Kelly Salchow MacArthur, Professor of Graphic Design in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design at Michigan State University, is the 2023 recipient of the International Institute for Information Design (IIID) Editor’s Choice Award for her 2020 poster campaign, Get Out The Vote: Empowering the Women’s Vote.
Founded in 1986, the International Institute for Information Design is recognized as the world leader in the promotion and development of information design. The IIID Awards Ceremony takes place every three years in Vienna, Austria, and is open to submissions and projects from around the world. Winners are selected by an international panel of judges for each of the 15 categories.
The IIID commended Salchow MacArthur’s Get Out The Vote poster campaign for its socially focused and collaborative approach to design, and her winning designs and poster project are included in an internationally touring exhibition that will visit 11 countries. She attended the conference, exhibition opening, and awards ceremony in Vienna May 25-26.
Salchow MacArthur said she was surprised to receive the IIID Editor’s Choice Award, especially given the grassroots nature of the project.
“Many times in design, the work that wins awards comes from large agencies, so it is really gratifying to be recognized for the impact of my work in academic research and service,” she said. “I’ve always found MSU to be an especially supportive community. It’s one of the reasons I came here 17 years ago, and its Research One [R1] status has facilitated my development in design practice and education.
“I have time for research and to continue to develop my own skills so that I can then bring them back to the classroom. I think it’s very important for professors to remain engaged in the discipline so that we can bring these practical and current considerations to the students preparing them to enter the workforce as active contributors.”
Salchow MacArthur initiated the Get Out The Vote: Empowering the Women’s Vote poster project to commemorate 100 years of the women’s vote in 2020. She reached out to her mentor and internationally recognized poster designer, Nancy Skolos, to partner with on a national poster initiative centered around women and voter participation.
The duo partnered with the Professional Association for Design (AIGA) and the League of Women Voters to design a campaign that resulted in the creation of a collection of 65 posters from 71 women in design, which was exhibited across the country and available for free download.
As well as being in the public domain, the posters were displayed in gallery exhibitions and public spaces across the United States, including locally at (SCENE) Metrospace in East Lansing.
For the poster initiative, Salchow MacArthur and Skolos compiled a diverse list of women who were contributing to society through their graphic design work and invited them to participate in the project.
“What it ended up being was this really engaged, passionate, supportive collective of women who were more than happy to design a poster pro bono for this important cause,” Salchow MacArthur said. “These posters capture very diverse messages and speak to different pockets of society. The posters were nothing that I ever could have imagined, and the whole project rose to a high level of complexity as it sparked thoughtful cultural and historic discussion.”
With every new invitation, designers were encouraged to pay it forward and nominate another female designer to participate in helping expand the reach and encourage mentorship.
“This started as a grassroots effort, but with some creative thinking, we found many interesting ways to spread the word broadly,” she said. “The creativity that the posters captured continued in solving this goal of motivating people to vote and inspiring participation beyond showing in gallery spaces, which were largely limited [due to the pandemic].”
The campaign not only supported women’s voter participation, but it also served as a backdrop for dialogue and examination of the U.S. history of voting rights and women’s fight for equality. While 2020 was the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, it wasn’t until 1965 and the Voting Rights Act that all women could vote without barriers.
“With 2020 being the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, I saw an amazing opportunity,” Salchow MacArthur said. “It seemed like it was the perfect moment to collectively catalyze women’s creativity for this socially important cause. As a designer, one always hopes that the work will be impactful, and it has been incredibly fulfilling to see these posters in action.”