools reveals how creative and disciplined they have been during this vital campaign.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own review, here.

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