IN THE WINTER OF 2018, I ran for City Council in the South End of Burlington, VT. 

Since moving to Burlington, I had become heavily involved with the Vermont Progressive Party — the third party formed in the wake of Bernie Sanders’ 1981 election as Mayor of Burlington.

In Burlington, the City Council is not split between Democrats and Republicans, but Democrats and Progressives. The Democrats tend to be more conservative, while the Progerssives are more left leaning.

As the City Council elections approached, and with no other candidates announced, I challenged the incumbent Democrat as a Progressive.

THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM IN POLITICS is that very few, if anyone, reads political literature and mailers. The idea is that you have a few seconds or less to make a quick impression on them. But almost all of it ends up in the trash, very quickly.

I always believed that if you could design lit that was really well done, clearly different than generic lit, you might be able to capture people’s attention enough to really communicate with them — more, at least, than a typical, cookie-cutter lit piece.

With this in mind, the first large piece I designed in this campaign was a piece we hung on every door in the district, combining a simple and elegant design asthetic with a poem on the front.

Looking back, maybe the poem was little silly. But I was experimenting with how to bring in more creativity.

THE MOST SIGNIFICANT EFFORT of the campaign was a 40-page booklet I wrote and designed. Each booklet was hand stamped with it’s title — “A New Way Forward” — and hand signed and numbered. I thought that signing and numbering something might make people stop and think before tossing it straight in the trash.

I wrote and rewrote it over the course of two months. I wanted to communicate to people the degree I was thinking about issues. I wanted people to know I wasn’t just listing off a bunch of policy priorities, and calling it a platform. I wanted to go in depth into why I knew this was the right path, and how it connected with my own life.

The booklet closed with another  poem I wrote, that, to me, embodied a vision of the world we were trying to create.

IN THE END, the incumbent beat me by a slim margin. But we got further than any Progressive had in decades up until that point.

And people continue to mention the booklet to me, and how much of an impact it had on them.