Allison Arieff, author of the NY Times blog By Design, has written an article on the movement to establish a National Design Policy, discussing its context, figureheads, potential impacts and possible drawbacks. It's a wonderful read and, more importantly, makes a strong case for design's potential to contribute meaningfully to the development and implementation of new policies.
A brief excerpt follows, but be sure to read the whole thing here.
To be sure, the reasons for the mortgage crisis extend far beyond undecipherable documents but, as the design anthropologist Elizabeth Tunstall explains, people often didn't (and still don't, as they attempt to rework those flawed mortgages) understand what they were getting into. Much of the crisis was, quite simply, based on poor information. "The ability to implement policy is contingent on the way people interact with those policies," Tunstall explains. "This is where the interaction between design and policy comes in."
Health care offers another textbook case of how essential that interaction between design and policy can be. As the Obama administration advances its health care agenda, it would do well to recognize that it's not just about policy and economics but how well information is presented to the broader public. Integral to the success of health care reform, Tunstall argues, is clear understanding of what's to be gained. (Interestingly enough, Republicans recently issued this horrendous example of information design as a means to argue against the Democrats' health care plan.)
On a related note: Tom Dair, of Smart Design, is visiting the White House this week as a recipient of the National Design Awards. Like Arieff, he's optimistic about design's role in our new administration and is looking for the perfect soundbite to convey this to Michelle Obama. If you've got an idea, let him know by commenting at his Fast Company blog .
Nonsensical Info Graphics by Chad Hagen