Obama for America Mobile Strategy

The design team was approached to design and develop a mobile strategy for President Barack Obama's 2012 bid for reelection. Working with Obama for America, the team crafted an ambitious set of mobile applications designed to support Obama's large base of campaign volunteers and grassroots supporters.

Instead of creating a simple brochure application outlining the president's policies, the team focused on creating a real-time mobile solution to aid campaign organizers and volunteers working in the field. The application, which was part of a larger digital initiative, was completely location-aware, designed to automatically deliver timely information, push notifications and field directives straight from the campaign's headquarters to people's phones. By simply downloading the app anyone could join the campaign, become a field volunteer, collect donations, register voters or go door-to-door in their neighborhood or community to help get out the vote.

The design challenge was to leverage the latest in mobile and cloud technology to harness the efforts of thousands of grassroots supporters in battleground states and across the nation. The initiative needed to decentralize volunteerism, capitalize on microdonations, and make it simple to join and participate in the campaign. Perhaps the largest constraint was executing the design and development for both the iOS and Android platforms in under 60 days.

Understanding the campaign's message, its volunteers and the habits of prospective voters was critical to the success of the project. From the standpoint of human interaction, the designers were less concerned with coming up with novel forms of interaction and more concerned with bridging the gap between information, people and communities.

The Obama for America app is the first of its kind. While there have been other applications relating to politics and elections, none have provided a mechanism or the infrastructure necessary to drive real political participation. The New York Times has said of it, “It's been the science-fiction dream of political operatives for years: an army of volunteers, connected to the Internet as they walk from door to door, looking up names on a device and entering their responses electronically. Obama's campaign [has made it] a reality with the release of a new iPhone app that will replace the ubiquitous clipboard for Democratic canvassers.”

This project has helped redefine the role of mobile computing in modern-day elections. It not only lowered the barrier of entry for political activism, thus increasing participation, it also provided insight into the campaign’s operatives at every level (regional, state, local and precinct). By focusing on the ground game and decentralizing the canvassing effort, this app enabled the campaign to reach more voters in more communities and increase voter turnout. As a result, the campaign made strategic gains in a number of battleground states, ultimately securing the president's reelection.


Designed by Ryan Hovenweep, Lani DeGuire, Tate Strickland, Shea Cadrin, Bryan Oltman, Shaun Dubuque and Doug Cook of thirteen23

Contact: Doug Cook - doug@thirteen23.com