Skip to content

Design’s not that important

….is what a lot of non-designers think. When you are confronted with the question of how is design important? What do you say? How do you explain the importance of design to someone who knows nothing about it?

A while ago, when I was browsing through Lynda videos, I learned about Florida’s butterfly ballot design debacle. The US presidential election between George w bush and al gore was one of the closest presidential race in history. It was decided by 5 electoral votes and .5% popular vote. The key to victory was winning Florida and the key to winning Florida came down to a recount in 4 counties. They found a high number of voting irregularities such as missed votes, double votes and improbable number of votes for candidates that were not popular in the region. The cause of the problem was a flawed ballot design.

The result of this design error decided the US. Presidential election of 2000. It was a simple problem of alignment. There were two pages of candidates separated by a columns of punch holes. Votes saw Al Gore as the second choice in the list on the left. The separating line above it led their eyes right to the second punch hole in the ballot. This led to many Al Gore voters accidentally voting for the candidate on the other page. Of course some might have realized their mistake and then went into punch the correct hole not realizing that this would invalidate their vote. This flaw accounted for a majority of the errors and double votes. The researchers who analyzed the ballots and corrected this type of error found that if they had been avoided Al Gore would have won the election.




This is how important design can be. It’s amazing how much influence design can have on the decisions people make. The ballot is just one example but there are many others especially in the field of marketing and advertisement. A good product design can mean an increase in sales, a good advertisement design can mean an increase in awareness.

So the next time someone asks you how is design important you know what to say.