Thanks to the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, Whitney Quesenbery and I have reached sufficient potential energy to form the Center for Civic Design.
We have long believed that democracy is a design problem that can be addressed through applied research and by giving design literacy to election officials at all levels. We want to make every citizen’s interactions with government effective and enjoyable. This means giving government officials access to useful, researched guidelines for communicating with citizens.
We’ve each been working on projects related to usability and accessibility in voting and elections since about 2001 – often on different, parallel paths.
A lot of that work has been pro bono: the Usability in Civic Life Project (originally the UXPA Usability in Voting Project), Federal Advisory Committees, IEEE standards, collaborations on usability tests with the Brennan Center for Justice, advising AIGA’s Design for Democracy Project. Some of the work has been funded, such as applied research on instructions on ballots, procedures for poll workers, accessibility for voters with low literacy, and testing voting system certification tests. Over the years, we’ve made slow, steady, incremental progress.
We’ve often had to fit our civic design work in between other, commercial projects. These new grants mean we’ll be able to work on civic design nearly full time for at least the next couple of years. We’re excited about this and about continuing work with our main collaborators, Drew Davies (head of AIGA’s Design for Democracy Project and owner of Oxide Design Co.) and Doug Chapin (head of Election Academy at the Humphrey School for Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota).
The Center will take over production of the Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent and will be the heart of projects looking at a range of topics, from the usability of electronic poll books, to multi-language ballots, to traffic patterns in polling places.