Gather 'Round Designers*

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic


McCain Merch! Obama Gear! hide caption

toggle caption

If you're looking for some summer gear — t-shirts, water bottles, polo shirts, the like — you can accomplish of two birds with a single dollar. Campaign merchandise allows you to promote your candidate, while keeping hydrated at the same time. The question is, which candidate is winning the design war? Steven Heller is co-chairman of the MFA Design program at the School of Visual Arts — and he's been blogging about the ups and downs of campaign design (read his great post on typefaces) — he'll review what's out there so far, today at the Newseum.

*Don't you miss Tim Gunn?



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

i have obama's first family button
i think it's really cute

Sent by lynnette | 2:44 PM | 6-11-2008

The most interesting piece of political memorabilia I ever saw was a pin that a former coworker of mine had from one of Nixon's runs for President. It's not so much that it was visually interesting or compelling but that it had the "union bug" beneath his logo. When was the last time a Republican ran an ad with union printing?

Sent by Jimmy Courtice | 2:46 PM | 6-11-2008

I own a Governor Jessie Ventura action doll (Gov. Ventura doll dressed in a suit). The best feature of the doll is that it does not say anything.!!!

ken - minneapolis

Sent by ken sopcinski | 2:48 PM | 6-11-2008

My favorite things was the neclace that had a peanut with a huge toothy smile painted on it - for Jimmy Carter.

Sent by Colleen Fellows | 2:48 PM | 6-11-2008

Hi, I work for a stationery and gift store in Chicago called All She Wrote. We had some shatter-proof plastic stadium cups printed with "Obama", "Hillary" and "McCain" and tied up with pretty ribbon. We held a "Plastic Cup Primary" - the winner would be the one with the highest sales. Well, Obama's cups outsold McCain's 3 to 1, and outsold Hillary's 4 to 1. We can't keep Obama's cups in stock (and even two months ago, we couldn't event give Hillary's away!). We think this means that Obama will win big (but then we're in Chicago, so maybe we're biased.)

Sent by Liz | 2:49 PM | 6-11-2008

As a designer, I think that the Obama graphics are really striking and very different from the run of the mill campaign identity.

My favorite piece of memorabilia is one I inherited from my grandfather. It's a Stevenson pewter lapel pin that is a little shoe sole with a hole worn in it.

Sent by Eric Schneider | 2:52 PM | 6-11-2008

I have two unusual campaign items from long ago...Campaign thimbles: each has blue band around the base. One
"Coolidge Dawes" embossed around the edge. My favorite of the two says "Home Happiness Hoover." These were passed down in my family in sewing baskets, obvious appeals to women voters.

Sent by Helen | 2:52 PM | 6-11-2008

This isn't a button, but I recently purchased 3 Hillary nut crackers! Excellent likeness to her & she's dressed in a smart blue suit with pearl necklace. Just place a nut between her legs a squeeze!

Sent by Sharon Owen | 2:52 PM | 6-11-2008

Remember Bill Clinton playing the sax? I had a button with him playing the sax and the words "Blow, Bill, Blow!"

Oh, my... if only they'd known!

Sent by Laura | 2:52 PM | 6-11-2008

The Shepard Farley Obama poster is my favorite merchandise thus far. It's interesting to see an artist who started out in propaganda-themed graffiti and street art supporting an actual campaign, as opposed to Andre the Giant's posse.

Sent by Brian Ryder | 2:53 PM | 6-11-2008

The absolute two worst campaign merchandise things I have seen this year is the Hillary nutcracker and the t-shirt done by an obvious Obama supporter that has pics of Obama and Hillary and says "Bros vs. Hoes."

And Obama wonders why women of a certain age question supporting him. I was at an Obama rally and several people were wearing this shirt.

Sent by Lesley | 2:54 PM | 6-11-2008

I hope I don't run out of time. During one of Jimmy Carter's runs, Howard Metzenbaum ran for the Senate here in Ohio. He put out pins that read "Grits, Fritz & Metz"!

Sent by Joe Metz | 2:54 PM | 6-11-2008

I have a little Michael Dukakis where you could squeeze his back to open his arm so he coul hang onto your pen or lapel like a little koala bear.

Sent by Laura | 2:56 PM | 6-11-2008

The night Nixon was to announce his resignation on television, my mother and I, both dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, planned a lovely meal complete with champagne to celebrate in front of the television. Then, to our chagrin, a very good friend of mine (we were 20 at the time), an equally dyed-in-the-wool Republican called, weeping, to ask if she could come over to watch as her family was out of town and she needed solace. Well, friendship won out over politics, we put the champagne away, and let her mourn. Thirty years later for my 50th birthday, she sent me a Nixon button that when tilted one way says "Nixon" and the other shows his smiling face. The note attached said that, sadly, she had found it when she was going through her recently deceased mother's house, but it had provided a moment of laughter when she shared with her sister her plan for it. Perhaps in another thirty years I'll cash it in and we can go out to dinner on Mr. Nixon.

Sent by Jamie Dales Cure | 3:06 PM | 6-11-2008

Pit bulls for Obama buttons !!

Sent by Myra Cabal | 3:25 PM | 6-11-2008

A friend called me after hearing this story about campaign design and designed merchandise...offered by the campaigns and elsewhere. I am from Minneapolis and I design jewelry. You can see the necklace I made that is inspired by the brilliant OBAMA logo here:

Sent by tia keobounpheng/silvercocoon | 3:26 PM | 6-11-2008

McCain's golf bag drew massive numbers of hilarious "buyers comments". Daily Kos captured them here, before McCain took it down.

Sent by Joe | 4:54 PM | 6-11-2008

Last July I was in Myrtle Beach and at one of the gas stations there they had lighters for all of the candidates. I bought an Obama one.

Sent by Amy Russell | 7:03 PM | 6-12-2008

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from