Election, or Tools for the Common Good

Interactive Web Design I · DM2280B spring 2013 · Corcoran College of Art + Design
Instructor: David Ramos alberto_ramos@corcoran.edu

Bad design harms American democracy. The voting process should be approachable, equitable, trustworthy, and transparent. Today, it is too often stressful, slow-moving, and error-prone. When people make mistakes, their votes do not count. Good design – imaginative, thoughtful, well-tested, tools – can do much to improve the experience, increasing the chance that the system will capture a voter’s intent.

butterfly ballot

Butterfly ballot, Palm Beach County, Florida, 2000.

A voter, standing in the polling place, must navigate a thick and information-dense ballot. Probably there is a line of people waiting; probably the voter needs to leave to for work or school or back to a family. Elections are an infrequent event, and some voters will be new to this particular voting process.

Offer bold ideas

In this project, you will redesign parts of the voting process. Consider how people cast their votes. How will they read information and navigate. How will people add information? How will they confirm their decisions?

Your materials will be used by a wide range of people, with an array of intentions. Design for accessibility and high usability. Your users will include people with a range of reading levels, comfort and familiarity with technology, and patience and willingness to explore. Some people might have limited reading ability. Some people might want to ponder every vote, while others might just want to vote in the “top-of-ticket” contest (in 2012, the presidential race).

We will produce voter personas in class. Design against these personas – though you may add additional personas, if you wish.

Explain your design by creating documentation: prototypes, diagrams, charts, and text. Your documentation must stand alone.



Work within today’s technologies and political system. You can imagine your own voting machine – no need to find specifications for real models. Use reasonable screen sizes and capabilities.

In some places, laws govern the typographic presentation of ballots, but for this project, assume that those laws can be changed freely. You will receive sample information to populate your ballots. For other kinds of material, use materials for your chosen jurisdiction.

Design in English, but provide a mechanism by which voters can choose another language. You do not need to design audio or large-print versions, although audio would be required for a real voting machine.


1: Brief

Write a one-paragraph brief for your project. What aspects of the voting system would you like to improve? What do you intend to achieve?

2: Ballot design for an electronic voting machine

Create a ballot for an electronic voting machine. You can choose a touchscreen machine, one with a full-face membrane, or one with buttons and physical controls. You might present all of the ballot information at once, or you might move through the ballot sequentially.

Once you begin to develop the design, conduct usability testing, and use your findings to improve your ideas. Perform these tests using screen or paper prototypes. Test with at least three people who are not in the class.

Turn in, as part of your project booklet:

3: Another innovative component

Imagine some other interactive piece that might improve the voting experience. Design that piece, working through several iterations. You might choose polling-place layout and signage, workstations for elections officials, a multi-device vote-by-web ballot, a series of paper forms, a website that helps people find their polling place, or another piece that you define. How can design help people vote?

Explain your idea using documentation, prototypes, flowcharts, and diagrams.


Present your work in two forms:


You may use a sample ballot (TXT) for Washington, D.C., or you may use another DC-area ballot of similar scope.