Dana brings deep experience in civic design, starting with research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) into the use of language in instructions on ballots (with Ginny Redish), and work on standards and testing for poll worker documentation for the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). She is also an expert in plain language and usability for older adults, including ground-breaking work at AARP that was the basis for several requirements in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
She teaches design in government at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and in recent years, polished off a 2-year stint as “generalist problem solver” for the United States Digital Service in the Obama White House, doing user research and civic design across agencies.
As the editor of the Field Guides To Ensuring Voter Intent, she has taught thousands of election officials how to improve ballots, websites and other election materials to ensure voter intent. She worked on the Anywhere Ballot, a ballot marking interface tested for accessibility by people with cognitive disabilities and low literacy.
Dana and Jeff Rubin wrote the Handbook of Usability Testing Second Edition (Wiley 2008), the seminal book on the topic.
Democracy is a Design Problem
Every great designed experience starts with the stories of individual humans. At the Center for Civic Design, Dana Chisnell and her team collected a thousand stories from U.S. voters over 5 years. The stories revealed two massive gaps in the process.
First, people who administer elections and voters have very different mental models on the process of voting. The second gap was between privileged voters and burdened voters. These gaps explained why it’s harder than it should be to vote in the U.S. and showed that policies meant to make things better had unintended consequences that actually make it worse.