Ray O'Neill / Product Designer

National Election Design System

Living Style guide for editorial projects throughout the irishtimes website and mobile apps

Project Role
Lead Designer
The Irish Times
Project Duration
6 months

Project Objective

General Elections is the bread and butter of every national news organisation. As independent news provider The Irish Times take pride in ensuring that information provided is always accurate and delivered timely to the their readers. For the Election 2016, we wanted to be fast provider for election results in the country. For this to happen, we build a bespoke results system that enabled our journalists to report in real-time, the results as they were counted. This information was then instantly saved to the database and in return published to our Election coverage website via an API.

My Role

As lead Designer for this project, My goal was to come up with a flexible design system that would not only display the information that would work well across all devices but that could easily be rolled out for other types of election like the Irish general election, U.K. Elections and N.I Ireland Elections and US Election. In addition, the system needed extensible enough for future use, while still be easy to manage.


Discrepancies in the how the various elections worked was a challenge in this project. For instance, in a general assembly and U.K. General, the number of electoral candidates differed greatly, and a flexible solution was needed to be implement to factor for this. For example, how can you effectively should the progress of election at glance while allowing the user deep dive into individual constituencies. This is one approach I took:

Designing for the unknown

Designing for a election that has happened yet is extremely hard but rewarding challenge. There’s only so much you can factor for use dummy data. I learned this when designing the constituency results tables factoring in for double-barrelled surnames and white-wash figure figure results definitely made me re-considered some design decisions by the time the second election came around.

Key Learnings

  • Don’t try be smart when dealing with data. Make the information and as clear as possible.
  • Gather all information about the election space up front. Hours and hours of meetings and QA testing can be minimised but kicking off the project with the domain experts teaching the ins and outs of the election voting system and what that means from a Designer or Developer.
  • Boring stuff can be fun too. I initially scoffed my nose up the project when I found out I was being assigned to a Election project, but as I got into it and understood the space working under such tight time constraints proved to be a very rewarding experience.