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Brilliantly researched guideline gems and examples about specific and far-too-common ballot design problems.
Brilliantly researched guideline gems and examples about specific and far-too-common ballot design problems.
321 backers pledged $20,761 to help bring this project to life.

Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent are in the Smithsonian!


You backed our project in 2012. Thank you! Here's some BIG news!

Four years later, the Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent have grown from 4 volumes to 10, covering topics from ballot design to making accessible websites (and more). They're in use in all 50 United States, and in a couple dozen other countries. 

If you vote in the U.S., it is likely that your jurisdiction has made improvements in ballot design, voter information, and poll worker tools because of small changes they've made that were inspired by the Field Guides. 

The Field Guides have always been coveted by designers. And now they are in the most important design museum in the U.S.! Yay! 

Starting October 1, 2016 they were included in an exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City called By the people: Designing a better America. We're in amazing company in this exhibit, and it is an enormous honor. If you find yourself in neighborhood, you should see the show -- it runs until February 26, 2017 -- the projects that are showcased are all impressive. 

We could not have done any of this* without you. Your backing helped change how elections get done. Really, we can't thank you enough. 

*Read on if you want a glimpse of what we've been able to do because you kickstarted us: 

You can see a full list of projects here

One more time: Thank you for backing the Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent. 

Now, if you are a citizen of the U.S., please do us two more favors. Register to vote, and cast your ballot in this important presidential election November 8. You know you'll make a difference. 

Read now: How cool would it be to have a scholarship named for you?

Dear All, 

  Because you're the kind of people you are, I know you value good design. And now because you've backed the Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent, you know that design literacy is important. 

  There are about 150,000 job openings for designers in the US right now. That's why my friends Leslie Jensen-Inman and Jared Spool are starting a new kind of design school. They're in their last day of their own Kickstarter to raise funds to develop the school's curriculum.

 They have actually crushed their funding goal. But their stretch goals are amazing. In fact, how great would it be to have a scholarship at the Unicorn Institute named after YOU? Please back this project: Do it before 5pm US Eastern Standard Time on Saturday, February 22 and go down in design history. 

I think this is the most important thing to happen in design in a very long time. You'll want to be a part of it. 


Kickstarter == > Center for Civic Design


January 1, 2014

2013 was a phenomenal year. But it would have been completely different without Kickstarter backers like you.  

There were grants from surprising sources, seriously cool projects with spectacularly helpful and talented co-researchers, new Field Guides, and talks. Lots and lots of talks. Oh, and a new company has sprouted up -- the Center for Civic Design

New Year blessings to all of you wonderful backers! 

Special thanks go to Scott Berkun, the first backer, and Stewart Bloom, who backed at the highest dollar amount. Special special thanks go to Jared Spool who contributed a hefty monetary backing, but has also been my most important backer in terms of emotional support and encouragement.  

Want details? Read our Year In Review

PDFs available for Vol. 05 - 08!

I'd say that making four new Field Guides has been like delivering quadruplets, but a) I have never had 1 kid let alone multiples at one time, and b) it actually took a lot longer than human gestation normally takes. It also took more people. 

Starting in May 2012, with your backing and support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Field Guides team did some of the most important research in elections when we went out to look at voter education materials, county election websites, wayfinding in polling places, and strategies for communicating with voters across channels. 

The Field Guides team started out as Dana Chisnell, Whitney Quesenbery, and Drew Davies. But it very quickly grew. Cyd Harrell and Ethan Newby were the main brains behind the county election website research. And we had a phenomenal research assistant / intern in Andrea Fineman. I also want to thank Sandy Olson for helping us recruit and schedule participants and coordinate with moderators. 

But that's not all. Turns out that not only can you crowdsource funding for a project, you can crowdsource the research, too. Ever done a project where there were 30 co-researchers? We did, and it was fantastic. Thank you all for all the help! (There's a list of the people who we know contributed at the bottom of this update. If you helped us out and your name isn't included, write to right away and I'll add you!) 

Here are the new titles, linked the the PDFs for your downloading pleasure: 

Vol. 05. Choosing how to communicate with voters

Vol. 06. Designing voter education booklets and flyers

Vol. 07. Designing election department websites

Vol. 08. Guiding voters through the polling place

I hope you like them. They go to press Friday, June 21, 2013. People who got a boxed set as their reward will get printed copies of these shipped to them. 

By the way, remember when President Obama mentioned long lines at the polls in his victory speech and said, "We need to fix that!"? Well, by executive order, he formed the Presidential Commission on Election Administration to do just that. The first public meeting of the commission is on June 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. All of the commissioners and the chairs will have copies of all of the Field Guides. Seriously, excellently, deliciously, AWESOME. 

Thank you, generous backers! Keep up the good work.

Dana Chisnell

And huge THANK YOU to our wonderful co-researchers: 

• Jacqui Adams • Kate Aurigemma • Karen Bachmann • Josh Bright • Alessandra Brophy • Sara Cambridge • Kamaria Campbell • Krysta Chauncey • Donald A. Cox • Jenn Downs • Andrea Fineman • Rachel Goddard • Jenny Greeve • Boaz Gurdin • Doug Hanke • Kristen Johansen • Josh Keyes • Samantha LeVan • Erin Liman • Beth Lingard • Karen McGrane • Michelle Milla • Andrea Moed • Rosa Moran • Yelena Nakhimovsky • Ashley Pearlman • Beth Pickard • Whitney Quesenbery • Josie Scott • Paul Schreiber • Rebecca Sherrill • Callie Wheeler

Field Guides Rule: Letter from Chad Butterfly

Dear Backers,

Hi, it's me, Chad. Chad Butterfly. 

Oh, I know it’s bad form to start a letter with an apology, but I simply have to. Sorry this is so late. My team and I have been incredibly busy. By the way, have you received your Field Guides? Everyone who contributed $30 and up (except a few $100 backers who get dinner) should have received them by now. 

When we met our funding goal on Kickstarter last April, I came ALIVE. All kinds of things kicked into gear, and a lot of them were surprising. 

The awesome civic design team I work with already had plans to make Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent a reality. In just a few months we made 4 beautiful, useful titles that were designed by Drew Davies and his team at Oxide Design Co., and printed by Scout Books. They came off the press on June 30, 2012. By July 15, the first printing of 500 were all spoken for by election officials across the US. 

Whitney Quesenbery, one of the core team members of the Field Guides project, gave a keynote speech at the most important annual gathering of election officials in the country. Just getting this kind of air time was a HUGE deal, and Whitney rocked it. And, the Field Guides were launched into the election world -- to great acclaim. People there loved them!

And so did election officials in California, where Dana Chisnell gave a workshop about how to use the Field Guides. Janice Atkinson, election director in Sonoma County for 40 years (!) even told Dana after her workshop that the Field Guides represented some of the most exciting stuff she’d ever seen in elections. Yes, Dana admits to tearing up right in front of Janice when she heard that. 

Then there was Ohio. Ohio has its election issues, but it was not the poster child for bad ballot design in 2012. I probably have Matt Masterson to thank there. He’s a deputy election director working in the OH Secretary of State’s office. (He used to work for the Election Assistance Commission), and when he saw the Field Guides, he got super excited. 

So excited that he talked his boss, Secretary Husted, into basing the directive they sent to all the counties in Ohio on direction in the Field Guides about ballot design and plain language. Oh! And Dana gave a webinar for all the Ohio counties. That was really fun to sit in on, as a lot of the “bad” examples came from other places... 

Then a couple crazy things happened. 

People like you all, people who backed the Field Guides project on Kickstarter, said, Hey! We want to help MORE. And so, when we started researching the next topics for Field Guides, we put out the word for co-researchers. I can’t believe how many people just jumped right in. More about that in a minute. In the meantime, THANK YOU. We could not have done any of this without YOU. 

The other super cool thing that happened -- I just get goosebumps when I think about it -- was that the MacArthur Foundation called. YES. THAT MacArthur Foundation. The one where that voice at the end of PBS shows says, “This program is brought to you with the support of the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation.” THAT MacArthur Foundation. They saw the Kickstarter! And they wanted to affect positive change for voters in the 2012 presidential election. And they learned that giving election officials skills and tools to do good design was one of the quickest ways to make that happen. 

They awarded the Field Guides team $75,000 to expand the Field Guides library and to promote it with election officials. The Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota was good enough to house our grant, thanks to my new best friend, Doug Chapin. 

So, you fabulous Kickstarter backer, you -- because you helped us raise $20k, we got the attention of a whole bunch of folk, some of whom turned your $20k into $95k. How. Awesome. Is. That. 

With that money, Whitney and Dana, along with Cyd Harrell, Ethan Newby, and Andrea Fineman and 30 (!) volunteer researchers (many of them, YOU) have done some intense and interesting research about voter education, online and off. The scope was huge. The coordinating was complicated. The results have been surprising! We’ve come up with some really interesting insights that will feed into at least 2 and possibly 3 new Field Guides that will come out this spring. Look for them at

But we’re not done. We’re looking for more funding to look at design in voting by mail, since a lot more voters seem to be doing that these days. If you know anyone who has, oh, say $100k in their back pocket who’d like to help us out, we’d be delighted to meet them. 

In the meantime, thanks again for backing the Field Guides. We hope you like yours. I -- along with the whole marvelous Field Guides team -- wish you peace, love, and happiness. Not just for this year. Stay tuned for more! 

Your friend, 

Chad Butterfly

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