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Design for Democracy

Ballot and Election Design

In November 2000, when the now-infamous "butterfly ballot" confused crucial Florida voters during a hotly contested presidential race, the importance of well-designed ballots to a functioning democracy caught the nation’s attention. Recognizing that our entire voting process—from registering to vote to following instructions at the polling place—can be almost as confusing as the Florida ballot, Design for Democracy builds on the lessons of 2000 by presenting innovative steps for redesigning elections in the service of citizens.

Handsomely designed itself, this volume showcases adaptable design models that can improve almost every part of the election process by maximizing the clarity and usability of ballots, registration forms, posters and signs, informational brochures and guides, and even administrative materials for poll workers. Design for Democracy also lays out specific guidelines—covering issues of color palette, typography, and image use—that anchor the comprehensive election design system devised by the group of design specialists from whose name the book takes its title. Part of a major AIGA strategic program, this group’s prototypes and recommendations have already been used successfully in major Illinois and Oregon elections and, collected here, are likely to spread across the country as more people become aware of the myriad benefits and broad applicability of improved election design.

An essential tool for designers and election officials, lawmakers and citizens, Design for Democracy harnesses the power of design to increase voter confidence, promote government transparency, and, perhaps most important, create an informed electorate.

192 pages | 144 color and halftone illustrations | 12 x 9 1/4 | © 2007


Political Science: Political Behavior and Public Opinion


"An elegant examination of how to improve the utility of our nation’s varied—and, in some cases, shockingly bad—voter materials. . . . A refreshing use of aesthetics for a common good, and a probable classic for the bookshelves of the visually inclined."

Rolf Ebeling | Newsweek

"Lausen argues in Design for Democracy that election redesign is about ensuring that the full range of printed and visual materials with which citizens interact communicates effectively. The project is motivated by a belief that increased efficiency and transparency will improve confidence levels and increase trust between citizens and their government, thus invigorating democracy."

Ryan Bigge | Toronto Star

"An invaluable guide for voter advocates."

Bill Breen | Fast Company

"If graphic designer Marcia Lausen had started revamping ballots just a few years earlier, George W. Bush might not be our President. . . . Any town, city or state can refer to Design for Democracy for sound advice on how to ensure no chad is left behind."

Lauren Weinberg | Time Out Chicago

"The thinky gift book for a political wonk."

Philadelphia Inquirer

“A notable and noble achievement, applying the craft of graphic design in the service of the public interest.”

Edward Tufte, author of Beautiful Evidence

“Design is all too often concerned with an audience of consumers, but Design for Democracy fully recognizes its audience as citizens. A thoughtful demonstration of how the practice of design can productively engage the public, this book is urgently necessary.”

Geoff Kaplan, designer, General Working Group

"Good information design is rooted in sticking to simple rules. Obvious though many of these rules may seem, the U.S. electoral debacle of 2000 illustrates the peril of ignoring them, while Lausen’s book shows how effective they can be."

Alice Rawsthorn | International Herald Tribune

"The content of this book is incredibly useful, accessible, and understandable. Lausen does a beautiful job of dissecting the designs of ballots, voter information pamphlets, signs and posters, brochures, and so on for those of us who are not trained designers, explaining why the designs are bad and showing improved designs with evidence that they work. This is utilitarian, industrial design at its best."

Dana E. Chisnell | Technical Communication

"This project is an excellent example of the way designers are able to take urgent problems and help transform them into objects that people can use in their everyday lives, helping to make complex information more understandable and visualizing new thinking that can have an enormous impact on the world."

Zoe Ryan | Chicago Tribune

Table of Contents

1 ballott design

ballot design
information design
ballot design case study
ballot design principles
ballot design examples

2 design + the voting experience

the voting experience
getting information

3 design + election administration

election administration
behind the scenes
pollworker support
document management
provisional voting

4 election design system

vote! logo
hava graphics
color palette
symbols + icons

the design team
photography credits


Industrial Designers Society of America: International Design Excellence Award

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