Last month, Penina Acayo Laker asked students in her “Design for Social Impact” class to interview their friends about the Nov. 6 midterm elections — were they registered, did they know how to vote absentee, what was their plan to get to the polls.
“They were very alarmed by what they heard,” said Laker, assistant professor of communication design at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. “Their classmates knew very little about the voting process. They realized that this is a problem and immediately identified the opportunity to share information and increase participation through good design.”
In 2014, only 15.7 percent of eligible Washington University in St. Louis students voted in the midterms compared to the national university average of 19.1 percent. The Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, through its WashU Votes initiative, is striving to boost turnout for the Tuesday, Nov. 6, election to at least 20 percent.
Laker’s students decided to take action, creating posters to mount in Steinberg Hall. Senior Tolu Atoyebi focused on voter registration, designing a simple, readable poster featuring a large “2” with the top sliced off.
“Young people have a lot of misconceptions about voting,” said Atoyebi, who is majoring in communication design in the Sam Fox School. “I wanted to create a visually striking metaphor that shows that it takes less than two minutes to register.”
Atoyebi also is a residential adviser on a first-year floor at Umrath House. She is urging her residents to build time in their schedule on Tuesday to vote at the Athletic Complex, the polling place for all students who live on the Danforth Campus. The ballot is long, but the Gephardt Institute will offer snacks and games to make the wait fun.
“This will be the first time many of them get to vote,” Atoyebi said. “I want it to be a great experience for them.”
Students in “Big and Graphic: Making Posters with Type and Image” also created posters to get out the vote. Instructor David Rygiol plans to project the works on the north wall of the Athletics Complex at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5.
“Posters have always been a way to call people to action,” Rygiol said. “Many of my students focused on this theme that no matter which party you belong to, we can all share this common experience of voting. And that’s what really makes democracy beautiful.”