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CreativeMornings: Dana Chisnell

Posted by Kelly Chen in Design Community

Terrorism, war, and global instability.

These are things Dana Chisnell listed off within the first minute of her talk last week. The theme was ‘action’ and her talk was titled “Democracy is a design problem”.

Dana Chisnell, a design researcher at the United States Digital Service (of course, her cv is much more impressive than just one title) spoke at CreativeMornings last Friday about how important good design is for democracy. For instance, a poorly designed ballot could mean the difference between voting for say, a centre-left party or a radical centre-right party (see controversial butterfly ballot of the 2000 United States presidential election).


CreativeMornings Dana Chisnell

“Design affects world peace.”

Questions I started contemplating through Dana’s talk:

  • Exactly how important is design when it comes to democracy?
  • How do you get information to voters in the least confusing and most accessible ways possible?
  • Should ballots not take into consideration voters who have limited literacy?

To the room full of creatives, she pointed out that we have superpowers. Every day as designers, we make decisions. We are trained in best practices. We are observant, experienced, and understand the value of research and attention to detail. We are patient and willing to wait for good things to happen. She urged us to share our superpowers and bring good design to democracy.

Finally, Dana’s calls to action were to “join the movement” and get involved in civic life by sharing, teaching, or volunteering: be an election worker, volunteer to proofread, and work in government for a year.


“If you want users to love your design, fall in love with your users.”

It was an incredibly insightful and inspiring presentation, and really came at a great time with our own federal election coming this fall. Art school taught us to be conceptual, and Stefan Sagmeister emphasizes the importance of form and style over ideas, but maybe design is not only about making things clever or pretty, and also about making things user-friendly. Regardless of whether you have any interest in politics, go out there with your design superpowers and take action!