Midterm election guide a lesson in civics, design

October 08, 2018

Two women sit together looking at a book

Until recently, Christina Popik ’19 never really considered herself “super politically engaged.” But after spending the summer digging through data and bringing issues to life with palettes of color and thoughtful, inspired graphics, she was hooked.

The result is a nonpartisan, smartly designed primer for next month’s midterm elections in the United States.

Working closely with her adviser Courtney Marchese, associate professor of interactive media and design, the two created the “2018 Midterm Election Guide.” The 100-page resource, which also comes in a pamphlet, is an easy-to-read collection of today’s most pressing political issues, including health care, immigration, gun ownership and climate change.

“I learned so much and I really had fun doing it. The project allowed me to build on other skills besides visual design, which I’ve practiced a lot at school,” said Popik, a graphic and interactive design major and editor-in-chief of The Quinnipiac Chronicle.

“I also got to work with the data, which I found really cool. And I got to tailor the project to the way I wanted it to be.”

For Marchese, who is Popik’s academic adviser and has known her since freshman year, it was the perfect way to enrich and challenge Popik’s skills. The project was funded by a grant from the Quinnipiac University Interdisciplinary Program for Research and Scholarship (QUIP-RS).

“As the summer went on, Christina was like, ‘I found this other data! We need to make a graphic about this!’ She was really committed to it,” Marchese said. “What started out as covering a few key issues became ‘I found stuff on this! And I found stuff on this!’ And then, of course, we had a new section and another new section. Eventually, we had to limit it.”

The guide meticulously breaks down issues and trends by ideology, party and generation. Popik and Marchese built their research with data from the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, the Pew Research Center and other sources. Although the guide is designed for Millennials (21-36), it’s relevant for everyone, from Gen Z (up to 20) and Gen X (37-52) to Baby Boomers (53-71) and Silents (72-89).

Read the 2018 Midterm Election Guide

Learn about BA in Graphic and Interactive Design

“People have a really hard time identifying what they are. Are you a Republican? Are you a Democrat?” Marchese said. “More people than ever don’t identify with any one party. I hope that means they’re just listening to the issues and voting on the issues.”

Recently, the election guide was recognized by AIGA, the national professional association for design. The group’s Design for Democracy campaign shared a graphic from the guide across its social medial channels to more than 330,000 followers.

Popik and Marchese said that effective design is more than making a project look pleasing to the eye. The School of Communications, just like AIGA, promotes design for good — projects that benefit society, not just commercial applications.

In this case, the “2018 Midterm Election Guide” is performing a public service on campus. But before Popik and Marchese could deliver on a professional standard, they had to understand the material and the issues.

“I don’t think people realize how inherently interdisciplinary design is,” Marchese said.

“We have to become experts on any content we want to deliver to the public. We would be doing a huge disservice if we didn’t make our best effort at becoming experts and transmitting the right language and the right context. We can’t teach the public anything until we know it ourselves.”

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