One Shot Design

Most design gets a chance to evolve. If you don’t like this can opener, you can buy that one. If you are unfamiliar with how this widget works, you can learn. If an ad doesn’t get response, it can be redesigned and the advertiser can try again.

But some design only gets to be used once. And if it fails, there’s a significant cost. Fire extinguishers, for example, pretty much need to work right away, and the user doesn’t have a lot of selection.

You would think that after the ballot design debacle of 2000 in Florida, ballot designers would have learned this lesson. Today, though, the primary ballot in my precinct in New York looked a little like this (sorry, didn’t have my camera):


This is just wrong.
It’s wrong because you expect the jobs to be in the left column and the parties to be across the top. That way, you can find a job (like Senator) and scan along, left to right, the way you are used to, and find the person for that job.
Instead, you find the party, scan along and have to find a candidate you recognize, then go up with your eye and try to find the job that sort of matches it. Except the jobs across the top take more than one column (Attorney General took four or five) and it’s really hard to grok the thing. Why is “Tasini” next to “Green”? Unrelated items should not be in the same row.

This is basic stuff, folks. Clearly, ‘ballot designer’ is not a particularly well-trained position. Or difficult to get, either.

My suggestion: I think if it’s important to certify engineers (who build bridges) or pilots (who fly planes), perhaps there should be a certification process for designers who design things that we only get to use once–and that matter.