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 | April 08

The Huntington Library has a history of inequity. Can it pivot toward inclusivity? (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | April 07

Memory as inventory: a beautiful tribute in the New York Times. [JH]


Observed | April 06

Overlooked no more: The IBM Poster Program: Visual Memoranda features work by Ken White, John Anderson, Tom Bluhm and photographer Rodger Ewy among others like, um, Paul Rand. [JH]


Observed | April 05

Blending is the new branding. (Blend = Brand ± Transparency ± Framing ± Bespoke ± Blur) [BE]


Observed | April 01

Harvard’s GSD Introduces its own design imprint. [JH]

Voices: Black Graphic Design History is a free two-part webinar series through the four MICA William O. Steinmetz ’50 Designers-in-Residence. To register click here and here. [BV]


Observed | March 31

Designing with the devil. [JH]


Observed | March 29

“Professional designers, evangelists — they all took the opportunity: ridiculing, discrediting, alienating, exposing clean styles and templates, usurping the right to make design decisions.
And they succeeded...” (h/t Ethical Futures Lab) [BE]


Observed | March 26

Brand mascots, cruelty, and humiliation: the Duolingo owl and theory of change. [BE]

When less is more. [JH]


Observed | March 25

Annals of design absurdity: Zara models feature poses that make the clothes impossible to figure out. [JH]


Observed | March 24

As representations of the collective power of local people banding together, the exhibit Meeting Hall Maine aims to instill an appreciation and desire in others to preserve vernacular structures as democratic forums for generations to come. [BV]


Observed | March 23

In an effort to provide more fonts accessible to everyone, the Indian Type Foundry introduces Fontshare. [JH]


Observed | March 22

Disney now qualifies its classical film library with “advisory” disclaimers that seek to recognize (and name) racial bias and othering. [JH]


Observed | March 19

Brilliant! (via Shaun Borstrock) [JH]

Color correction and its relationship to racial bias. (Via Dori Tunstall.) [JH]


Observed | March 18

A brutally honest perspective on the current—and precarious—state of design culture with Design Observer’s co-founder Jessica Helfand. [BV]


Observed | March 17

Everything you ever wanted to know about faces on currency. [JH]


Observed | March 15

Bravo and congratulations to Lawrence Azerrad for his latest Grammy win for the album packaging of for Wilco’s “Ode to Joy” [BV]


Observed | March 10

Yohokama-based Masayoshi Matsumoto is a balloon genius. [JH]


Observed | March 05

The Center for Urban Pedagogy now has a program in Public Access Design. Meet their newest design fellows here. [JH]


Observed | March 04

On the brink of nuclear war, America’s bold response to the Soviet Union depended on Juanita Moody, an unknown spy agency operative, whose story can at last be told. [BV]


Observed | March 03

For his piece Quantum Fluctuations: Experiments in Flux, London-based artist Markos R Kay set out to visually express a quantum interaction – a phenomenon that’s notoriously unobservable. [BV]


Observed | March 02

The beautiful, origami-like art of letterlocking. [JH]


Observed | March 01

See what other people are reading—quite literally. [JH]

Old photos of famous artists and scientists animated into ‘living portraits’ using AI. [BV]

From the brilliant Ariel Avissar, a supercut of the everlasting typewriter. (Via Kottke.) [JH]

Art, activism, and the Xerox machine. [JH]


Observed | February 25

The story of designer/Marxist Enzo Mari, the role of value creation, and a tale of two bookcases. [JH]


Observed | February 24

Vintage clothes, bright colors, and empowerment for Black women: one graphic designer’s sartorial adventure. [JH]



Jobs | April 11