MCAD leaves its mark on the election
As our final election-related piece before the big day on Nov. 8, we wanted draw attention to the MCAD DesignWorks efforts to redesign the City of Minneapolis’ Election Day directional and informational signage. For those unfamiliar with MCAD DesignWorks, this in-house design studio provides students with real-world, hands-on experiences working on projects for both college and external clients. Below is an excerpt about the project.
MCAD DesignWorks refreshes Minneapolis voting signage
MCAD DesignWorks has teamed up with the City of Minneapolis to ensure everyone has a smooth experience while casting their ballots on Election Day.
Kate Mohn and Dylan Cole — two MCAD staff members who have been key players in the voting signage redesign project — describe the process and dedication that led to an impressive outcome.
What is the MCAD voting signage project about?
Kate Mohn: Design is a powerful tool for creating positive user experiences. However, many government agencies are either unfamiliar with design basics or lack the resources to integrate design thinking and concepts into their work. The MCAD voting signage project builds on the foundation of elections-related design work created by AIGA to create a flexible system of informational and directional signage to ensure that voters have the information they need to successfully cast a ballot on Election Day.
"…we had to work very closely with the Minneapolis elections team to make sure we're designing everything in compliance with all applicable rules, statutes, and laws.” - Kate Mohn
How did MCAD get involved with the project?
KM: Prior to working at MCAD, I worked in the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State where I became very interested in how design shapes the voting experience. This was both through indirect experience — for example, reading AIGA's Design for Democracy — and as a direct result of the 2008 Senate recount between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. While the recount overall showed that Minnesota's election system worked remarkably well, one issue it uncovered was that the absentee balloting process was confusing to voters.
After the recount, our office began redesigning the absentee balloting system. We hired professional designers and conducted usability testing, leading to improved step-by-step illustrations, clear labeling of materials, stronger visual cues, and written instructions that were easier to understand. The redesign led to a 25% decrease in the rejection rate of absentee ballots between the 2008 to 2010 general elections.
In 2012, the City of Minneapolis asked if MCAD would be a polling place. Being a giant elections dork, I was really excited to make that happen, and MCAD hosted its first general election in 2012. But I noticed that day that the directional and informational signage could use improvement. So, in 2014 I pitched the redesign idea to MCAD DesignWorks. When people from the Minneapolis Elections and Voter Services office saw what we did for the 2014 election they were very impressed, so we started working with them to design better signage for all of the city's 125 polling places.