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Best of Election Season Innovation

Private confessions, citizen voyeurism, a shot at redemption, why it pays to have famous friends, and how graphic design changed politics forever.

In the year of the YouTube election, innovation in political communication spanned virtually every medium. As the big day is upon is, we look back on an incredibly tumultuous political season with our selection of the smartest, most revolutionary election-related ideas.


In a political climate where the “get out and vote” message seems to be spewing out of everywhere (and rightfully so), it’s worth taking a step back and asking ourselves the simple question: Why are we voting today?

That’s exactly what design studio Gershoni did with their experimental sayHear project, which assigns a toll-free number to each of the 4 voting options – Obama, McCain, 3rd party, and non-voter – and invites people to call with the reason for their choice, then displays the results in a neatly designed interface.

You can hear all the confessionals on the project website, ranging from the fully serious to the giggles-in-the-background prank calls. Listen to one particularly funny one here.

>>> via BoingBoing


The best documentaries record monumental events that change the course of history. That’s exactly what The New York Times is out to do with their Polling Place Photo Project, the first-ever nationwide experiment in citizen journalism.

Polling Place Photo ProjectThe project aims to create the largest photographic archive of the actual battleground of every presidential election — hum-drum polling places — capturing the richness and complexity of voting, a visual record of human behavior in that final stretch of choosing our political destiny.

You can already browse photos from this year’s primaries and caucuses, or upload your own. So don’t forget your camera today.


Slacker Uprising DVDNotorious filmmaker and whistle-blower Michael Moore made movie distribution history this year with his latest political documentary, Slacker Uprising, which became the world’s first feature-length film to launch as a legal free release.

The film, covering the filmmaker’s failed attempt to save the Democrats from themselves in the 2004 election by rallying people to vote with a grassroots tour of 60 cities in the battleground states, is above all a call to action in hope for redemption this time around.

(We covered it in detail here.)


After Barack Obama’s New Hampshire primary speech in January, artist of the Black Eyed Peas got overwhelmed with the desire to prevent the “unfair, backwards, upside down, unbalanced, untruthful, corrupt” process of the last election. So he called up a massive lineup of celebrities to produce a revolutionary music video based on Obama’s speech. (We first covered it here.)

The video became the most-watched election-related video on YouTube, with over 30 million views across its various uploads, and set off an avalanche of buzz across the social web. It inspired an equally moving spinoff, the HOPE.ACT.CHANGE. project, which invites Obama supporters to upload images of themselves and rebuilds the video into a gloriously designed multimedia mosaic of them.


Shepard Fairey's Obama Poster

In January 2008, artist Shepard Fairey did what he does best to show his support for Barack Obama – he designed a poster.

Little did he know the 350 limited-edition PROGRESS screenprints would sell out in minutes, the HOPE print would go on to become part of the Obama camp’s awareness campaign, and the posters would become the most iconic images associated with this presidential campaign.

Here’s to the power of supreme graphic design and art direction.

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There were, of course, a ton of other tremendously innovative efforts. A few more of our favorites included the Obama social network; the efforts to give voice to those who are impacted by the American election but can’t vote, like the nation’s 29.1 million home-owning, tax-paying legal aliens or, you know, the world; the clever and tremendously amusing Things Younger Than McCain site-turned-book (which is funnier if you skip back through the archives); and the Field of Hope crop circle in Pennsylvania.

But what we really hope is that all this innovation is indicative of a greater cultural hunger for change. And as the 11th hour of this grand race is upon us, we can almost taste it.

So get out and vote today — and enjoy it. Your children will read about it in the history books.


Geek Mondays: Dating Data Art

Why 1.7 million people yearn to have their balloons popped every day and what the MoMA has to do with matchmaking.

Jonathan Harris, of We Feel Fine and The Whale Hunt fame, is one of our all-time favorite data artists working in what we like to call “information aesthetics.” His ability to take pure information and transform it into pure visual magic is the epitome of modern concept art. And his last project is nothing short of that.

I Want You To Want Me explores our quest for love in the now mainstream world of online dating, which draws over 1.7 million web romantics every day. The project, commissioned by the MoMA, dissects the personal dating profiles, which themselves are meticulously curated presentations of how we’d like the world to see us and what we’re looking to find in it.

The interactive installation is displayed on a 56″ high-resolution touch screen hung vertically on the wall of a dark room. Visitors can control the weather on a digital sky, where hundreds of balloons float. Each represents a single dating profile and is coded for gender and age by color (blue=male, pink=female) and brightness (bright=younger, dark=older). Inside each balloon is one of 500 video silhouettes, showing a solitary person engaged in a particular activity listed in their dating profile — yoga, air guitar, jumping jacks, you name it. Viewers can move the balloons inside the sky at different speeds, activate thought bubbles for the people trapped inside them, and even pop them.

Movement: Snippets

The installation pulls data every few hours from dating profiles all over the world. Each movement highlights a different facet of online dating: Who I Am explores the revelation of the self, Taglines takes the taglines of people’s profiles and puts them in a DNA-like helix symbolic of human identity, Matchmaker offers a “resolution” of sorts by algorithmically matching people based on data from their online profiles, and Breakdowns offers insight into larger population trends from the world of online dating.

The project aims to offer us a glimplse of ourselves as we peep into the lives of others — a quest for self in the quest for love. It was installed at the MoMA on February 14, 2008, Valentine’s Day.

It is part of the brilliant, brilliant Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition curated by the ever-amazing Paola Antonelli.


Don’t Click It

Why hover is the new click and how to undo 30 years of habituation.

The best of innovation usually involves taking something completely mundane and turning it into something completely different. Which is why we’re all over DONTCLICK.IT, a revolutionary interface that does away with web standbys like clicks and buttons, and lets you navigate in a radically new way with the mere position of your mouse.

The project was born out of an experimental idea that questioned the conventions of browsing behavior. Phase One, going on right now, invites the public to join in and explore the interface. Phase Two digs a bit deeper, analyzing users’ behavior within the interface to find out just how deeply rooted our browsing habits are.

The Button Lab showcases a few alternatives for the click — different mouse motions or a hover timer. And the Autopilot feature allows you to observe the first 20 seconds of browsing behavior of the 20,000+ site visitors — it literally replays their motions within the interface. There’s even a Mousecamp where you can get trained into getting the hang of clickless browsing.

The project has received multiple interactive awards — which is no surprise: Even though the site has been up for nearly 3 years now, it remains innovation unlike anything else out there. So go ahead, explore. Let’s see how click-hooked you are.


Pepsi: Can It?

How Tim Burton could’ve made $1 million today and why the road to social media is paved with good intentions.

New Pepsi LogoThe recent Pepsi redesign produced a new logo, fresh packaging and a slew of mixed response across the social web spanning the entire it-sucks-it-rocks spectrum — not quite the all-around applause last year’s award-winning new Coke identity got, but still an interesting conversation to follow.

The evolution of the logo alone sparked a heated discussion in the design community.

A multi-talented artist friend of ours loved the very first one best, declaring: “It looks like Tim Burton did it.” Which of course gives anything more street cred than any advertising can buy. And the guys at Make The Logo Bigger just launched a Design Your Own Pepsi Logo contest on Flickr for all the naysayers and smart-asses who think they know better than Pepsi’s $1 million design team.

Meanwhile, the ever-eager Steve Rubel of Edelman, Pepsi’s PR firm, got to spreading the word ever which way he could. First, influential social media types got a kit of 10 Pepsi cans showing the evolution of the logo, complete with a teaser note.

Pepsi: Logo Evolution

Pepsi Teaser

Then, a YouTube video popped up tracing Pepsi’s design history. And despite the questionable editing and the cheesy music choice, we found it somewhat endearing.

Rubel even set up a room on FriendFeed called the The Pepsi Cooler where Pepsi is inviting ordinary web users to help shape the company’s media future. An admirable, albeit misguided initiative as it seems that so far, the bulk of room members are professional social media all-stars. Heck, Chris Brogan is on there.

Also from the well-intentioned but misguided front: We came across this cool tag cloud in the FriendFeed room, showing responses to the redesign. No love link and thus no clue where it came from, just a random image hosted on the Amazon cloud server — but pretty neat nonetheless.

It may be smart of Edelman/Pepsi to actually stand behind the Flickr contest and hear what the design community has to say in the only language it speaks. After all, they put themselves on the social media table, so now it’s all fair game. And, sure, it could turn into a food fight — but they’d better be ready to join in and play.

But enough about our take. What’s your 2 cents on Pepsi’s $1 million redesign initiative?


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