Dutch Design Week

What If Lab: What if your vote counts?

What if your vote counted?

What if? One of the most powerful questions ever asked, the basis of science and innovation. By placing this question at the centre, boundaries are extended and solutions arise from a different perspective. And that’s exactly what the What If Lab did during the Dutch Design Week. A major international design event that attracts the world to the Netherlands in October.

The results

Outside in perspective

Many new insights

Three concrete experiments

A successful experiment for us, with a layered result. This initial introduction to the ‘What If Lab’ generated a wealth of output that provides us as the provincial authorities a unique outside-in perspective.

It was 2018, a year before the provincial elections in the Netherlands. The turnout, especially in Brabant, is traditionally low. Too low. How could we attract more Brabanders to the voting booth? That was a question that we were occupied with. We had known for a long time already that the collaboration with designers on social issues provided valuable points of view and interesting solutions. This started with a redefinition of the question: ‘What if… instead of influencing turnout incrementally, why don’t we astonish residents with the role that the provincial authorities have on matters that affect them?’

The six topics revealed by the Six Fingers study were recognizable, and the design solutions the designers then came up with were surprising. They hit the right chord, as was demonstrated by the wealth of reactions and extensive publicity generated by the What If Lab during the DDW. It was a successful experiment for us, with a layered result. This initial introduction to the ‘What If Lab’ generated a wealth of output that provides us as the provincial authorities a unique outside-in perspective.

Marc Glaudemans, Director of Accessibility & Growth for the Province of North Brabant
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People are social, but not politically involved

Provincial elections traditionally have a low turnout. There are now accusations from both sides. A lack of interest in politics and the province according to administrators versus attention for what issues are really live in society according to residents. Do political parties only focus on their own interests? And are residents only looking from their own perspective? The aim of the What if Lab was to build a bridge between people and politics. To discover the topics that Brabanders consider important. And design new forms of interaction with citizens.

What if we let go of the accusations and show what the possible scenarios are for future North Brabant? To the Brabanders and the provincial administrators really understand what they could mean for each other? And how do you actually bring these two parties together? In the process to the exhibition of the What if Lab at the DDW, we developed and built new ways together with designers to create that connection. The What If Lab discovered which topics the Brabanders are deeply concerned about. And demonstrated that people are closely involved in their province. All opportunities for administrators and politicians to build bridges to a great and sustainable future for North Brabant.

In the limelight: The ‘Determination Box’

One of the experiments was the ‘Determination Box’: a simple way to for you to place your vote. We of course have to throw waste away. But why not in thematic waste containers? Each container gets an assertion. By throwing waste into one of the containers, visitors could easily support an assertion. And that worked: the assertions triggered many questions, but also a lot of frustration. And that was precisely the aim of this exercise: encouraging mutual debate. Thanks to these experiments we learned new ways of facilitating interaction. And the politicians gained an entirely new perspective on voting.

View here the explanation of the designers themselves during the NOS broadcast.


We have published a comprehensive book with all the experiences and insights gained. Feel free to browse through it and get inspired.

Six Fingers