Nichelle Narcisi | Essays

Except You

Except you.

Command X was supposed to serve as comic relief at the AIGA's Next Conference last month in Denver. Seven young designers from around the country were chosen to compete in a real-time design competition, taking on a series of assignments and risking elimination in the manner of "Project Runway" and any number of other television reality shows. No one was sure whether it would work, including the organizers. But it did work, and powerfully so, in no small part due to the compelling performances of the contestants.

The last of the three challenges was the most serious: propose a strategy to raise the turnout of voters between 18 and 24. With less than 24 hours to work, each of the finalists came up with a provocative response. But it was Nichelle Narcisi's all-text solution that caught the enthusiasm of the visually-biased 2000-plus audience, gaining her the only standing ovation of the entire three-day conference. She has agreed to share it here with the readers of Design Observer. [The Editors]

I don't care what you think of my writing or my message. You're not included in what is going on here. Your opinion is worthless and everyone here knows it. Everyone else has something worthwhile to contribute, except you.

You're the outcast. Everyone else has this figured out, except you. Everyone fits in, except you. Everyone, except you. Except you.

Exclusion is uncomfortable, isn't it? So it's surprising that so many of us 18-24 year olds have chosen to exclude ourselves by not voting.

If we've learned anything from MySpace and Facebook, it's that my generation values being a part of the group and having a say. We're mavericks of social networking, communication and internal organization. We become passionate about anything the peer consensus agrees to rally around, including skateboarding dogs. So why not focus that social muscle on something that really matters? Something like going to war. Or global warming. It's obvious that we care about those things. Getting us to act is the hard part.

One reason we shy away from involvement may be that we're actually too media savvy. We've spent our entire lives being bombarded by targeted advertising and we're fully aware of it. We've become jaded and suspicious toward anyone who may try to persuade us, especially if it's for our own good.

At the same time, all that marketing attention has fostered a feeling of entitlement. We want the messages we receive to be polished, entertaining and immediate, otherwise we can't be bothered. The only thing we're willing to invest time in is our social scene and the warm inclusive blankie that comes with having amassed a small army of MySpace friends.

So, how do you motivate us to vote? First you'll have to jolt us out of that complacency. We want to be taken seriously, we hate being talked down to, and more than anything else, we're afraid of being excluded. So make us feel awkward and uncomfortable. Make us the outsider and point your finger while you do it.

Except you.

The message has to be short, like our attention span, and it should leave a mark. "Except you." Wrap some relevant topics around that phrase. Be brief and blunt. No fancy graphics, just an abrasive accusation mocking us from a dorm hallway. When you don't vote, no one cares what you think or have to say. You don't matter. "Everyone counts, except you." We will respond to belittlement, and when we do we'll see that we've missed something vital and in that oversight have lost our voice.

Except you.

Except you.

This is just the beginning of the idea. Right now these are pdfs with simple peer pressure-driven messages that any interested or irritated individual can print out, adding their own black and white proclamations. They'll find inclusion and empowerment as they realize that they do in fact matter and can wield their voice with mighty affect. Could this theme become a movement for our generation?

Except you.

Except you.

The reality is that our political system doesn't value young non-voters. With "Except You," I'm simply bringing that fact to our attention — and trusting that our rebellious spirit, fanning the flames, will do the rest.

If you want to be included, visit www.exceptyou.org.

Posted in: Education , Media, Politics

Comments [62]

I can see why this earned a standing ovation! Really, this is a brilliant idea and it is wonderfully executed. I hope this catches on.
Joey Pfeifer

I love this campaingn. However, I suspect that the issue of inclusion isn't the only problem.

In my opinion, another issue about voting that keeps people of this demographic away is being able to know what each party is actally all about. I find that politicians are very untrustworthy people who make false promises during campaign time, and switch their arguments / actions to suit their needs.
For me, it's not that I don't want to vote, it's that a) I don't know who to vote for, and b) I don't know anyone in the running I do trust.

On top of that, it's very hard to decide what party you believe in (which party you agree with most) overall. There's one site I saw a few years ago that my friends made which helped with making an objective decision when choosing a political party during election time in Canada called The Undecided which acted as a 'blind taste test' of political issues.

I do think that with both of these sites and campaigns do make for a very powerful argument towards both educating youth, and compelling them to vote. I am certainly one of them.
Edrea Lita

what clarity. what force. yes, no wonder this got a standing ovation.

i've been mulling over the message for the past hour and mostly appreciate the choice of wraparound themes, which shows a grasp of all the interconnectedness of themes that constitute our political reality. in this case, i think the campaign works best as a package of themes, since politics is rarely about any one thing. i love that these issues are presented as political.

i am on the fence, however, about the exclusion message, but it did make me pause, which says so much about the strength of the campaign. i wish ms. narcisi all the best in this endeavour and that it gets noticed and viral, the way she conceives it to be.

i also appreciate's DO's choice to include this. it says as much about the ideas as it does the inventor. fresh and potent, which is certainly what we want from this generation.

last week's time magazine had a disturbing article about the 300 million 20-30 something emerging middle class in china who only want snowboards and nintendo's who really don't care about politics at all. material wealth is all but brand new in chinese society, and this novelty of consumption without representation is sure to last for decades. the point here being that american 18-24 year olds have been in this political-awareness-free state for some time now. and they've had rights all this time.

prosperity is not the same thing as democracy. apropos myspace, et al - you can see terabytes of loud and pop-culture-y visual language of a properous culture - but what is the visual language of a politically astute culture?

i think ms. narcisi's stark minimalist presentation is the whisper amongst the din, and i worship her boldness.
Gong Szeto

This was really the icing on the cake for the best AIGA conference I've attended.

While I always enjoy the conferences, but this was the first time I'd felt like we (the community) were "all in it together," and the programming had a finger on the pulse of topics that seemed to have shared importance for most of the attendees.

I left the conference thinking, "there is no way we won't look back on Nichelle's presentation as a landmark of some sort." It was, truly, powerful.

I felt both gigantic and proud to be a designer, and small and self-conscious in the face of such an inordinate amount of talent, personality, and confidence as Nichelle projected.
Randy J. Hunt

In my direct experience (three younger sibs, none of whom voted in the last election) I find that the issue isn't necessarily apathy, it is energy. Getting to voting booth is hard work. And boring! And even when you really really try to get there you find that the line is sooooooo long. And then there are all of these things to vote for that you've never heard of and it is confusing! And sometimes you go to one place and find that you're not on the list and have to go to another place! And the voting booths close so early and there's all these old people there. Plus, I'm tired and don't feel like going. Seriously, I had a hard day. And I there's that survey on myspace that I have to take.

Tell me again why we want to ENCOURAGE these adolescents to vote? Only a society eager to bring about its own destruction would court the political involvement of this demographic. In an era without civics classes, all we can do is wait for these kids to grow up of their own accord.
Ben Kessler

Great design at its best. The message is bold and so is the design, there could not have been a better match.
Tanner Christensen

I have to say that I think Nichelle's campaign spans more than just 18 to 24 year olds. Even my age group does not enjoy the feeling of exclusion. They all still scramble for togetherness at things like happy hour and sporting events.

Nichelle accomplished something that most seasoned designers could not . . . appealing to a group by touching on their insecurities. While most would deny their longing to be included, they secretly agree with the message she has presented.

I often think that too much importance is put on "young" and "new" designers. Every designer has a unique way of conveying an idea/message, no matter what their age or experience level is.

However, in a conference that was wrought with "young" and "new," I applaud her for being able to go above and beyond it all.


My only issue with this idea is the body copy that seems slanted in one direction on some of the issues presented. The strong message is brilliant, but it should encourage free thought and discussion, not influence it.

Well-deserved of the standing ovation.
Sean Flanagan

I'm not sure the term "comic relief" is the correct one to describe this aspect of the conference. Certainly none of the promotions from AIGA soliciting submissions touted it as such. Similarly, the tone of the application itself (no, I didn't apply) was actually fairly formal and serious, and promised benefits such as widespread exposure, etc.

Yes, Mr. Beirut's performance was loose and campy (and dead-on), and yes the judges traded light-hearted barbs with the contestants and each other, but I wouldn't relegate any of this to comic relief — not in intent, and in retrospect. To do so I think downgrades the contribution of these magnificent seven to a sort of side show to the main event — a lightweight diversion from the "real content." I think we've heard over and over now that Command-X provided some of the weekend's best insight, discourse and commentary on the process of designing. Many have exalted it as the unequivocal highlight of the conference.

There was laughter, yes, but I saw seven earnest, thoughtful, creative and remarkably articulate young people on that stage. Seven young people who risked more than any other presenter and in doing so provided a catalyst for real discussion in the process. I cried three times during Nichelle's final presentation. I was so proud for her, so moved by her effort. And while I don't think anyone anticipated that these seven would move us as they did, nor that they would take their assignments so seriously, that is certainly what they were encouraged to do, and what we were promised to expect.

In my mind they were presenters, every one. Let's not call them jesters.

Christopher Simmons

This really was one of the three moments in the conference that brought me close to tears. It was a freaking amazing and powerful moment.

I loved that the solution was so rooted copy writing. Words are pure communication and it was great to see a designer that had such a strong grasp of communication in all its forms. I am a big proponent of designers flexing their copy writing skills more. Content is strategy. Content is design. It's all communication and I commend Nichelle for being such a pro at it.

Most designers just put Lorem Ipsum and say, here is where my headline would go. Ugh.

Congrats again.

In my very humble (and Dutch) opinion, i think the problem could be in a strong decrease in the trust of where the votes go. I mean, Bush stole it earlier, that must be such a desillusion first and foremost. Strange things happen here in The Netherlands too but i truely foresee serious riots when the same would happen here. It all just seems a little to friendly... Big hooray anyway for the 'unconventional' method of approaching. Seeing everybody so cheerful, guess i should've been there... ;(

Ben Kessler wrote: "Tell me again why we want to ENCOURAGE these adolescents to vote? . . ."

Is this is meant to be funny somehow? If it is not, I can only think of mentioning that we allow, even encourage, 18-24 year old "adolescents" to join the military and give up their lives for our country.

Michelle Narcisi has produced some great work, really nice to see it here on DO.
Rob Henning

I'm not sure the term "comic relief" is the correct one to describe this aspect of the conference.

Sorry. I agree "comic relief" is not an accurate way to describe the intentions of the people that put together Command X, and certainly not the participants. I do maintain that it was meant to be one of the lighter segments at the conference (and certainly was in spots), and that no one was quite prepared for the seriousness that attended the final presentations. At least I wasn't.

Those who were there will well remember that Nichelle also had the funniest solution for the Jimmy Dean Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick showdown. To come back the next day with "Except You" makes her performance all the more impressive.
Michael Bierut

This is design.

It's been way too long, and there have been way too many Nike guerilla campaigns, too many iPod wild-postings - too much meaningless fluff. An exhilarating relief.

And guess what monostereo, the most valuable things in life are hard work. And I'm not talking about myspace. Your apathy (however you describe it) will not serve you much longer.
Mr. One-Hundred

...unless, of course, you are being sarcastic. Which, I guess, would make me one of the old people in that line.
Mr. One-Hundred

Amazing ads! They really catch the eye, and the statement forces you to read the rest. I couldn't help but feel angered at first, then upon reading it; blame myself!

I to am part of the 18-24 generation. It seems everyone is more concerned with medial issues that what should matter!

Karl Hotovec

Don't bother with the endless seminars, books and websites that go on and on about 'what graphic design is'. Just look at this idea. Excellent work.
Gary Cook

This is powerful stuff and I really want to believe that design can be more than just eye candy and make a difference in our world.

Well, another form of design that's helping us change the world would be sustainable design. Incidentally, I just heard about an event dealing with sustainable design -- Utterubbish, in the Singapore Design Festival. You can check it out at www.singaporedesignfestival.com.

Good to know design has the power to make a difference!

I'm just waiting to hear when Nichelle is going to be rescued from a marketing agency in East Petersburg, PA.

Did she recieve get her "lovely parting gifts"?
felix sockwell

Yes. I agree. It is great DESIGN. It is compelling, it is interesting, it is as Mr. One-Hundred sez it is a refreshing change fromthe too-hip guerilla-ipod fad of the day. It's good design.

However I just came back from the voting booth here in WA state. How many of the posters creaming about design actually voted today or will vote today?
Mark Kaufman

I will not vote.

I have given up on voting just as I have given up on health insurance. I did not pay my premium because it is too expensive.

As i said last July:

Well, I used to think voting (health insurance) was important, every voice (body) had to be heard (healthy).

Then I considered myself ill informed, and I postured that voting (paying high premium health insurance) for the wrong person (unhealthy individuals who don't execise, smoke, drink, and feed on junk food) is worse than not voting (not having insurance at all) at all.

Reluctantly, I continued to vote (pay for ins.) for who I thought was right, aka vote my conscious, but they never won.(I never got sick enough to see a doctor) I came to the assumption that voting (insurance never changes my healthiness) never changes anything and may as well be forbidden or rigged. (forgotten)

After seeing this, I gather that we are in a brand new phase of voting. It may have numbed our minds, but not our nuts.
My mind is numb am I am nuts, but a picture of physical health

Excuse me I am coming off of a eighteen hour roadtrip from Nebraska to Indiana via South Dakota. I got in at 3:30 am. Am very tired but still need to be heard. I will try harder next time.


I not i
exeRcise not execise
for WHOM I thought was right
my mind is numb AND I am nuts.

I will probably have to run this through draft mode 2 or 3 more times. I learned in seventh grade language arts that I piece of writing is not done until you run through it four times. (vintage 1972 education theory)

Thank you, Miss Nussbaum, my seventh grade teacher. translated she was a nuttree, too.

I'm just waiting to hear when Nichelle is going to be rescued from a marketing agency in East Petersburg, PA.


Tisk tisk.

If there's one thing today's technology has empowered in design, it's the ability to do world-class work anywhere in the world. I wouldn't trade my 10 minute traffic-free commute, $1.25 large coffees or fresh clean air for any big city. Regardless of the parting gifts...

No way, no how.
Doug B

Lest we think that 18 to 24 year olds are the only ones disenfranchised by apathy and by a low profile on the political radar, I should point out that minorities and the working poor have long fallen in this category. They suffer more for this act of self-exclusion, or an act induced by political hopelessness, than the young, like myself, who generally have healthy bodies and a future of possibiity before them. Don't working, single mothers also need to know that voting is not too insignificant in their labor-heavy lives? I hope people realize that these people (although they are not design-savvy) need to be targeted by a campaign like Narcisi's.
Henry Ng

Oh please... young single moms get enough attention. What about washed up, divorced grandmothers who haven't worked a day in their life?

There are no entitlement programs for us, or is it just me?

Silence is louder than voting anyway.

Dont vote. Dont be heard.

They not listening , they not listening still,

Perhaps they never will.


I'm calling for a 10% voting turnout.

Tisk tisk

Right, I'm sure the dial up internet service just outside of Lancaster. is built to suit taskmasters.

ps- my coffe is free and commute is nada... thought I can't say the airs all that great in central New Jersey.
felix sockwell

Congratulations to Nichelle Narcisi for her clever and provocative work, which has been met with near-unanimous praise by a critical audience.

I'm reluctant to be a naysayer, but feel compelled to take a minute to mourn the idea that young people could possibly be inspired -- whether it be by current events, media, family, friends, or the core of their being -- to exercise their right to vote. Rather, it seems certain members of the young generation need to be shamed into cultivating an opinion (by advertising no less), and that this "opinion" is just another form of pop culture as self-definition.

Emily Nussbaum, in a recent New York Magazine piece about the widening generation gap, suggested that today's young people think of themselves as "having an audience" and have therefore developed "thicker skin" than previous generations. If this campaign were to launch, let's hope that young people would be immune to the fact the these ads are not only manipulating them, but belittling them.

While I want to advocate any tactic that gets people to the polls, my question is this: Once you get them to the polls, who and what will these young people vote for, when they lack true conviction, and are driven to action primarily by their vanity, and fear of being excluded?
Laura Forde

It's just you.

Social Security Disability Benefits
Generally, disability is defined as the inability to engage in "substantial gainful activity" (SGA) by reason of a physical or mental impairment
Mark Kaufman

I was busy typing and didn't see Laura Forde's post pop up.

Laura-absolutely brilliant. Naysay away. One of the most intelligent posts I have seen on DO. No tongue in cheek on my part, either.

The only thing I would quibble on is the fact that the young do not have a corner on narcicism, fear, and lack of conviction.
Mark Kaufman


The tone of your comment indicates to me that I've offended you. You should redirect your anger toward Narcisi. She's the one claiming that post-teens are a bunch of thumb-sucking, websurfing Linklaterites who need to be heckled into a voting booth. I'm happy to say that I outgrew that demographic years ago and have little to no interaction with those whose high-school diplomas bear fresh ink. Lacking first-hand knowledge, I yield to Narcisi, but my comment was meant to point out the contradiction implicit in her campaign: If youth are so feckless as to practically require an engraved invitation to perform their democratic duties, why should older folks be so solicitous of their votes? It may be true that high-schoolers in America today are more familiar with Army recruiters than New York Times columnists, but at least the military provides soldiers with basic training before thrusting them into battle. What congruent program is there for our young civilians?
Ben Kessler

Excuse me, Mark, but if you check my ideas on adblogs, you will see that many of them have come to fruition. Just that I'm paranoid that they could have been stolen. Course, adfirms and pr companies don't steal> they borrow. They really shouldn't try to be artists, dammit, artists steal. THEY ARE DESIGNERS.

I'm not impaired. I don't even drink absinthe yet. Though, my bottle of ouzo that is almost a year old is half empty.

Please see my skillfull use of very difficult 3-d programs, films that could stop a clock. Please check out my posts on adblogs which reflect the same themes as dove's real beauty campaigns.

Please see what I can do in a typography video here:
I never even finished a typography course> eight lessons is all I had.


How many people see a person in that apple logo? The apple of an eye. How many people look that close? At least one that maybe could get a job reference in my hometown.

If any one is mentally impaired, it is my teacher at school who failed to nurture a beautiful designer career at heart. Though, I got a feeling they dip quite deeply into government entitlement over there. State reps who earn 100K for being on their board, etc.

Brilliant designs. BUT, as anyone who knows a bit about political science, these messages are so misleading it's laughable. Instead of educating you, they end-up communicating false information.

"Everyone counts, except you."
The voting system IS broken. Voting won't change that. Statistically there can be no winner on a presidential level that does not come from either the Democratic or Republican party. This is a problem inherent in the single-member system, not in the number of people who vote.

"Everyone can influence political candidates, except you."
The information at the bottom is VERY misleading. Politicians do not represent your interests because you voted for them. They represent the interests of those who funded the advertising to get you to vote for them. They'll tell you anything you want to hear to get your vote, but your interests are not represented by that vote.

Excellent designs, they will provoke so much thought and discussion and curiosity that is required for us to advance ourselves politically.

Content is strategy. Content is design.

Amen to that.

Strongly agreed with Allusiv's comment - where the series of designs are just misleading.

But then again, don't you agree that the purpose of most marketing campaign is to mislead? Nichelle Narcisi's work definitely did that well and put her on top of the class. :)

Great stuff.
Just wait till Oprah finds out about this - Nichelle you'll be flown to Chicago in no time for an "except you" special, and "except you" will be more powerful than the "oh so 90s" MTV's Rock the Vote. And because Oprah's influence reaches the whole world (and not only becasue of that), "except you" will probably be exported to Europe and translated in over 20 languages for all the Lisbon Treaty referenda. And let's not forget the real 18-24 year-old mob is in the developing countries. And they are certanly left out of a lot. How do you write "Except you" in Mandarin? Now that's graphic design.

No marketing campaign or clever design will get young people interested in voting if there are no candidates that speak to them. We've been down this road before, many times, in fact.

Since 1972 when the voting age was lowered to 18, we've heard time and again, every four years, about the promise of the "Youth Vote". Never. Happens. It's the middle-aged and the elderly who vote in far higher proportion. And, to be frank, that not only makes sense and I don't find that a bad thing. After all, these are people with double, triple the life experience of an 18-year-old, people with an investment in their communities. What does an 18-year-old have? New ideas, maybe. Hope? Maybe. Energy? Sure. Sound judgment? Maybe not better or worse than a 50-year-old. But experience? Not so much. [I myself am not even 40, by the way.]

So, yeah, while the rest of you get all teary-eyed at the "Message" of this, I shrug. I mean -- oh, don't get me wrong, it's a brilliant design campaign. But effective? Eh. Maybe. You would need a candidate who speaks this way to young voters to get young voters away from their Wii and Facebook.

It's naive to think you can get huge numbers of 18- to 24-year-olds to focus on something more than school, sex/friends, drinking, and games. Call that cynical; I prefer the term realist.
Christian in NYC

I think there are several things missed in some of the comments here.

First, while the assignment was to target 18-24 yr olds, why does everyone assume this can only speak to 18-24 yr olds? If I remember correctly (and my vision isn't failing too badly), Nichelle started off her presentation by pointing at someone in the crowd and "excluding" them and saying "except you." and that someone wasn't an 18-24 yr old. This campaign could easily be adapted with some very minor text tweaking to apply to *anyone* who doesn't vote.

Second, while I'll agree that, to some extent, politicians "represent the interests of those who funded the advertising to get you to vote for them," they also have to deal with speaking to large voter blocks, even if they aren't all represented by a large lobbying group. So while the lack of a large, well-funded lobbying group for 18-24 yr olds is definitely one reason politicians ignore them, another reason is they just don't vote. so why bother campaigning at them? you target your campaign (and your actions leading to reelection, once you're in office) toward the people who can and will vote for you. As long as youth don't vote, it doesn't really matter because they're insignificant to politicians (other than as potential volunteers with lots of energy). Voting is the first step.

More importantly, in the long run, people who vote at 20 are more likely to vote at 40 or 50. The sooner we can get people to at least pay attention to government and think about voting, the more likely we are to stave off continued drops in voter turnout.

I'd like to see what Nichelle could do to adapt this either to be used for other segments or to be more generic and just aimed at voter apathy in general.

"Once you get them to the polls, who and what will these young people vote for, when they lack true conviction, and are driven to action primarily by their vanity, and fear of being excluded?"

Since when has everyone who voted been filled with true conviction, or not been driven by their vanity? Everyone is different and have their own reasons and driving forces behind their decision to vote. Later generations are not superior to the Newer generations. The Older generations have developed their own ideals and beliefs as individuals, the same as younger generations do and have.

Since 1971, when individuals 18 and up were allowed to vote, their opinions, beliefs and ideals became relevant. So why then do people continue to exclude them and belittle them and their ideas? By telling them they don't matter, all it does is push them deeper and further away from what matters. Keeping the government in check, by letting their voices be heard.

So, it is important to get them involved, no matter how few end up being reached. If Nichelle Narcisi's Except You campaign does so, it is because it feeds off of the negativity that has been built up against younger generations of voters.

What I hoped to say is maybe if people stopped shunning them and tried listening to their ideas instead of dismissing them as young and naive, it might serve to instill a little confidence in our government from a younger disillusioned generation.

You gotta, uh.. gotta love each other or ... otherwise (strum guitar chord) politics is just a joke.

Okay, it might appear sappy, but it's not. I got that quote from the mclean YouTube video 1979 version of Mr. Como's i love you so.


I'm happy to say that I outgrew that demographic years ago and have little to no interaction with those whose high-school diplomas bear fresh ink.
- Ben Kessler

Tell me again why we want to ENCOURAGE these adolescents to vote? Only a society eager to bring about its own destruction would court the political involvement of this demographic. In an era without civics classes, all we can do is wait for these kids to grow up of their own accord.
- Ben Kessler

It's naive to think you can get huge numbers of 18- to 24-year-olds to focus on something more than school, sex/friends, drinking, and games. Call that cynical; I prefer the term realist.
- Christian in NYC


Excuse me, but this kind of ageism is completely inappropriate. (However you feel about Nichelle's campaign.) What, exactly, is inherently wrong about being a young adult? My friends are, for the most part, politically engaged and follow the news as much as any older adult I know. My girlfriend is interning at a major presidential campaign. Christian and Ben: At what age, exactly, is it appropriate for one to become politically involved? Is there a specific birthday I'll hit when I'll suddenly have the wisdom necessary to choose a candidate?

When I do, I can only hope I haven't become cranky, arrogant, and disdainful of anyone younger than I am.

- Teddy (Age 23)
Teddy Blanks

It has been suggested that politicians have nothing to offer the 18-24 year old demographic, so that's why this group does not vote. This is a bit of a chicken/egg scenario--which came first? Do 18-24 year olds fail to vote because politicians are ignoring them? Or, are politicians ignoring them because they fail to vote? If 18-24 years olds were voting in droves, I rather suspect that politicians would sit up and begin to take notice. Every politician wants votes and is going to pander (err, I mean "communicate") to whatever group(s) can deliver the most votes.

Just as an aside, I wonder what would happen if, next Presidential election, we had one candidate who wanted to reinstitute the draft for 18-24 year olds, and one who was opposed to that idea? Would 18-24 year olds get out and vote in record numbers because of an issue that could directly affect them?

This campaign is based on what might be a faulty premise. That is, that the intended audience actually cares about the things that make up the first line of each message (saving the environment, advising military, etc.). If they don't already have some interest in these things, why would they even read on? It is a bit like asking someone to join a club that they have no interest in joining. One might not mind being excluded from the "save the environment club if one has no interest in saving the environment to begin with. Indeed, one might even be happy if that club would just get one's my back. In that way, these messages may not speak to the person who is totally disconnected, but, rather speak more to the person who is already somewhat aware of the political issues expressed—-and somewhat already engaged by those issues.

Even so, I still think it is great work and conveys important messages in a very clear, concise way.
Rob Henning

The majority of those young people who vote do so because they already care, not because some piece of boring white paper is telling them they might make a difference. There is no visual hook, nothing at all exciting, or anything remotely interesting in the work to drive those who don't care to take the time to read on and maybe care. All that is being done here is preaching to the converted. Sure, theres an "idea" behind it, but unfotunately thats only half of graphic design. Standing ovation? God, no wonder I'm not a member of the AIGA.

While many of the comments above are insightful, thoughtful and intelligent... don't we all get tired of pretending we have everything all figured out ALL THE TIME.

Whenever one is moved to such degrees by a piece of work we should take the time to pause and ask ourselves some very critical questions. With the gleeful emotional outpouring slowly subduing we are presented with such an opportunity - one where we can reflect a little clearer on this idea.
Political action takes many forms and 'voting' is merely just one method of navigating a representative democracy. The posters in question seek to capture the critical potentiality of an emergent generation and direct them down well trodden avenues, to maintain and foster an adherence to order and normative values. The campaign does not question the political structure or the intricate relations between the problems and the systems in place to solve them - they are merely posited as reasons to vote. The emphasis is on voting, being seen to vote - to confirm that the structure is a sound one and that you confirm and conform rather than think. The message is "The problems we face are many and new, but the way to solve them is through voting". We should ask ourselves; who is this voice? and what is it's real motivation.
As some have noted, this campaign simply follows the formulaic advertising procedure. 1st. It seeks to convince you there is a problem. 2nd. It isolates, creates, and locates the lack at an individual level, and then 3rd. Supplies the one-size fits all solution - no thinking required. Everything can remain the same.
Indeed, we should make the intentions of the posters quite clear - the campaign is not targeted towards non-voters. Non-voters exist outside the remit of this simple message and are much more concerned with discovering, experimenting, forging new political approaches. That these formations exist outside of the limited scope of box-ticking is of no concern to this advert. Rather (as many of the comments appear to confirm) this work sets out to convince those that already do vote, that there procedural performance matters and has effect. It provides a sense of vindication and relieves voters of the guilt and frustration they feel when noting the systematic failure occur yet again. It is an appeasement, a certificate of citizenship handed out like sleeping pills to coma patients. When those who are not our friends make us feel comfortable, it's usually because they want something from us - and it's more often than not at our own expense.

i disagree that the ad doesn't target non-voters at all. i'm not part of the demographic (i'm in my 40s and i vote, always have), but i have a significant number of friends who are in their 20s who have strong political opinions and beliefs, but who don't vote because they think their vote doesn't matter. *THAT* is who the target demographic is for this campaign, IMO. the person who cares about what happens, but thinks their vote doesn't matter. and it's a more significant portion of the population than people might think (and not just the 18-24 demographic, either).

to agrayspace,

This is a discussion, not a bunch of know it all's preaching! You state your opinions, someone else theirs and a dialogue is born. It's how progress is made.


Again, the "ageism" you object to in my comments originates with Narcisi, to whom I defer on the assumption that she knows her generation as well as she clearly thinks she does. It would be ludicrous for an oldster like me to question the low opinion she holds of her peers. Her depressing description of today's youth does indeed make me say, with Maurice Chevalier, "I'm glad I'm not young anymore." However, it also doesn't inspire me to do all I can to increase voter turnout among post-teens.
Ben Kessler


I hate to re-quote here, but the first comment you left was: Tell me again why we want to ENCOURAGE these adolescents to vote? Only a society eager to bring about its own destruction would court the political involvement of this demographic. You say your opinion of our generation "originates with Narcisi," but even if her comments on our propensity for social networking reflect negatively, what I took away from her introduction is that 18-to-24-year-olds are simply too suspicious of targeted advertising, and too media-savvy to be reached by traditional "youth vote" campaigns.

This observation alone could hardly lead to your dismissal of young adults as 'adolescents' that will 'bring about society's destruction' if we enter the voting booths.

And, for the record, I'm glad you're not young anymore as well.
Teddy Blanks

@Teddy: It is not "ageism" to point out that for 30+ years people have been talking about the promise of the Youth Vote. And for 30+ years, it ain't happened. Meaning, young adults have not become a voting force like, say, the AARP-age folks are a voting force. There are blips and regionalisms -- I distinctly recall it was a huge surge in college student voting that got Jesse Ventura elected governor in 1998 in Minnesota. . . [without any judgement on what kind of governor he turned out to be or, you know, the wisdom of electing that guy.]

Neither is it some criticism of "your generation" to state factually that older people have more experience and, generally, more investment in their communities. This has been true throughout time, and remains true. [See: the thousands of years of cultures that revere and defer to their elders.] There could be a good, evolutionary reasons for this: the people who have survived, survived, and maybe they have something wiser to say than those who didn't make it (e.g. "Here's how you avoid being eaten by a lion") or haven't had as much experience.

I am no way saying that young adults don't have things to contribute and if you had read my post, perhaps you might have gleaned that. I was pointing out the history of trying to get young people to vote (not much success).

I learned from my parents to be a responsible citizen, to be interested in what was going on around me. When I turned 18, I voted, and I have voted in every Presidential campaign since. Trying to instil that sense of citizenship into 18-24 year-olds, if they DON'T already have it. . . I am doubtful. I vote not because of some "clever" design campaign compells me to do so. It's a worldview. A way of thinking. I am a citizen and I participate. I take pride in that. I'm sure there are always many young people who learn the same lesson I did and act the same way. And I am also sure there are many young people who never learned about citizenship and don't care, and don't connect to their community or their country and no marketing campaign will change that. That isn't "ageism", Teddy (though kind of you to play the victim), that's just reality. If you want 18-year-olds to vote in numbers, start teaching citizenship in kindergarten to every child in the US. Otherwise, you're wasting your time.
Christian in NYC

Christian, your point is well taken. Your opinion that it's better to give up on getting young people to vote simply because it hasn't worked in the past isn't ageist, it's defeatist. I mostly take issue with the language you used, that my generation only cares about "school, sex/friends, drinking, and games." (To which games are you referring?) It's these blanket statements that are ageist.

Nobody is asking you to devote your life to getting young people to vote - It's not a particular priority of mine, either. I just ask that this forum, which seems at the moment to be devoted to a lot of speculation as to my generation's concerns and ideals, be a little more civil.

As to your contention that one should have life experience (how much, exactly?) to have a say in government, well, I say that all one needs to participate in democracy is the status of being a legal adult who is affected by the decisions our legislators and presidents make. Which is, if I'm not mistaken, how it works in this country.
Teddy Blanks

@Teddy: My final comment on this. Every single bit of marketing you will see that targets 18-24 year-olds focuses exceedingly on "sex/friends, drinking, and games". Computers games, I meant [an industry that is now bigger than Hollywood]. Why do advertisers spend so much money on these subjects to lure this demographic (I mean, sorry, "your generation") to buy their goods/services? It is because those are things that interest this age group. As it did the generation before them. As it did me. As it did our grandparents. Unless you under some kind of delusion that your generation invented sex or is somehow unique among the thousands of generations this world has seen. I posit that you, like everyone else who was/is your age, is driven by millenia-old instinctual drives to pass on those genes. Men's sexual peak is at age 18, in general, women at 21. Biology is pretty much forefront for, oh, much of our species at this age, not politics. So it's really no wonder that people in this demographic have other priorities. You want to call that "ageist", fine. I call it "human".

RE life experience -- I didn't expressly say one *should* have more life experience to participate (or any experience, for that matter). I only say that those who do have more life experience happen to vote more often and regularly than those who don't. And, logically, doesn't that make sense? You're welcome to try to get your generation out in droves to study policy positions and zoning ordinances. Good luck w/ that.

There are dreamers and there are pragmatists. I never said I was the former. The world needs both.

If you want youth to vote in numbers, then make voting mandatory, like most other countries do. And start civics in pre-school. And a bunch of other long-term, systemic, institutional changes. But a standing ovation for a clever design campaign does not a revolution make. And gets exactly zero youth to the polls.

There is nothing defeatist in pointing out facts. 30 years of hoping for the youth vote to materialize hasn't really produced anything. That could change. Certainly the internet is changing politics in a big way. But that's not generation-specific. I venture to say that most political bloggers, actually, are older than you.

But, you know, I'm older than 30, so what do I know, right?

Now I'm done raining on your parade.
Christian in NYC

You say the elections are probably rigged
the politicians are corrupt
and the entire system is out dated
but our vote is our only voice
so why aren't we voting?
Didn't you just answer your own question?

You say we're at war. Americans just like me are dying.
It's true. The Republican's started the 'war'
and the Democrats had the power to stop it but didn't.
Who do you suggest i vote for?

You say the government is wasting our money
Wouldn't i like to know where it's going?
Yeah i sure would.
My parents vote, and they don't have a clue where the money goes.
If i vote will the government tell me?

You say i buy a lot of stuff therefore i'm an important part of the economy.
Shouldn't i have a say in how it works?
Yes I should.
I heard that the Federal Reserve - the institution that controls our monetary policy
is a privately owned company operating mostly outside the constraints of government.
Why should i vote again?

You say there's an environmental crisis
and it's going to affect me one way or another so i should vote.
I did. I voted for Al gore in the last election.

You say if i don't vote i don't count.
But is that all there is to being a citizen?
Being counted?
Democracy reduced down to
a single multiple choice question
once every 4 years
when we have the technology at our fingertips
to be active citizens
participating in the actual decisions our governments make.

We don't need to be jolted into voting
the system itself needs to be turned inside out.

When the system responds to our involvement
we will get involved.
When the government lets us help govern
we will cast out vote.

What I learned:
1.Content is power.
2.Simplicity has strength.
3.That I think I don't matter.

Voting is just a small slice of your engagement in a democracy. If voting is all you do, then you are effectively still only involved in the running of your country for 1 day every 4/5 years.


Democracy is ugly, kitschy, touchy, feely, and can also be jumpstarted by anyone with a camera, computer, and internet access, right, sam? especially outside aiga membership?

vote with your feet. Get up and do something!

Way too much copy.
Good idea, though.
Keep it simple.
Travis Lyle

I love the message your going for here. Awesome. I am 20 and currently still in school and I think that our generation is going to face some very serious problems. We need to unite our generation in a way that can topple the mindless power struggle and political system that has taken over this country.

How about you start a grunge campaign like OBEY. Slap it these posters on every street corner in america and see if we call can't make a difference!

My hat is off, to you.

Two-thirds say they'll do it for a year's tuition. And for a few, even an iPod touch will do.

That's what NYU students said they'd take in exchange for their right to vote in the next presidential election, a recent survey by an NYU journalism class found.

Only 20 percent said they'd exchange their vote for an iPod touch.

But 66 percent said they'd forfeit their vote for a free ride to NYU. And half said they'd give up the right to vote forever for $1 million.


As ok points out above - These posters would do nothing to get jaded citizens out to vote. They illuminate the problems without offering any solutions.

They do offer solution by invoke certain feeling from the people she targeted at, people who wouldn't voice their opinion.

The people who find this design ineffective are people who would normally think they are counted, think their opinion matters (probably reason why they post comment on Design Observer I guess :) )
ut, and this is the reason why I believe her design is ingenius, her target is not US. Us as in the people who would normally always voice what we think.

You have to ask yourself first, people who don't vote, people who don't get up and defend their rights... why don't they do it in the first place? To me, they are the people who can't be direct with. They think other things are more important than providing their input. May be they think that their opinion really doesn't matter, despite what everyone around them say... but what if someone to tell that to their face for real. And so she use sarcasm to get to them.

Her posters are like saying "get out to vote" except in the language of the people who normally wouldn't. To say that she offer just the problem and not solution, that is like saying "take out the garbage" only illuminate that there is a garbage.

It's not. This design works.
Panasit Ch

Jobs | July 25