4 min read

22. Shy bairns get nowt

Birthdays, conferences, and the North East
Some stickers saying "Shy bairns get nowt" in the Tyne and Wear metro style

Last Thursday was my last working day at the Government Digital Service (GDS). As (I believe) the only civil servant in the department based in the North East, I decided to leave on an educational note, not just with a North East quiz (ranging from luxury clothing brands in the area to the PR antics of the bakery company Greggs) but with leaving stickers of the common Geordie phrase "shy bairns get nowt". For those that don't know the North East, "shy bairns get nowt" means "if you don't ask you don't get", and the sticker design is inspired by the Tyne and Wear Metro - which links it to GOV.UK thanks to a shared typographer, Margaret Calvert. (GDS folks, last I knew there were still some stickers available in the London office, go ask around for them!).

Speaking of "shy bairns get nowt", I specifically requested a leaving present of a magenta "Government Digital Service" lanyard as they're impossible to find - and after much searching, my colleagues found one! (I also got some other lovely leaving gifts but I'm particularly pleased with this one as I've been coveting that lanyard for years.)

I'm not starting my new job until late November, as I'm using up a lot of annual leave. In fact, I'm back from a week in Mallorca where I found out not just about the artist Joan Miró but also, thanks to a temporary exhibition at the Juan March museum, the I-should-know-more-about-him-really Italian designer and artist Bruno Munari.  

This month in digital government and design

It's been a big month for GDS - GOV.UK turned 10 and their form builder was launched with its first service.

Speaking of birthdays, the BBC also turned 100. At the Bright Ideas gathering in Durham earlier this month, Ian Forrester from the BBC R&D department spoke about their future efforts to consider things like adaptive podcasting. I also want to read Uncertain Vision — the book that convinced Ian to join the BBC. (On a very different note, there's a wonderful twitter thread about 'random camp moments': this one is my favourite).

Earlier this year Andrew Greenaway tweeted some intriguing comments about a 1970s book on how decisions about money are made in government. It turned out that this became a talk that he and Kate Tarling presented last month at the Service Design in Government conference. The slides are well worth a look.

Speaking of the Service Design in Government conference - most of the slides are up for the talks! A few other talks that I enjoyed where the slides are now available were Katie French and Jude Webb's talk on using behaviour change models, and Martha Edwards' talk on design maturity. (Also not in the slides but on twitter, proof that people really do say 'shy bairns get nowt').

I didn't go to Service Design in Government last year, but Fionn Tynan-O'Mahony has shared his slides from that conference about paying lip service to co-creation in government. I like that his team were honest enough to acknowledge that they weren't that high up the ladder of participation.

Sean Boots wrote about “Charbonneau Loops” and government IT consulting - the danger of a small pool of consultants doing work with insufficient (or insufficiently experienced) internal oversight.

An agile coach brings his skills to the Ukrainian military. (yes, Turn the Ship Around gets mentioned).

I've always struggled a little with the STAR model (Situation, Task, Action, Result) for job interviews, so like this alternative to better show seniority through the PEARL framework (Problem, Epiphany, Action, Result, Learning).

Here's a good introduction to ethical problems in tech and design.


In doing my research for the Tyne and Wear Metro sticker, I found a highly informative blog post on its branding. Props to branding firm Gardiner Richardson for an excellent identity job in the late 2000s.

Speaking of the North East…

Doctor Who finished for a season, announced its new Doctor (as well as bringing back an old one) but really that wasn't the most memorable thing from the episode

In other TV: "The 10 strangest but also best Australian kids’ TV shows – sorted". I guessed I knew what number 1 was and I was right.

I mentioned the Bright Ideas Gathering. There were some other interesting talks there, ranging from the sobering (Chris Stokel-Walker talking about the future of Tiktok) to fascinating (Dr. Chanuki Seresinhe explaining how AI can decide if a place is beautiful) to inspiring (Paul Irwin of interactive storytelling platform for teens Trylife on community in the pandemic). Full list of videos.

RIP Bruno Latour (Guardian). I didn't realise that he came from a long line of wine makers and that the slow complicated process of winemaking influences his work. His diagrams were certainly something.

Finally, for a palate cleanser:

Until next time,