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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 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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