Last week was the 10th cross government design meeting and my last. We set this community up from scratch and now there are over 200 digital designers in government and about 100 of them, from over 10 depts gather every six weeks to share ideas, problems and solutions.
We always have a guest speaker and I was honoured last week that it was Michael Bierut. I've known Michael a while now and he very kindly dropped in as part of his UK book tour.
His new book, like his old book, is ace. You should buy it. How to use graphic design to sell things, explain things, make things look better, make people laugh, make people cry, and (every once in a while) change the world.
A few thank yous. Tom Loosemore and Mike for bringing me into government and for convincing me the conditions were right for good design. When I first met Mike I said we needed to think about this project like a railway network or like the road signs and he told me I was the first designer who hadn't started by telling him their favourite font. I knew we would get on.
Thanks to Martha Lane Fox for writing such an insightful and concise report and Francis Maude for backing it. One Thursday evening when they accompanied me to the House of Commons to meet the All Party Parliamentary Design Group led by Barry Sheerman is just one example of their support for user centred design.
Thanks to everyone at GDS. I have never worked with a smarter group of people. I have never worked with a group of people so dedicated to making stuff better. I will miss them loads. As Mike said, "Government doesn’t know how lucky it is."
GDS is in good hands with Stephen leading it and over the next few weeks I'll be supporting him making sure design is strongly positioned for the future.
The design team are amazing. I'm proud to have worked with such a talented bunch.
I have often said government has a history of producing great design and some of the greatest designers have worked in the public sector. Tom Eckersley, Kenneth Grange, Jock Kinear, Margaret Calvert and many more, you know the names.
Every designer should work in the public sector. Being a civil servant and using your talents to help the people in your country is an honour. In an industry so often obsessed with novelty and persuasion, government is a chance to do real design work. If the government started a fast stream programme for design grads it would start to change the industry and make services better at the same time.
Sadie Morgan says HS2 is one of “the country’s great design opportunities”. The HS2 Design Panel, led by Sadie, is a good example of design being integrated in to a project early with public ministerial support. The design team are putting user needs up front. That team has already done some good work and I look forward to seeing what they do in the coming years.
Winning Design of the Year was an unexpected and high profile highlight and I’ll always enjoy those memories. But I am genuinely more delighted when people tell me how easy they have found using a particular transaction or service.
The other highlight is the design community we have started. Design is not just in GDS, there are six heads of design in government now and the community is blossoming. It meets regularly, it uses online tools to collaborate and it speaks with one voice. It's a strong group making big decisions based on user research. This recent guidance on "asking about gender and sex" is exactly the sort of thing a group like that should be publishing. Leading by example and setting standards for everyone else to follow.
Blog posts like this by Simon Wilson in HMRC or this by Ben Holliday in DWP are a goldmine for how to design services today. There are future leaders in that group, working every day to make services better for users.
That community is the future of design in government.
If you want to get in touch my details are here.
There are a few things you notice that indicate someone somewhere has been toiling away in the digital transformation mines. In isolation they're small things and easy to miss, but if you start seeing a few of them regularly, you know something's going on.
This is one of them. The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition now lets you take photos in the exhibition. They encourage you to put them on the internet. They have short urls set up. Professional photos of all the exhibits are online.
Small things, but someone worked hard, probably for a long time to make that possible. Digital transformation obviously involves much, much more than this, but this is a good sign.
At the beginning of this year Russell and I sold our shares in Newspaper Club. It's a brilliant, profitable business, well run by lovely people but it was time for us to move on.
More of that another time.
Around the same time we noticed what Collyn was doing with Bowndling and asked if we could get involved. We have some experience with selling physical stuff online, we know a bit about ‘sportswear’ and it seems like we could help.
Sorry this post got saved as a draft and it's taken me ages to finish it.
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Visited the LCC show and went back to CSM yesterday. Popped into the RCA one evening last week. Some observations.
Bahamut That by Hiro Hong fires smoke rings at the dragons. (Subtly aimed at the Head of College's office.)
I liked these letterpress posters "visualising how dyslexia looks and feels to non dyslexic readers' by Hannah Constable.
"An interpretation of the main character's development within the film Fahrenheit 451, with each sequential book chronologically symbolising his standpoint within a dystopic society that has outlawed books." by Thomas Fursdon
There was an Oculus project at every show.
We enjoyed these screens a lot. No idea what they were about. But Mark described it as "sick".
And now the grumpy bit. There was a lot of this.
One show I got to early, a student turned up and spent a good half an hour trying to turn on various projects. I reckon they managed to get less than half working.
I know I'm not saying anything new here and I know it's hard to organise and put on a show. I've done it, as a student and at the Designs of the Year show.
It's genuinely a tricky problem. Visit any gallery and you'll see screens with error messages or mistaken screensavers. But this feels like a design problem - design something that works in a display without you having to be there - and it feels like a challenge design courses should be tackling, particularly the interactive ones.
Grump over. Anyway.