Alice Rawsthorn Talks Voting with Design for Democracy


The other day, when we’d headed to our polling place (the first time, not the second time, after this writer realized he’d left his wallet there), we took our voting sheet thingie into the booth and looked it all over. Surprisingly, for several seconds there, we admit that we found it confusing. It’s not that the process of filling in a line between the arrow pointing to the person we wanted to vote for was, in and of itself, confusing. It was because the directions were muddled and confusing. Now this, of course, made us feel completely embarrassed, after all those years of comments of “Geez, who can’t figure out how to vote! Get some glasses, Granny!” (this is how we talk with our friends, an unruly band of neighborhood toughs). Well, Alice Rawsthorn over at the International Herald Tribune is chiming in with her latest column, “Easier Voting Through Graphic Design,” which largely concerns the AIGA group, Design for Democracy and their work in “making the voting system more efficient.” The only unfortunate thing, for us at least, is that the group got their start and have been working largely in Cook County, which is exactly where this writer was having his problems. But then again, it could always be basic user stupidity. That’s usually the case. Here’s a bit:

Their work on ballot design at Cook County enabled them to identify a set of rules to be applied to the design of all other voting forms. One is that the designer should organize the information in order of importance, for example by placing all of the voting instructions together, ideally in the left-hand column, where they are likeliest to be read. Another is that the text should be printed in both upper- and lower-case letters, which are more legible than all capitals. There should also be as few variations as possible in the weight, size and style of typeface to minimize the risk of misunderstandings.