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Houston, TX


A Summer of Civic Engagement

Brian Barr

This summer is an interesting time for the City of Houston, because for the first time in six years we will have a new mayor. In Houston anybody can run for mayor, but the winner must receive the majority of the votes. This means that we usually see a large field of candidates in the primary and then a winner is picked from the top two candidates in a runoff election a month later. Houston has one of the worst voter turnout rates in the county (less than 13% of registered voters cast a ballot) which means that in a city with nearly one million registered voters, the difference between coming in second or third place in the primary is only a few thousand votes. 

Photo by Ed Uthman

Photo by Ed Uthman

Being the civically engaged Houstonians that we are, Data Design Co_ has partnered with local, civically-focused consulting firm January Advisors on a variety of get-out-the-vote projects. Spanning everything from murals to coasters, our goal for the summer is to let as many people know that it is an election year as possible. We won't play favorites or attempt to sway voters one way or another, because frankly that's not as interesting. We're going to increase voter engagement or at the very least fail in a well-documented effort.

One of our first projects will be to design a mobile system for public opinion polling. By setting up in a variety of spots around the Houston area, we are hoping to isolate issues that are important to communities that are historically underrepresented at the polls. Our hypothesis is that by bringing these issues to the forefront of the debate, candidates will be able to activate voters as well as solve meaningful issues for Houstonians.

Another project you can look for in a bar near you is our Coaster Campaign. By designing a series of coasters with relevant, contextualized maps and statistics about the City of Houston, we believe that we can draw attention to issues that may have previously been too complex or inaccessible to the average Houstonian. This may also be a great way to connect the information from our public opinion polls to the larger Houston community.

In terms of Data Design Co_, we couldn't be more excited to take on this series of projects for the citizens of Houston. While it may seem as though we aren't immediately producing products, we believe that this exercise in design thinking will ultimately inform many of our future product releases. We will most likely make visualizations of much of the data we learn about Houston available for you all, and in the meantime we will be doing our civic duty. Sounds like a win-win.