A hardback book and a PDF for Britain

Labour and the Conservatives have just unveiled their manifestos. The design of the documents tells us much about the image they each want to project in the run up to the UK general election

Covers of the 2010 manifestos for the Conservatives and Labour

Labour and the Conservatives have just unveiled their manifestos. The design of the documents tells us much about the image they each want to project in the run up to the UK general election…

In terms of formats, Labour’s manifesto is at present only available from their website as a 78-page PDF; while the Tories’ was initially presented as a hardback book of over 100 pages (available for £5) and also, from this morning, as a PDF (in viewer, below).

The Conservative Party manifesto in the PDF viewer

Labour’s coverline, “A future fair for all”, has an easy, homespun simplicity to it, while the Conservative’s “Invitation to join the government of Britain” seems ever-so-slightly arch, a presupposition that this document will outline the path of the next Parliament. The line does hint at inclusivity, too, which is the main theme explored in an accompanying film, featuring Dave and three regular, hard-working British folks, up at conservatives.com.

Aesthetically, the manifestos could not be more different. The Conservative manifesto was designed by London’s Perfect Day, who also created the illustrated poster campaign for the party. The Tories return to a darker blue hue, which feels defiantly more serious and weighty than the light blue and green wash applied to their current arboreal identity. While a hardback seemed to have been a strangely inflexible choice for an election document in the digital world, the PDF version takes the look of the book format online. 

Conversely, the cover of Labour’s manifesto recalls, on the one hand, the new dawn motif of socialist-realist propaganda, and on the other, the Come to the Suburbs London Transport posters of the 1930s and 40s. (In his cartoon in today’s Guardian, Steve Bell implies that the green and pleasant land does perhaps appear to be at the mercy of a large explosion, however).

Inside – yes, we have looked through the whole thing – Labour’s document contains little imagery other than some fairly straight-looking divider pages that echo the sunburst image used on the cover:

Illustrations from the Labour Party manifesto

The Conservative manifesto, however, has full page typographic illustrations throughout by Perfect Day (two shown, below) that belie the sobriety of the cover:

Illustrations from the Conservative Party manifesto

Interestingly, Saatchi & Saatchi worked with Ridley Scott Associates (RSA) on the design of Labour’s manifesto and also on an accompanying 120-second animation that details the main themes in the document (see below) and how they will potentially affect the British family. The illustrations used in the cartoon have a certain charm about them, which is lacking from the illustrations in the manifesto document, and are clearly designed to encourage viewers to email the film on.

The web, of course, now plays a vital role in the political campaigns that surround an election. What’s interesting here though, is how both Labour and the Conservatives are venturing into digital territory whilst remaining traditionalist with the look and feel of their manifestos. Labour’s cover is an almost nostalgic paen to some verdant land we can all presumably return to; the Tories’ is simply and straightforwardly a very serious looking, cloth-bound book.

As both parties are keen to point out: you be the judge.

UPDATE: The Lib Dems manifesto can be seen here. It’s also available as an iPhone app.

Saatchi & Saatchi/RSA’s animation supporting the Labour manifesto

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