“Re-enfranchising voters through design”
Marcia Lausen’s new book Design for Democracy: Ballot + Election Design was recently featured in two articles this week. A review posted today on Newsweek‘s website and another yesterday on the Fast Company blog both focus on Lausen’s book as an attempt to ensure that 2007 is not a repeat of the irregularities created by the poorly designed ballots used in Florida in 2000. Causing mass confusion and sparking the infamous recount, as Newsweek‘s Rolf Ebeling notes, there is no better example to demonstrate the importance of well designed election materials. Ebeling writes:
Graphic designers encounter a fair amount of eye-rolling—some of it deserved—when they champion the necessity of their work outside their professional choir. Passionately defending color palettes, rattling off obscure rules of proper typography—these things often come off as superficial and fussy to the unconverted.… But, but, but … intelligent application of type, line and color does provide a service beyond visual appeal. It can clarify complexity. And I can prove it.
Look no further than the new book Design for Democracy: Ballot + Election Design, by Marcia Lausen, an elegant examination of how to improve the utility of our nation’s varied—and, in some cases, shockingly bad—voter materials. In reaction to the problems brought to national attention in the 2000 elections—when Americans learned all about the troubles with “butterfly ballots” and “hanging chads”—a group of designers led by Lausen (a professor of graphic design at the University of Illinois at Chicago) developed a comprehensive visual system for everything from voter registration pamphlets to instructions for setting up ballot-counting tables. The emphasis here is on a system: their work was not intended to set a national standard but to act as a guideline adaptable to the unique requirements of state and local elections. Working with election officials, they have, since 2000, already put some of their ideas to work in Illinois and Oregon elections.