Design for Democracy

Sam Holleran
Designing the “Real Deal”
Is there room for capital-D design in a political landscape that equates its absence with authenticity? We examine the political design landscape two years after the red MAGA cap.


James Cartwright + Lilly Smith
Flipping the Script
How two progressive organizations, Tactical 2017 and Flippable, use open-source data and strategic voting, and why that might dictate the future of our elections.


Lilly Smith
Artifact: 2000 Palm Beach County Ballot
This article is the first in a new and ongoing Design Observer series, Artifact, which takes one piece out of AIGA’s Design Archives and asks a design expert in the topic being observed to reflect on its current impact in the present. This week: Marcia Lausen looks at the 2000 Palm Beach County Ballot.


Laetitia Wolff
Design for Democracy: Building Community Power
Design articulates choice at a time when there are seemingly no choices or only binary choices.


Lilly Smith
Double or Nothing: Can designers erase the gender pay gap?
On Equal Pay Day, Heather Stern, Emily Oberman, and Laura Kunkel, leaders of the new AIGA Women Lead campaign Double or Nothing, talk about what they’re doing to make the gender pay gap a thing of the past.


James Cartwright
Can Demagogues be Designed out of Democracy?
Dutch transition designer Rudy van Belkom and Irish digital design agency FrontEnd are leading the charge to combat democratic dissatisfaction. Is it a pipe dream, or can we design a different way?



Observed | February 20

The Sunset Strip occupies a short stretch of Sunset Boulevard, but its reputation as a stomping ground of gangsters, glamour girls, rock stars and hell-raisers has held an oversized fascination for decades. Curbed LA dives deep. Part One. Part Two. [BV]

Should historic logos be protected in the same way as historic buildings? (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | February 19

My new favourite part of Twitter is Josh Lipnik’s tours of the modern architecture of the US midwest. Here he looks at the modern architecture of Columbus, Ohio—houses, schools, churches, banks, and even a cool Space Age horse racing track. [MB]

The authoritative, totally not subjective, incontrovertibly definitive and 100% correct L.A. Times Fast Food French Fry Rankings. [BV]


Observed | February 14

Welcome to 2019. If you value your privacy, don’t get your Valentine an internet-connected sex toy. [BV]


Observed | February 13

Places Journal’s ongoing series “Future Archive” republishes significant 20th-century texts introduced by a prominent scholar. This installment features J.B. Jackson’s 1976 essay on the American garage from Landscape. [BV]

Can multigenerational home-sharing solve LA’s affordability crisis? Alissa Walker explores what it might mean to age in place in LA. [BV]


Observed | February 12

Cubicles are back, and we have open plan offices to thank. [BV]

As emoji become more detailed in their design, they become less useful for communication. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | February 11

#Longread: The Five Families of Feces—the porta-potty business is as dirty as you’d think. [BV]

The world’s watersheds, mapped in gorgeous detail by Hungarian cartographer Robert Szucs. [BV]

Photography writes with light, but not everything wants to be seen. [JH]


Observed | February 07

Are we heading towards extreme overpopulation or a decline in humans? Questioning the UN population model. [BV]


Observed | February 06

What if everything you knew about the history of pizza in America was false? [BV]

A special class of vivid, textural words defy linguistic theory: could ‘ideophones’ unlock the secrets of humans’ first utterances? [BV]

Social media has spawned a generation of un-Strunk-and-White-ified people who appear to believe that punctuation is optional, that grammar is for the elderly, and that ending a sentence with a period is a deliberate act of aggression. The guardian of grammar, Benjamin Dreyer, wants that to change. [BV]


Observed | February 05

Innovative interaction design helps Chinese families stay emotionally connected through the Chinese New Year while being geographically scattered. [BV]


Observed | February 04

Was architecture better under socialism? [BV]

Ganbreeder is an experiment using breeding and sharing to explore complex visual spaces. Or, Ganbreeder is a crazy app where you can merge things like a parakeet with a bubble. 17024009+ images and counting. [BV]


Observed | January 31

Saturday Night Live’s cue cards are still created by hand. And they pay attention to whitespace to make sure the cards are readable from a distance! [BV]

In 2014, microbiologists began a 500-year-long science experiment assuming that science—or some version of it—will still exist in 2514. [BV]


Observed | January 30

The World’s Writing Systems allows you to interact with the 292 currently-known writing systems as they are encoded in the Unicode standard. [BV]

A growing crowd-sourced gallery of crazy mass transit fabric patterns. [BV]


Observed | January 29

For six amazing years—from 2006 to 2012—I led the design advisory group on the Citizen‘s Stamp Advisory Committee, with a terrific group of people from all across the country. What a delight to talk about it! [JH]

The 52-year history of the Yale Building project: pushing architecture students out of their studios and into communities they can positively affect. (Support The Yale Herald‘s Kickstarter!) [BV]

Emily Gosling on the magical, imperfect grids of Anni Albers. [MB]


Observed | January 28

The Letterform Archive opened it’s doors in 2015. In 2019 they are opening their virtual doors to a curated collection of over 50,000 items related to lettering, typography, calligraphy, and graphic design, spanning thousands of years of history. [BV]

How does one judge the historic 50 Books | 50 Covers competition? Our jury chair, and Design Observer co-founder, Jessica Helfand talks to The Monocle Weekly. [BV]


Observed | January 24

A talk with Olivier Kugler about his most recent book, “Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters With Syrian Refugees”: a first hand record of the tragic souls who have been forced to leave their homeland and the disappointments, frustrations, and deprivations they’ve experienced as they attempt to make new lives. [BV]

Who owns collusion? In a case that’s a “Russian nesting doll of stupidity,” EFF’s Daniel Nazer defends against an unlikely trademark claim. [MB]



Jobs | February 20