That belongs in a museum

Have you ever thought about the election work you do being exhibited in a museum? Through February, the Center for Civic Design’s Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent are in a museum! The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s current exhibition “By the People: Designing a Better America” showcases 60 inclusive and collaborative designs from around the US. We at the Center for Civic Design  are honored to have been included.

Field Guides under glass as part of a museum exhibit

The “By the People” exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum featured the Center for Civic Design’s Field Guides through February 26, 2017

This exhibit is the third in a series put together by Cynthia E. Smith, the museum’s Curator of Socially Responsible Design with each showcasing projects that work within the context of the nation’s social and economic inequality.

Presented alongside re-imagined, efficient bicycles and shelters built after hurricanes, the Field Guides – designed by the Center for Civic Design and Oxide Design – represent innovation within civic design.

The Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent are directed to local election officials. They’re meant to be simple tools for implementing better design in election administration. Each Field Guide is distilled from hundreds of pages of research and best practices in election design, and each contains a checklist of actionable directives for local officials to incorporate into their design. The idea is to take simple steps toward better design that are cheap, easy, and legal.

While the placard in the Cooper Hewitt lists the Center for Civic Design and Oxide Design as the designer, that’s only half the story. The “By the People” collection included the Field Guides because of how we  partner with election officials.

The Field Guides encourage election officials to engage with the design process as civic designers. With the designation of Citizen Designers, election officials weave together their own expertise with the guidelines to re-imagine how elections are run. In featuring the role of election officials in election design, the exhibit acknowledges the impact of design within our public and private lives. And not just in a physical sense, but also to include the design of ideas, actions, and the problem-solving process. This extends to how the Field Guides started through a Kickstarter campaign, which shows the impact of citizen involvement.

Interactions between the election system and the public can be designed to be easier, more effective, and more pleasant. Tools like the Field Guides equip election administrators to make this happen. By recognizing the Field Guides and their representation of election administrators as citizen designers, the Cooper Hewitt acknowledges the role of design within our elections.

If you are in New York or would like to encourage friends or colleagues to visit, By the People is on view through February 26, 2017. The Field Guides will be part of the Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection after the exhibit closes. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop in and let us know what you think!

Three images from the exhibit guide: 1. Cover 2. Page with a Field Guide cover and inside page showing a tip. 3. The Palm Beach County butterfly ballot from the 2000 election and three Field Guide covers.

Along with the exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, the Field Guides were also published in the exhibit book, “By the People: Designing a Better America”

The Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent were made possible by 300 awesome Kickstarter contributors, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Democracy Fund.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum website

Cooper Hewitt’s By the People exhibit information

Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent

Blog post: Oxide featured in Smithsonian Design Museum


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