Directors

The Center for Civic Design is led by co-directors Dana Chisnell and Whitney Quesenbery, working with a team of amazing researchers and designers.

Whitney Quesenbery

Whitney headshot, conducting research with Santa Claus, speaking at UX Hong Kong

Whitney’s work in civc design began with her appointment to the EAC Federal advisory committee writing the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG), including the first usability requirements for voting systems. She also served on the U.S. Access Board’s advisory committee updating the Section 508 accessibility regulations.

Fifteen years later, she is still excited about the opportunities to approach democracy as a design problem and working with election offices around the country.

She is an authority on gathering the user insights needed to design products where people matter, expertise gained in her work with government, nonprofit and tech companies. In her work at the Center, she focuses on reaching people with disabilities or low reading, digital or civic literacy, using her skills in user experience research, plain language, and accessibility.

She is proud to of the Center’s work to introduce best practices for election design across the country, including the Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent, and work on official voter information guides with the League of Women Voters. Her work on the plain language version of the California Voter Bill of Rights, usable vote-by-mail envelopes, and voter registration has made it easier for people across the country to vote.

She is a co-author of the Brennan Center for Justice’ seminal publication, Better Ballots and the follow up Better Design: Better Elections.  As the coordinator for the EAC-funded Accessible Voting Technology Initiative, she managed 15 grants on voting for people with disabilities, including the development of the Anywhere Ballot.

Whitney is the author of three books with practical advice in user experience: A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences,  Storytelling in User Experience , Global UX: Design and Research in a Connected World.

She teaches UX research at Rutgers University and, with Dana Chisnell,  the first course on Election Design for the University of Minnesota Certificate in Election Administration.

Whitney serves on advisory boards for Center for Technology and Civic Life, the Participatory Budgeting Project, and Vote.org.

Dana Chisnell

Dana Chisnell - headshot, running a workshop, taking notes at a session

Dana is a pioneer and thought leader in civic design,  bringing deep experience to that space. After working with banks, insurance companies, and tech companies for decades to help them improve experiences for their customers and workers, Dana takes that knowledge to the government space.

She started with research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) into the use of language in instructions on ballots (with Ginny Redish), and work on standards and testing for poll worker documentation for the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). She has applied this work in dozens of states, and even advised election commissions in other countries.

Dana is an expert in plain language and usability for older adults, including groundbreaking work at AARP that was the basis for several requirements in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

She teaches design in government at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in the masters level Democracy, Politics and Institutions program. She also teaches with Whitney Quesenbery a course on design in elections that is part of the Election Academy at the University of Minnesota – the first university program to professionalize election administration.

From October 2014 to October 2016, Dana did a tour of duty as a “generalist problem solver” for the United States Digital Service in the Obama White House, doing user research and civic design across agencies. Her particular focus was on helping US Citizenship and Immigration Services modernize its software development and design practices to improve experiences for immigration officers and the public. She also helped the Department of Homeland Security design a more modern, agile, and design-forward procurement process.

As the editor of the Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent, she has taught thousands of election officials how to improve ballots, voter guides, web sites, and other election materials to ensure voter intent. She worked on the Anywhere Ballot, a ballot marking interface tested for accessibility by people with cognitive disabilities and low literacy.

Dana and Jeff Rubin wrote the Handbook of Usability Testing Second Edition (Wiley 2008), the seminal book on the topic.

Dana serves on advisory boards for US Vote and the Bridge Alliance.