15. When in England…
March 24 was my second anniversary as a British citizen. It was the first full day of UK lockdown and so I didn’t even know until an hour before that it would actually happen. It happened with only me and the registrar (normally the ceremonies have guests) and in place of the standard handshake, I elbow-pumped the registrar.
Without realising, some of my reading this month has covered Britain as a topic. My colleague suggested Kate Fox’s Watching The English. While I wonder if some of the elements have dated (the framings are very white and traditional), it brought up some key English conceits such as concern for privacy and embarrassment. (That’s what the weather small talk is about - a subtle way to engage without assuming that the person wants to talk!).
Some of the political elements missing in that unashamedly pop-culture book were covered in Steve Richards’ The Prime Ministers: From Wilson to May (there’s also an updated Johnson edition). For me this helped me understand some of the frissions in the major parties that go back decades.
Finally, I read Dennis Duncan’s Index, A History Of just for some bookish nerdery but also stumbled across Britishness again. “Let No Damned Tory Index My History!” is one chapter, nothing how indexes could be used as a weapon to satirise British politicians. The quote mentioned comes from Thomas Macaulay, a historian and Whig politician. Kate Fox would approve of the insight - she also suggests in her book that the English abhor earnestness and expect people to be able to make fun of themselves (and generally have some wit).
This month in digital government and design
- The start of March was UK Services Week. This meant that you can see what my team was up to in the GDS open show and tell (most is covered by me, but some others at the end by my colleague Ale), and you can also hear some far more ad-hoc questions about being a designer at GDS in the recording of our Twitter Spaces ‘ask me anything’ session.
- My colleagues have also been writing about a day in the life of an interaction designer at GDS and how GDS’s recruitment process works. (PS there’s an open recruitment for interaction designers right now).
- GDS alums Clara Greo and Kara Kane explain what it means to be user-centred. This is generally in a UK government context, but still translates if you work elsewhere.
- Accessibility myths.
- For large scale changes, maybe we should be thinking about Minimum Viable Consortia.
- I worry that sometimes UCD folk assume that nothing ever happened before 2010. Tero Väänänen of NHS Digital talks about how we can learn from the 20-year old British standard BS EN ISO 9241-210:2019 ‘human-centred design for interactive systems’.
- If you use war metaphors in your work, you might like to think about how anecdotally the US Department for Defence don’t. They use gardening metaphors.
- I had no idea that permaculture principles and the Agile manifesto had so much in common.
- The typography of the London Underground is a success story of a foreign typographer and a transport administrator who understood the value of design.
- I’m sometimes cautious of the quality of ‘must read’ booklists, but when the topic is information architecture and compiled by IA veteran Donna Spencer, I’m prepared to take a read.
- A couple of nice things from Spotify: their principle of ‘swinging the pendulum’ to make sure that teams consider shifting focus, and how they bake in accessibility to their development process.
After 2 years, New Zealand finally opened its borders so that citizens could return quarantine free. People on the first flight back got a care package at Auckland Airport
Speaking of NZ - for those of you that remember the flag referendum and the wild card ‘laser kiwi’ … at least one flag lives in the wild.
An internet detective decides to find the people behind the Wikipedia ‘high five’ images - and an adorable story unfolds.
How to think like a phenomenologist - surprisingly accessible.
And finally… never underestimate Anne Hathaway at karaoke.
Until next time,