Bad Design Just Happens

Bad auto design, bad skyscraper design, and bad medical device design often result in real-life consequences. Lump bad graphic design in there, too.

Remember the Florida presidential recount? In the 2000 election, Palm Beach County used a “butterfly” design for its ballots (above). The space that voters pressed to mark their choices was misaligned with the row of the given candidate, causing many to accidentally vote for the wrong candidate. The Palm Beach Post determined that poor ballot design cost Al Gore the presidency.

One would think that ballot design challenges would be solved by now and a standard ballot design would be universal. You’d be wrong.

Bonnie Berkowitz of the Washington Post recently published an article “How to beat bad ballot design and make sure your vote counts.” A few takeaways:

If you vote absentee, you will have to sign the ballot somewhere. Poorly designed ballots don’t make this obvious step, obvious. For example, after nearly 4,000 Minnesota voters didn’t sign their 2008 absentee ballot envelopes (left), Minnesota redesigned the envelope so the signature line was more prominent in 2010 (right). The rate of unsigned envelopes dropped in half.

Absentee ballots in eleven states are designed to fit into a second envelope to ensure privacy. Most states accept ballots “naked,” without an inner covering, but Pennsylvania and Kentucky will not. Ballot designers need to make this clear. And voters need to seal their envelopes, as some states will toss ballots that arrive unsealed.

All caps
Studies have shown that people are less likely to read text that is in all-capital letters than they are to read text written in upper and lowercase letters. For whatever reason, many ballot designers continue to put important instructions in all-caps.

Whitney Quesenbery, executive director of the Center for Civic Design says, “I think that some states are complicated, and some envelopes are small, and some people are better designers than others, but no one is actively trying to trick someone. Take your time. Check everything carefully. And go vote.”

The bottom line? Don’t let bad design get in the way of making your vote count.

Taylor Design Blog

By Dan

President / Creative Director