Three of Philly's mayoral contenders are leaning into orange

With months to go before the primary, one of the breakout stars of Philadelphia’s 2023 mayoral race is already starting to emerge: the color orange.

The unconventional hue features prominently in three different campaigns — those of former councilmembers Cherelle Parker and Allan Domb and of supermarket owner Jeff Brown. That’s pretty much a third of the candidates in the race.

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Why the eye-catching choice? Parker and Domb both said it’s a color they’ve been drawn to before.

“Allan has used orange in his campaigns for years,” a Domb campaign spokesperson told Billy Penn, pointing to an example from a past City Council race. Why was it chosen then? The spokesperson didn’t get back to Billy Penn on the initial reasoning.

Parker’s campaign was more definitive. “Orange is Cherelle’s color,” said spokesperson Aren Platt.

She wore orange to her birthday party in September, Platt pointed out. She’s wearing orange in the most prominent photo on her campaign website, and Parker dons at least six different orange outfits in various Instagram posts.

Cherelle Parker at her 50th birthday party earlier this year, where orange was everywhere Credit: Cherelle Parker for Mayor

Brown’s campaign did not respond to questions about logo colors at all.

Orange logos aren’t a very popular choice for political campaigns. It was the least commonly used color for congressional campaigns during the 2018 midterms, per data compiled by the New York-based Center for American Politics and Design.

Adobe, the software company behind Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, touts orange as a color of “passion” and “positivity” — but advises graphic designers to be cautious using it, since too much can seem self-aggrandizing, and the wrong shade can “elicit feelings of deceit or hopelessness.”

While orange isn’t typically popular among campaigns, it does have a clear political meaning, said Adam Garber, executive director of CeaseFirePA.

Orange is the signature color of the gun safety movement, Garber said. A three-day, nationwide anti-violence event held every June is even titled “Wear Orange.”

When Garber noticed the prominence of orange in Philly mayoral candidates’ branding, he thought they might be “sending [a] signal … that gun violence and public safety was at the top of their priority list.”

While that doesn’t appear to be the reason for the candidates’ color choices, mayoral contenders across the board have been focusing on the city’s shooting epidemic, and some have made public safety a major pillar of their platforms. While big city shootings are trending sharply down from pandemic peaks across the U.S., that’s not the case in Philadelphia.

Blue was the most common campaign color by far in the 2018 study, followed by red, which Republicans tended to use more than Democrats did. Despite some breaks from traditional red, white, and blue schemes, the patterns were pretty similar in 2022.

It seems blue is winning out among Philly’s mayoral candidates too, with four using it as a dominant color in their logos. In some cases, yellow is added as an accent color, forming a palette that’s reminiscent of both Philadelphia’s and Pennsylvania’s flags.

Derek Green, another former councilmember, is marketing his campaign using — you guessed it — green. State Rep. Amen Brown apparently decided not to match the branding to his name, instead opting for black and white materials.

Ultimately, the look of the campaign is a lot less important than a demonstrated commitment to fixing the problem, noted Garber of CeaseFirePA.

“What we want is not someone who uses the right color,” Garber said, “but someone who has real solutions … that are going to save lives in the city.”

Asha Prihar is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She has previously written for several daily newspapers across the Midwest, and she covered Pennsylvania state government and politics for The...