Tue 30 Aug
The New York City Campaign Finance Board sends out a voter guide in advance of every election, and after I get it in the mail, I usually put it on a table and tell myself a little white lie about how I’ll read it well before the polls open on Election Day. But I never do, partly because, in the past, those guides have been dryly designed and uninviting — they don’t exactly promise a page-turning experience.
For this year’s primary (coming up on 13 Sep), the board tried something different — actually injecting a bit of engagement into the design. You can get a sense of the look at the NYCCB’s new approach at the Web site, which isn’t a bad representation of the printed guide at all, but it pretty much just looks like a regular Web site.
To really see the new thinking in effect, you need to get your hands on the printed piece: it’s an unexpectedly inviting, tabloid-sized, full-color affair. It looks more like some kind of catalog for an expensive collegiate program than a voter’s guide, surely. And while not a ground-breaking specimen of graphic design, it’s still shockingly bold for its context, with huge, silhouetted images and relatively adventurous typography. I guess the highest compliment I can pay to the designers is that it actually made me sit down and page through it, and then actually read it.
This guide is actually a great example of how design can have a positive and material impact in substantial arenas of real life — there’s a marked difference in not just the visual appeal but also the fundamental usefulness of the content of this year’s voter guide. I have to hand it to the NYCCFB; this is probably the most meaningful bit of design I’ve seen all year long.