debbie millman

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Polling Place Photo Project

The Winterhouse Institute and Design Observer, in collaboration with AIGA, Design for Democracy and NewAssignment.Net have created an important cultural documentation initiative called the The Polling Place Photo Project. What is posted on the Design Observer website is this:

"The Polling Place Photo Project seeks to advance innovation in citizen journalism by documenting local voter experiences during the U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday, November 7. The goal of all participants is to both engage voters and to document voter experiences at the polling place, harnessing the power of online citizen journalism to build an archive of photographs that capture the richness and complexity of voting in America.

Through an open call for photographs, citizens can post local images and visual stories that, together, form a picture of every polling place in America. Importantly, we are also looking for basic data (zip code, state, ballot type, etc.) that will encourage research into how voting happens and how voting can be made easier, clearer, less confusing, more reliable.

Get your cameras ready: Election Day is November 7, 2006. We need your photographs.

Seriously, we need your pictures of Election Day 2006. The idea for this project came up at a lunch with Jay Rosen, a leader of online citizen journalism, only a month ago. This is a test, and our execution may not be perfect. But we have a group of great partners who have jumped on the potential of this project, and we owe them our thanks. To our many Design Observer readers living in the United States, we ask that you: 1) go to the polls and vote, 2) take your camera with you, and 3) come home and post your photos at Polling Place Photo Project. This is a day in the life of America, the world's oldest democracy.

Partners & Sponsors
The Polling Place Photo Project is part of Design for Democracy, an initiative of AIGA, the professional association for design. The project was conceived by Winterhouse Institute and Design Observer, working in collaboration with Jay Rosen, founder of NewAssignment.Net (a project of New York University's Department of Journalism).

How to Participate
Photographs of your experiences on November 7th may be uploaded here. We are looking to collect photographs of every polling place in America, so you are welcome to participate no matter where you vote, how large or small your polling place is, what kind of ballot you use — or what is your party affiliation.

This is a nonpartisan initiative, and the photographs collected will not be used to further the aims or agenda of any party or candidate. We are interested in how voting happens, how it can be improved, and how the execise of the ballot, perhaps the most basis act in a democracy, can be captured in photographs. If you are wondering what to photograph, take a picture of that!

Submission Guidelines
The submission guidelines are simple: photographs may be submitted by anyone. We are currently focused on the November 7, 2006 election. Do not post old photographs of previous elections. Do not post photographs of polling places that are not in the United States.

You may submit up to five photographs. With your submission of photographs, we are asking for some basic information: name/location of polling place, time, type of ballot, etc. Our submission form also allows you to make comments on your voter experience, and suggestions for improvements. This information will be displayed with your photographs. We do ask for your name and email address, but give you the option that this information not be displayed. If you provide this information, you are acknowledging that researchers may contact you at a future date to learn more about your voting experience. (None of this information will be sold or distributed freely.)

Use of Photographs
In the spirit of public access and broad dissemination, this is an open source project. All photographs are contributed under an "Attribution No Derivatives (by-nd)" Creative Commons license. It is understood that all photographs may be shared with other sites, including, AIGA, Design for Democracy, Design Observer, Winterhouse Institute, PressThink and NewAssignment.Net. Further, the database of photographs may be distributed to other sites, commercial or non-commercial, which share our goal of encouraging voter participation in America. Photographs will not be sold individually for personal profit by any participant; any profits accured will be used to support this project, its maintenance as an archive, and expansion of the archive in future elections. It is our goal that these photographs be used, researched and broadly disseminated, and all contributors willingly (and cheerfully) acknowledge that their photographs are a part of this open source initiative.

Special Note: Photography & Election Laws
Photography of polling places is governed by state and local law — there is no one answer for what is permissible. Every state has different election laws, some which allow photos of polling stations and others which do not. It is important to check your states' procedures to find out what is and isn't acceptable. Most states have laws prohibiting loitering or congregation around the polling place, as well as laws prohibiting any type of intimidation or interruption of voters. The Polling Place Photo Project, and AIGA, encourage all participants in this project to follow all applicable local, state and federal laws."

Thanks Bill and Jessica and AIGA for making this important initiative possible.


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Debbie Millman has worked in the design business for over 25 years. She is President of the design division at Sterling Brands. She has been there for nearly 15 years and in that time she has worked on the redesign of global brands for Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, Campbell’s, Colgate, Nestle and Hasbro. Prior to Sterling, she was a Senior Vice President at Interbrand and a Marketing Director at Frankfurt Balkind. Debbie is President of the AIGA, the largest professional association for design. She is a contributing editor at Print Magazine, a design writer at and Brand New and Chair of the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2005, she began hosting the first weekly radio talk show about design on the Internet. The show is titled “Design Matters with Debbie Millman” and it is now featured on In addition to “Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design,” (HOW Books, 2009, she is the author of "How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer" (Allworth Press, 2007) and “The Essential Principles of Graphic Design” (Rotovision, 2008).

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