Case Study: Make Congress Work!
Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the 2012 “Justified” competition, in which an esteemed jury identified submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. It serves as an example of how to explain design thinking to clients, students, peers and the public in general, based on specific metrics.
In December 2011, Maloney & Fox was asked to design a booklet for No Labels, a non-profit, bipartisan group of Republicans, Democrats and independents, dedicated to a simple proposition: We want our government to work again. No Labels believes the biggest problem with Congress is the outdated rules; the booklet, titled Make Congress Work!, maps out No Labels’ 12 steps on how to fix communication in Congress. The audience includes both members of Congress as well as the American people. The booklet design is unexpected and non-traditional—beyond anything seen before in a Senate hearing. When presented to all members of Congress, the brochure’s arresting color blocks and bold typography captured attention. The booklet was presented at a March 2012 Senate hearing in Washington, DC. The booklet was also highlighted—spread by spread—in a six-minute segment on MSNBC’s popular morning program, “Morning Joe."
We researched quotes of famous icons in order to add an approachable, human element to the booklet. We chose quotes that pertained to the broad idea of communication, not just those relating to politics.
The biggest challenge was receiving approval on the overall design aesthetic, since this was a big departure from the typical political branding seen on Capitol Hill. Approval was needed from Republicans, Democrats and members of Congress who serve on the No Labels board. These audiences are familiar (and comfortable) with the stereotypical red and blue political branding, so it was a bit of a shock when we presented a bright orange cover with bold typography. We not only had to appeal to the U.S. Congress, but also to the broader American public.
We had to appeal to both the U.S. Congress and American citizens. To appeal to citizens, we needed an alternative element to the text-heavy document—one that stood out and was easy to digest. That said, we recommended short, concise quotes from well-known figures, from Einstein to Arthur Ashe, emphasizing the importance of communication. To appeal to Congress, we wanted to grab their attention with the booklet format and palette. The large typography and blocks of red, orange, green and blue pantones provided a striking element to the booklet. The booklet size (10 x 10 inches) was intentional—we sought something unusual that would stick out of congressmens’ folders and on their desks. We wanted the booklet to be noticeable from afar.
No Labels is thrilled with the outcome! Members of Congress spoke of the book’s refreshing and bold design, and citizen demand for the book far exceeded initial expectations, requiring an increase in the initial production run from 2,000 to 25,000. The booklet received great media attention, including a feature on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.” Joe Scarborough, Mark McKinnon and Mika Brzezinski featured the booklet on-air, going page-by-page and highlighting No Labels’ 12 steps to “Make Congress Work!” During a Senate hearing on March 14, 2012, Senator Joe Lieberman displayed the book and said it was very well-designed. His words were recorded in the Senate hearing's minutes. Most importantly, we deem it successful because the design continues to foster dialogue among the most contentious elements of the Republican, Democratic and independent parties. The booklet promotes conversation and communication between the parties, which we believe is the best outcome for everyone, regardless of political affiliation.
For more information on the 12 steps outlined in Make Congress Work!, please view our client’s website at www.nolabels.org.