Julia Lindpaintner

Design & Politics

What do politics and Thanksgiving have to do with each other? They may make for difficult conversations...

Political Conversation Starters for your Thanksgiving Dinner

Experience Design / Interaction Design

Jenna Witzleben, Jiani Lin, Sowmya Iyer, Teng Yu

MFA Products of Design, School of Visual Arts
Manuel Toscano & Natalie Balthrop
Election Day 2016


We have never been more aware of the polarization in our country, and these divisions are often deeply felt even within families. In November of 2016, looking beyond the election and towards Thanksgiving, my classmates and I designed RE-UNION, a game that generates unexpected ways into conversations about political topics at family gatherings. The project was the result of our sense that we need new ways to talk to each other about politics if we are to overcome partisan and ideological divisions and collaborate across differences. After all, if we can’t do it with our family, how can we do it as a country?

To play, participants spin two wheels, one with political topics like “Immigration Laws” and “Minimum Wage,” the other with Thanksgiving items like “Turkey,” “Pie,” and “Gravy”—to generate random combinations. When three combinations have been made, they have two minutes to come up with connections between the ideas—you use the Thanksgiving item as a way into a conversation about the political topic. For example, if you had ‘Immigration Laws & Fork’ you could say, ‘I think we’re at a fork in the road on immigration…’ or ‘Immigration is a really sharp, pointy issues, with a lot of prongs to it.’”

Stationed at the southwest end of Union Square Park, the RE-UNION booth attracted a diverse crowd of curious passersby. Participants’ responses ranged from the literal—“If we lowered the drinking age, we could all have vodka cranberry”—to the metaphorical—“if we raise minimum wage, we can let everyone get a piece of the pie.” Over the course of two hours the designers gathered over 120 unique connections made by participants. While some used the game as an opportunity to express their opinion, others surprised themselves by casting these political subjects in a new light.