Ciaran Watkins – Art Direction For The Voters

Posted on April 9, 2011 by


I saw an advert today reminding us all that on May 5th there will be local elections taking place. This is also the place where every voter will be able to cast their view on if we need a new voting system or not under the guise of the Alternative Vote. I shall stop now and admit that I know very little about what the AV is, so I did a bit of research, but more on that later.

The advert in question is actually rather good. It’s not jaw droppingly brilliant, but the art direction and cinematography of the short TV spot is rather lovely.

The first fifteen seconds are a pleasure to watch, but then I’m a sucker for any sort of nature programme; sweeping shots of birds flying over gorgeous scenery will always interest me. But wait just one second, they’re not birds at all! They’re pamphlets about local elections! How fun. I haven’t really got anything else to add, I saw it on TV and thought ‘Yes, that was very nice, well done’. I guess that’s all it takes to get a dedicated blog post these days.

This ad is a nice way of making something so dreadfully dull, watchable. Now of course I’m not trying to suggest that voting is dull, quite the contrary, I find it incredibly exciting. Last year I strolled to my polling station head held high, polling card in hand and relished the first official vote of my life, but being reminded about voting is, well, pretty dull. Even when the now President Obama invaded Burnout Paradise with in-game billboards reminding Americans to vote, I still found it a bit boring, even though I gave it a good write up in my dissertation.

Now about this ‘Alternative Vote’. I know exactly what the First Past The Post system is, but until about half an hour ago, I had no idea how the new system (if it wins) is going to work. It’s a good job then, that the Electoral Commission have created some fantastic youtube videos, containing some cutesy illustration, and again quite brilliant art direction!

Now that is fantastic graphic communication. My old tutors would be proud if I managed to come out with something like that. It’s clear, concise, and quite easy on the eye making for simple viewing. It does it’s best to explain the AV system in easy to follow images and speech. The only problem I have with this video is that it was hidden behind four pages of useless information, on a website I would have never visited if I weren’t looking for the previous advert. This piece of marvellous graphic information, should be on the front of major websites explaining the new system to as many people as possible. The only advertising I’ve seen on the AV subject told me nothing about the new voting system, and used shock tactics and emotional blackmail to try and secure my vote for ‘No’. That’s a shame really. This is incredibly important, and it needs to be understood by as many people as possible.

On the topic of ‘understanding’, does any one else feel that the actual voting question surrounding the AV system is a bit… long winded?

It’s quite heavily worded, and for someone whose first language might not be English, it could be considered confusing. Surely it would be better if the vote was “What system of voting should the United Kingdom use. []First Past The Post []Alternative Vote”? Maybe that’s just me nit-picking, but voting should revolve around the most clear and concise sheets of information possible. A confusing voting slip could result in a misplaced vote, and that ends in travesty.

Anyway, I’m in way over my head as I know very little about politics. What’s nice to know is that people like the Electoral Commission are trying to make it as easy as possible to understand, and in turn, creating some fantastic pieces of design. I still haven’t decided whether I’ll be voting yes or no for the AV system, as I don’t like the idea that someone who only marks one name has their vote rescinded if their party isn’t first. The AV system would require every voter to rank every possible candidate for a truly fair vote, and I don’t think every one will do that. For some voting comes as a chore rather than a privilege, and making it take just five minutes longer could actually put people off voting. Of course We (I) don’t know that’s the case. We can only wait for a result, and watch how it plays out in practise.

Whatever the outcome of the local elections and the possibility of an Alternative Voting system, I just hope people actually vote. If you’re unsure of what you’re actually voting for as I was, there are some cracking bits of design, advertising and video waiting for you out there from people like the Electoral Commission. It doesn’t take long to read or watch a bit of public information, and it’s all for the greater good. Remember, people fought for your right to vote, so the least you can do is actually get up off your arses, and vote.

Read more over at Whatever’s In There, Falls Out Here.

Posted in: Ciaran Watkins