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Ever wish your favorite childhood hero could be your real-life president?

In this exercise we quickly try to create a marketing campaign for our chosen fictional presidential candidate! Then we make our pitch.

This exercise takes about 20-30mins.

I found these wonderful illustrations of beloved cartoon characters and quotes that represent their message. I thought that this would be a great way to start off this exercise.

Then I created a doc. that asked some simple questions. Each designer was given a "campaign folder" that contained information about their character and this form of prompts. I asked them to really think about the message behind their character, and how it would translate to a political campaign.

This exercise is interesting because the focus is less on aesthetics and more about market messaging. How can we frame parts of our character in a way that will resonate with people?

Story-telling and communicating with your audience is a fundamental design skill. This is a fun way to practice it!

I should note that if you are doing this in a group there is no reason to let politics create a rift between you and your colleagues. In fact if you personalize this exercise you aren't doing it right. The whole point is to create a campaign for a character, not yourself. You do not necessarily need to agree with the values of your candidate. As is often the case for a designer, you need to get comfortable examining ideas that are not your own and figure out how to sell those ideas. If you understand how to do that it makes you better at standing up for your own opinions. Not unlike being a lawyer, as a designer you need to fully and completely understand the other side of an argument. So for an added challenge pick a character that contrasts with your political ideals!

Now back to the exercise...

Part of the challenge here was some of the characters were very simplistic, they're intended for children after all. So how can we add depth to them and make them "presidential"? All in the art of story-telling.

Take Cookie Monster for example:

How can we re-imagine this lovable, cookie fanatic? There's lot of directions one could go with it.

A corner-stone of this character is that he is a good friend. That's a popular term on the campaign trail! "A friend of the people" so to speak...So maybe his campaign is all about community and drives more of a socialist agenda. Cookies for all!

Or you could interpret cookie monster as being relatively self-serving, obsessed with his personal consumption of cookies! So maybe he is a staunch capitalist pushing a more libertarian agenda. The cookies he gets his hands on are the cookies he deserves, as is the case for all Americans!

The designer in this case chose to make cookie monster focused on the basic premise that he is an anti-scary monster, and very much pro-cookie. If elected free cookies for all, (and fruits/vegetables). So there was a nutrition-based agenda which was an interesting twist on the character.

Check out the other campaigns we created:

My campaign was Mr. SpongeBob SquarePants, he was such a great character! There are so many wonderful qualities about SpongeBob; fiercely positive, blue-collar work experience, and a vested interest in environmental protection. It was fun to imagine a story around his campaign...I thought about how as a resident of the sea he would fight for a progressive agenda to protect our oceans! And at the same time use the relationships he's built with fiscal conservatives, like Mr. Krabs, to reach across the aisle and find bipartisan solutions! But my favorite part was the campaign song, a rewrite of the infamous "F-U-N" song.

F-U-N for FOUR years!

F is for fundamental rights for everybody, U is for you and me...N is for aNyone, aNywhere at all can count on me!

Make the pitch!

I think this is a great exercise for learning how to create a message out of anything. No matter how simple your product is there is always something to be communicated. Use this as an opportunity to think about all angles of a marketing campaign, how could the pitch be tweaked to reach different audiences?

If you do this exercise in a group and take turns making pitches it's really good public speaking practice. Bring energy and convince your audience that your character deserves to be president. Sell the campaign.

Have fun with this and get comfortable. You'll be grateful for the practice when the opportunity comes along to sell your idea in real life !

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