Designs On Social Justice

Our team recently finished a unique project for the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), an organization fighting poverty on numerous fronts. With the mayoral election approaching, CSS wanted to create an interactive guide to inform voters on where the candidates stood on issues critical to the one-third of eligible voters in New York City who live in low-income households, referred to by CSS as “The Unheard Third.”

Each candidate filled out a questionnaire from CSS; our task was to design a voter guide where users could compare their responses. Meanwhile, the views from the Unheard Third—as captured in an annual CSS survey of low-income New Yorkers—would be presented for comparison. This project was inspiring not only from a social justice perspective but also in the unique information architecture and design challenges it presented.

As an information architect, I am tasked with designing sites and apps that are user-friendly and easy to navigate. If I do my job properly, users should never have to think about how to find what they’re looking for. In this case, our challenge was to design an interface that could present the responses of six candidates and counting on 20 questions, spanning five issue areas. With such a large quantity of information, designing smooth functionality (and clean aesthetics) took a great deal of thought and collaboration.

While brainstorming, we decided to prioritize and design around the candidates’ answers, so we gave them the most visual prominence. But to arrange them in context of the Unheard Third, we separated the page under five main tabs, one for each issue. Under each issue we placed the featured question beside the Unheard Third’s response.

Once users find a question of interest, they can scroll through a carousel with the candidates’ responses. This approach ensures that users can easily determine their preferred candidate to represent the Unheard Third.

Both CSS and the BSD team are thrilled with the finished product. Creating a platform for discussion on critical issues is no small achievement, but it’s particularly satisfying when you can do so with an elegant visual and interactive design.