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The history of the State of Union ticket design

State of the Union ticket gallery: 1970-2018

The design of the State of the Union ticket has gone through several evolutions through the years. Most recently a typo appeared on the 2018 State of the Union ticket. Oops!

Typo "State of the Uniom" on Donald Trump 2018 ticket

Ok, the typo is pretty bad, but many other questions loom.

  1. Why does the paper look like construction paper or something from Office Depot?
  2. What’s up with the poor design with the plethora of fonts? Also, the “9:00 P.M.” text runs right into the cheesy golden border.
  3. Two sides of the ticket are trimmed so close to the gold border. The local Kinkos in DC must have been really busy!

This is a ticket to one of our country’s biggest annual events, but instead it looks like a hall pass.

Who is responsible for managing the tickets?

The House of Representatives webpage for the State of the Union says, “Seating in the gallery is for ticket holders only and is coordinated by the Sergeant at Arms of the House.”

The Honorable Paul D. Irving is the Sergeant at Arms, sworn in January 17, 2012. Prior to this, Mr. Irving was an Assistant Director of the U.S. Secret Service from 2001 to 2008, serving as a Special Agent with the Secret Service for 25 years.
Honorable Paul D. Irving: Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. House of Representatives

Why do the tickets look so bad?

The typo may be on Paul Irving, but the design of the cards have always looked this bad since the redesign in 2007. Let’s take a look at how the State of the Union ticket changed over the years.

Gallery of 14 State of the Union tickets

1970 Richard Nixon — (via @StuPolitics on twitter)
1970 President Richard Nixon State of the Union Address

The earliest ticket I could find is from 1970, so we’ll start from there. This has to be the best ticket ever issued.

  1. Embossing
  2. Lightly-screened repeated-word background (gives an air of authenticity)
  3. Tear-off stub declares this is a ticket.
  4. Doorkeeper’s name.

Oddly missing is the President’s name, Richard Nixon. Other than that omission, can we please go back to this ticket design?

Update:
1971 Richard Nixon — (via eBay)
1971 President Richard Nixon State of the Union Address


1981 Ronald Reagan — (via eBay)
1981 President Ronald Reagan State of the Union Address to Congress Ticket

By 1981 the ticket became quite simplified. We see for the first time the rough construction paper used on the current ticket. The typography layout is actually pretty nice. I feel like I’m playing a board game from the 1950s with this card–I mean ticket.


1984 Ronald Reagan(via eBay)
1984 Ronald Reagan SOTU ticket


1988 Ronald Reagan — (via eBay)
1988 President Ronald Reagan State of the Union Address to Congress Ticket

By the end of Reagan’s two terms, the size of the text on the right becomes quite small. Not quite as graceful as the start of his first term in 1981.


1988 Ronald Reagan(via eBay)
1988 red ticket

I’m not sure why there are two different colors for the tickets, blue and red.


1990 George Bush(via eBay)
1990 President George Bush State of the Union Address to Congress Ticket

George Bush kept the ticket pretty much same as his predecessor.


1991 George Bush(via eBay)
1991 President George Bush State of the Union Address


1997 Bill Clinton(via senate.gov)
Ticket, Address to the Congress on the State of the Union, President William J. Clinton, 105th Congress

Bill Clinton didn’t make any changes either.


2006 George W. Bush(via senate.gov)
2006 George W Bush 11_00079_003

George W. Bush didn’t make any changes for a number of years.


2007 George W. Bush — (via senate.gov)

Then at the end of Bush’s second term, they decided to change the look of the ticket—probably in the name of “modernizing” it. For the first time since 1981, we have a redesign of the ticket.

The good:

  1. Hologram. This is the first time we see a hologram on the ticket! That’s nice! Makes it seem more certified.

The bad:

  1. Golden border. The attempt is nice to make it seem more regal–“put a gold border on it.” but the end result has a feeling of cheap office bling.
  2. The typography gets pretty jacked-up here.
    1. The House of Representatives logo is gone. Instead we got a generic small caps version with Baskerville.
    2. The nice “Admit Bearer to the House floor” bug is gone. Instead, a Baskerville is used to express this. (Thanks to commenter, Nana, for pointing this out)
    3. A different, weird, font is used for the Gallery, Row, and Seat. Baskerville might have helped to keep this consistent. Or if they wanted to set it apart, use a sans serif. Basic design stuff.
    4. The event name on the right has so many line breaks, it feels like an E. E. Cummings poem.
  3. The House seal butts right up against the gold border. It would be nice to give that seal a little more breathing room.
  4. They ran out of room for the Sergeant of Arms signature, so they threw it in sideways!

2008 George W. Bush  — (via senate.gov)
2008 George W Bush

They kept the same bad design from the year before. But this time, they removed the sideways signature of the Sergeant of Arms.


2014 Barack Obama — (via yorkblog.com)
2014 President Barack Obama


2015 Barack Obama(via Instagram user gabbilevy)
2015 Barack Obama State of the Union ticket


2016 Barack Obama(via Instagram user bestfrienddodd)
2016 Barack Obama: State of the Union ticket redesign

Near the end of Obama’s second term, they redesigned the ticket.

  1. New logo. They tried to go do a little redesigning with including a different logo for the House of Representatives. I’m not sure where they pulled this vintage Art Nouveau style logo, but at least it has more personality than the generic header they were using in previous years.
  2. The House seal is better positioned in the space.

The not-so-good:

  1. What’s going on with the Old English font for “115th Congress”? It’s a nice attempt to give more flair, but it introduces another font onto a ticket with many different fonts.
  2. We also see some of the odd trimming, similar to Trump’s 2018 ticket. The right-hand side gets trimmed short.
  3. The hologram is gone.

2018 Donald Trump (via everywhere online)
State of the Uniom Donald Trump ticket 2018
State of the Union typo as “State of the Uniom”. I’m really hoping that the muddled look of the paper is just a poor photograph.

Trivia about the State of the Union tickets

From 1802 to 1912, the State of the Union was sent as a document, so there were no tickets!

However, in 1913 Woodrow Wilson started the tradition of giving the address in person. I couldn’t find a State of the Union ticket for 1913, but here’s how the tickets looked for the House of Representative guests in 1913. (via house.gov)
1913 House of Representatives ticket

As of nearly 18 hours since the “Uniom” typo was discovered on the State of the Union tickets, nobody is selling their typo tickets on eBay.
eBay auctions for: "state of the uniom"

Comments are very welcome, please leave a Reply

6 comments on "The history of the State of Union ticket design"

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Nana
Guest

On Bush 2007, Gallery/Row/Seat is a different font, but the HoR, Admit Bearer, and Address to the Congress are all Baskerville, albeit different weights. Still crappy looking like the rest, but FYI on those fonts being the same one.

Joe K
Guest

The ticket for this year was printed on nice paper, with a shiny border. I have a high resolution photograph of a diplomatic ticket, and a ticket for the speaker of the house’s guest box if you would like them! Very very cool article!

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