Why we’re thinking about design principles

One of the most exciting things about joining the team in Hackney has been hearing colleagues express their interest and enthusiasm for working in new ways. We’ve got lots of ideas of what can change and how we can improve things. But as we embark on this journey, it’s important to understand why we’re doing things.

Russell Davies, the former strategy director of the Government Digital Service came to Hackney this week to talk to us about the GDS design principles. These emerged as the team started to develop its ways of working. He described them as a formulation of a culture and attitude that was already emerging, but also how they served as ‘super rules’ which weren’t “owned” by any particular department but which still required compliance (the service standard and control of the gov.uk domain were other key parts of the jigsaw).

Intriguingly, Russell also urged us to not necessarily adopt design principles, but to consider our manifesto, playbook, or new form of statement. He also regretted that they hadn’t iterated the principles after adoption.

We had a brief set of discussions at tables during the event. Whilst it would have been great to talk for longer, the time-limit perhaps created the sense that we were starting a conversation. As we are on multiple sites, we’re doing that virtually, in the first instance – for all I’d prefer to be able to visualise it in a common space, it does at least mean that you can follow our thinking.

The work will need to grow organically – but as Russell said, we also need to make sure the end product is high quality. ‘Use a designer and a copy editor’, he urged. Watch this space!


2 thoughts on “Why we’re thinking about design principles”

  1. Great post! Have you been following the Co-op’s new digital design approach too? Similar stuff happening there that also seems to be based on the GDS experience. The Co-op is a good one to watch as it has a mixed service model, like a council. Take this post from their digital blog about their funeral service, for example -https://digitalblog.coop.co.uk/2017/02/27/funeralcare-taking-the-beta-to-edinburgh

    It’s also telling that Co-op Digital is mostly hiring people with skills in interation design, user research and content design.

    1. Thanks Gareth – and yes, Co-Op contains many of the original crew of GDS so it’s good to see what they’re doing which is the same, and where it’s different.

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