When Design is Not the Hero: Supporting Elections Administrators in 2020
We are facing an intensity of crises that require action at multiple scales and time horizons. While it is necessary address to reimagine more equitable and sustainable systems in the long-term, there is an equal need to repairing of our existing, imperfect systems in the present moment. This case study illustrates the ways our team worked within one such system: Elections in the United States. In May of 2020, our team launched an initiative to support safe, fair, and healthy elections during the global pandemic. Although the United States is the world’s oldest continuing democracy, our elections system is highly fragmented and the burden of our democracy most often falls on the shoulders of a creative and committed, but under-resourced group of election administrators. Our small team of designers used a human-centered and systems thinking approach to support the work of these officials at a moment of unprecedented uncertainty, change, and risk. Through our work with elections officials across the United States, our team gained insights that will be instructive for the work of designing within broken systems.
Systemic repair; systems design; elections; human-centered design
Tom Maiorana is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Design at UC Davis and the founder of the Prototyping Systems Lab. Tom specializes in product development, design thinking, and prototyping. His research explores the ways which low-resolution prototypes can be used to create human-centered, complex systems. He is currently working on a series of video games to support wildfire preparedness. He is a 2021 Community Engaged Learning Faculty Fellows, at UC Davis. Tom has launched several design firms, and found his way into academia after his firm, Red Cover Studios, conceptualized and launched Hive at the Claremont Colleges. Tom grew up as one of six kids in an Irish-Italian household on the beautiful North Fork of Long Island. He didn’t have a TV until he was 11 which sparked a lifelong interest in drawing, daydreaming and introversion. Tom has an MFA in design from Stanford University and a BA in American Culture from Vassar College.