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 | October 08

The renaissance of the Friends logo. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | September 30

Max Hirshfeld shares his parents‘ poignant Holocaust love story through photographs, letters, and text. [BV]


Observed | September 19

Our dear friend Rob Walker has a new column, Off Brand, for the new Medium business magazine, Marker. He kicks off with which tech companies need a Black Mirror unit that focuses on how products can be misused, and design accordingly. [BV]

Watch Charles and Ray Eames put their 1969 spin on one of the world’s oldest toys. [BV]


Observed | September 18

A tribute to the dearly departed paper sports ticket. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | September 10

The blobification of the American restaurant. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | September 04

Beginning with the Dada and Surrealist movements, Paris nurtured a tradition of artists, including Ernst, Tanguy, Arp, and Léger, illustrating imaginative and important books. Designers and Books explores Paris and the Artist’s Book in the 1920s and ’30s. [BV]

What‘s the point of album covers in the post-album era? Jon Caramanica and Teddy Blanks discuss. [MB]


Observed | September 03

The history of the Roman Empire, which spans hundreds of years and multiple continents, is chronicled in statues and monuments its citizens left behind. Artsy has a list of seven ancient Roman sculptures you need to know. [BV]

Over the summer, Hyperallergic interviewed dozens of art handlers about the variable conditions of their workplaces. This week, their stories of accident and injury come to light. [BV]


Observed | September 02

KCET is back with a new season of Masters of Modern Design. Season 10 kicks off with the influence of Japanese American artists and designers—Ruth Asawa, George Nakashima, Isamu Noguchi, S. Neil Fujita and Gyo Obata—in postwar American art and design. (h/t Steven Heller) [LY]


Observed | August 30

We use hurricane forecast graphics to warn people. Why do we misinterpret them so often? A marvelous explanation of misreading hurricane graphics. [BV]


Observed | August 29

When your brain won’t let you recognize people, how do you navigate the world? [BV]

Pedro Bell, the artist who created Funkadelic’s cosmic album covers, died Tuesday at 69. [BV]


Observed | August 26

On a dry lakebed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe. [BV]

Sonic branding has appliances and devices singing new tunes. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | August 23

Don‘t miss the next MITX InsideDesign event featuring Google Nest‘s Director of Design, Kate Freebairn. The event is on September 25, 8-9:30AM at Mad*Pow‘s Boston office. Get the MITX member rate on tickets using code OBSERVER. Register now [BV]


Observed | August 22

Ikea has swapped its brand typeface to Noto, a collaborative type family from Monotype and Google, after a decade of using Verdana across its visual identity. [BV]

“I’ve always had a studio in my house. I raised both of my children in my studio. I see my studio as a daily practice the way some people see yoga: it’s a sanctuary.” Jessica Helfand talks to Madame Architect. [BV]


Observed | August 19

Visual identity for Re:publica rebels against digital culture with reams of text. Fertig Design has created a visual identity for the Re:publica conference that uses lengthy passages of text and typography instead of conventional graphics to pay “homage to the written word”. [LY]

This is the world’s worst UI—and it speaks volumes about design today. The Antwerp design agency Bagaar built an impossible form for you to fill out—and it puts all your design assumptions to the test. [LY]


Observed | August 15

Roger Ballen revisits his never-before-published Woodstock photos. The internationally renowned artist was just 19 when he took his trusty Nikon to the festival. Only one was ever published—till now. [LY]

Google has a secret design library. The company’s industrial design team shares a handful of titles from its studio library, which is curated by team members. Here are 35 of its best books. [LY]

Morphosis is designing LA’s Korean American National Museum. The museum will incorporate elements of traditional Korean houses and lots of greenery. [LY]


Observed | August 14

Be water’ The Hong Kong protest mantra encourages fluidity and adaptability to any situation influences how art is designed and distributed. [LY]

London design agency OMSE has created an augmented reality campaign for cultural venue Printworks London that transforms static typography into immersive three-dimensional animations. [LY]


Observed | August 12

Why are all recreational vehicles covered in swirls and swooshes? (via James I. Bowie) [LY]


Observed | August 08

New York knows its arts organizations have a diversity problem. The city asked cultural institutions, including museums and performing arts centers, to draw up plans to make their staff and board members more diverse. [LY]

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation aims to make circular design “the new normal” by persuading 20 million designers to help transform the global economy from a linear to a circular model. [LY]


Observed | August 07

Domino’s Pizza is locked in a legal battle over the future of web design. The pizza company has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a three-year-old case that deals with whether Domino’s is legally required to make its websites and apps accessible to all users. [LY]



Jobs | October 15