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One of AIGA's goals is to demonstrate the value of design to
business and the public. And while designers are comfortable in
asserting this with great conviction, AIGA is constantly looking
for ways to demonstrate this value by doing valuable things—and by
valuable we mean to those who require convincing. What is more
valuable to our society than the tools of democracy?
AIGA Design for
Democracy aims to demonstrate that information design, which
makes the complex clear, is critical to achieving the expectations
citizens have for the civic experience.
The primary season highlights for citizens nationwide just some
of the simple challenges to voting in a way that instills
confidence that their choices were effectively cast. Leading up to
the epic election contest of Super Tuesday and the many more
elections ahead, AIGA Design for Democracy has worked at the local,
state and federal level to improve the voting experience through
AIGA began its Get Out
the Vote awareness campaign in 2000, commissioning posters that
were distributed nationally through chapters, bearing the tagline:
"Good design makes choices clear." Twenty-three thousand posters by
23 designers were distributed. This campaign, which has evolved
through each federal election cycle since, has now been launched so
that every member is able to provide a design to an online gallery
that can be printed and posted nationwide this fall.
The influence of this campaign, which depends on designers to
create and to distribute posters, has spread even beyond the United
States. Kosovo, which declared its independence last month,
translated these posters into Kosovar to post during their first
independent regional elections several years ago. And the United
Nations sought AIGA's assistance in developing a comparable method
for them to promote, worldwide, the findings of the Human
AIGA Design for Democracy's potentially most far-reaching
success to date is developing the federal guidelines for
ballot design to guide all local jurisdictions in the country,
which were adopted by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission last
April after a multi-year contract funded by the Help Americans Vote
Act. In 2001, AIGA worked with Senate and House staff members to
place information design criteria in the act. While few of the
recommendations will be seen in the current primaries and only a
few improvements are likely this fall, we expect cascading
improvements over the next year.
The work on the design guidelines grew out of a project
originally initiated by Marcia Lausen and her class at the
University of Chicago that redesigned the ballots for Cook County,
Illinois, and later the election materials for the state of Oregon.
co-published by AIGA and the University of Chicago Press last fall,
was sent to every member of Congress, with a personalized bookplate
and letter on behalf of the AIGA members in their district,
encouraging each to introduce standards for design in reform
legislation for Social Security, Medicare, the census, immigration,
taxes and homeland security.
All of the AIGA Design for Democracy projects are designed to
provide leading professional assistance to government agencies,
models for improved communication design and directions on hiring
AIGA members locally to implement guidelines. In the state of
Oregon, we have a funded one-year fellowship offered to a young designer to work
within the Secretary of State's office to improve information
design and we are promoting extending this program to other
Another demonstration of the reach of the design community is
the Polling Place Photo Project, in partnership with
The New York Times and initiated by William Drenttel of
Design Observer. This election season, participants will
collectively develop a photo essay on voting in America. Designers
are encouraged to document their voting experience and upload the
photographs to the site on NYTimes.com. The project is produced and
funded by AIGA in order to simply bring attention to the design
community as a major force in society.
Each of these activities is an element of the broader campaign
to demonstrate the value of design by making a difference in the
way people experience their personal choices. We believe this will
go a long way toward addressing what members tell us each day: that
we need to increase the understanding of and respect for the
profession. AIGA aims to increase awareness of the impact of design
while making designers key participants in the civic
Richard Grefé is the executive director of AIGA, the professional association for design. While guiding all of AIGA’s activities, his most significant contributions are in strategy, formulating new initiatives to enhance the competitive success of designers
and advocating the value of design to business, government and the public.
NEW YORK—March 5, 2013. A new professional fellowship program developed by Design Ignites Change and AIGA aims to support social impact projects by providing seed funding and mentoring to creative professionals.
NEW YORK—February 12, 2013. AIGA’s Design Leaders Confidence Index inched upward in the fourth quarter of 2012, climbing from 100.51 to 101.72. Given the economic anxiety surrounding the Congressional ultimatum on the “fiscal cliff,” this sustained level of confidence seems to bode well for designers.
NEW YORK—February 5, 2013. A lifetime of achievement in design can take many forms. The 2013
recipients of the AIGA Medal, the highest honor of the design profession,
represent the range of contributions designers make to clients, future
generations and society at large—through inspiration, thoughtful critique,
social impact and the education of future design leaders.
Member since 2012
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