Looking through 27 months of these updates (27 already?) and I've noticed that on two previous occasions I've referenced the word 'mess' in the title. (17. The Messy Middle, and 2. Growth is Messy). While 'The Messy Middle' is a title of an (excellent) book , more generally this points towards a fascination of mine: the contrast between the neat narratives we tell and the messy lives that are carefully hidden away. (Or as Marie Kondo says: "I love mess").
I thought of this with a couple of books that I've been getting through. Anne Theroux's The Year of the End (yes, that Theroux, though when she wrote the first draft, this meant "ex-wife of Paul" rather than today's "mother of Louis). It's diary entries from 1990 then overlaid with some reflection years later. The Guardian nails the book when describing it 'strange but moving', but what I loved about it was Theroux's descriptions of brilliant but complicated people: dazzling but difficult VS Naipaul, various people she interviews as a BBC radio producer, and above all, her charismatic but contradictory husband (or soon to be ex-husband) Paul.
I'm currently working through a biography of Peggy Guggenheim (she of the museum) and she's also amazingly contradictory - rich but not true Guggenheim rich, shocking but isolated, and controlling but generous.
This month in digital government and design
- For those of us working in UK government, earlier this month was Services Week. Many of the sessions were for government only. My small contribution was updating my 2019 government service standard assessment bingo to a 2023 version. Slightly more serious was Frankie Roberto's blog about making a list of services from GOV.UK.
- Speaking of lists, there's now a comprehensive list of all gov.uk domains. (So. Many. Parish Councils. Who knew?).
- The UK Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) has released The Data Maturity Assessment framework.
- When we talk about scale, we don’t talk about the fact that craft is hard to scale. More generally, when it comes to scaling user research practices, it's worth thinking about pace layers (it's easier to change tools than culture)
- I read Designers have a seat at the table now. What should we do with it? just as I finished Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington's The Big Con: How the Consulting Industry Weakens our Businesses, Infantilizes our Governments and Warps our Economies. It did make me wonder: is the problem with design rhetoric at present that we've modelled our ways of working from consultancies?
- Another set of articles that read differently when paired together: design is the art of being wrong safely frames designs artefacts as being made for critique, research, delivery, or demos. Meanwhile, the user profile model splits personas into demographic personas, mindset profiles, jobs to be done, and data segments.
- A couple of pieces on accessibility - David A Kennedy talks about making accessible MVPs (test for accessibility, have an accessibility champion, and include disabled users). Canada's GC Forms team is doing something similar with 4 approaches to accessibility. And Aaron Gustafson pushes for accessibility beyond compliance.
- On a very different type of accessibility, Hatiye Garip spoke to Designboom about accessible illustration.
- And two sets of lived experiences: Software accessibility for users with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) and describing yourself during meetings.
- I’m really interested in the work happening especially over in US digital gov about trauma-informed design. This ethics of care for research participants as trauma survivors is a practical guide to the principles.
- hadn’t heard of the phrase ‘ordeals’ for barriers put in front of things such as getting benefits but they’re a far better word than ‘friction’. Interestingly, people who have experienced bureaucratic ordeals tend not to encourage them.
- I enjoyed the Government Analysis Function's self-paced learning for accessible data visualisations.
- Less fun but important: the problem with Don Norman (read both the article and the twitter thread).
- For those trying to break into civic tech, Chris Kuang has made a living document to help. (US references, but a lot is generally relevant).
- And I nodded along to Kimberley Bottomley's advice to junior designers.
- Norah Ephron's Heartburn at 40. I loved this book - is it lightly fictionalised truth? Yes. Did I care? No.
- How to make friends as an adult. Assume that people like you, initiate, keep showing up, and get vulnerable.
- How to craft a harmonious life.
- I love the Foil Arms and Hogg 'getting past immigration' videos (the Spanish one is a good example) but they've never made a NZ one. Someone else did one not just about NZ but specifically Auckland - it does run a bit long but has some recognisable jokes.
- How half of all British TV shows start.
- And finally, a very nerdy joke:
Until next time,