Loose Lips

The Signspotter: Jeff Smith

Signspotter: Jeff Smith

Candidate: Ward 1 D.C. Council challenger Jeff Smith

Colors: Two tones of green—a hunter and a teal, we'll say—and white type

Graphic elements: The candidate's head shot and a green star

Slogan: No real slogan

Spotted: 700 block of Quebec Place NW

The SignspotterSignspotter says: How does a black candidate whose primary tool voter for contact could end up being lawn signs let the electorate of a majority-black city know that he is black, especially if his name is not Kwame but Jeff? Education advocate Jeff Smith goes with a head shot—posed with hesitant half-smile, leaning in slightly towards the camera—that can make his sign look like just one more real-estate agent's staking a front-yard presence. None of the folks from Weichert, however, would feel they need that big star in the upper-right corner, or a summary of the sign's other elements (his name again, the number of his ward, and that inexplicable star) in the form of a badge in the bottom-left. But along with a serif type and two-tone green, they set the right mood for a challenger in this environment: this feels nothing like political communication.

"It steers away from more established political colors," cheers Michael Bronstein, a Pennsylvania-based direct-mail consultant. "A dark green gives a sense of the candidate being a fresh choice." Smith reaffirms that with a website that doubles as a slogan: a name-free URL suggesting that the fellow with the suit and tie and business aesthetic is no establishmentarian but "some type of grassroots or community activist," Bronstein muses. "'SpeakUpWardOne.com' is not the typical battle cry of a 30-year incumbent."

Photo by Darrow Montgomery