If there has been a theme for July 2023, it's pink. And it's not just because #barbiecore reached its full heights with the release of the Barbie move (and I unashamedly partook in, Greta Gerwig fan that I am—more on that later). I also got into pink mode at the 3rd Make and Mend Festival at Ormbesby Hall in Middlesborough. My felt cherry blossoms and plants not only go with my hair but are also a plant that I cannot kill.
This month in digital government and design
Back at the start of this year, a long delayed trip to New Zealand unexpectedly coincided with having to move house. My finely tuned system of going through links of newsletters was disrupted and I only got to inbox 0 yesterday. This means that my weeknotes for week starting 24 July 2023 and week starting 17 July covered a lot of that list, and I even did a bonus notes just of work-related links. Here are some of the highlights. More sustainable pace will resume next month.
- Great to see the ‘Exit this page’ pattern go live on the GOV.UK Design System—there has been a lot of work over several years done on this element, and it’s an important topic.
- Giles Turnbull—he of the agile comms handbook—did a keynote about how teams remember and has put up a transcript.
- This is a lovely deep dive into the invisible details of interaction design
- Kate Stulberg has written up about using user research to scale delivery at HM Prison and Probation Services (HMPPS). Particularly interesting is the reflections on what to do differently.
- Sarah Fisher wrote about how policy teams should look like delivery teams.
- This tone and voice substack article does a deep dive why the language of GOV.UK is so great. I love the bit about ‘pay attention to the rhythm’—which really means reading content aloud to check how it feels.
- Speaking of great, this article explores how great interaction design really thinks about the metaphor it invokes.
- I feel like I’ve seen a lot in what is coming up to 8 years in government, but that’s nothing on Julian dos Remedio’s 29 years in central government. He reflects on what he’s seen—interestingly, the pre-GDS days may have had worse silos and digital but had more strategy going on (though perhaps there are, er, wider reasons for that if one looks at the years)—but remains optimistic.
- Neil Allison of Edinburgh University has written about his experiences of last month’s UKEducamp and also links to some other blogs
- 10 lessons I learned from boomer developers reminded me of how agile comes from solid software lessons that problems can’t be planned away in emergent technologies — best just to prototype and find them
- I love this piece on storytelling in a hybrid world from a gov lens — including how the NZ government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) tells the story of their 75 years by also including what happened before. (For a more lived-experience angle, see the dignified storytelling handbook).
- Tom Dolan wrote up his notes from attending Marty Cagan’s ‘Transformed’ product management workshop. Love the note about separating mission and vision. I’ve also been listening to the audiobook of Cagan’s Inspired which validates a lot of the good product work I’ve seen in government but also has a few new tips such as pushing for change in more established organisations
- Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) is prototyping a user insights library. (See also: Growing research in product organisations and the Department for Education’s Learnings from a year of ResOps)
- Your favourite information architect Abby Covert (aka Abby the IA) has been knocking it out of the park with blogposts. How to argue for a structure proposal combines industry language with good old argument theory, and the return of investment on information architecture brings together various techniques including the overlooked-but-highly-important controlled vocabulary.
- The Open Data Institute (ODI) User-centric data publishing alpha looks helpful for teams—particularly useful that it calls out understanding a user’s data publishing journey as I saw this skipped somewhat with data related GOV.UK service standard Alpha assessments that I’ve done
- “most shadow IT is typically not the result of intentional rule-breaking, rather the result of staff trying to ‘get their job done’ where corporately-provided equipment and services are not adequate”. New National Cyber Security (NCSC) guidance on shadow IT
- I've followed Greta Gerwig's work ever since AO Scott of the New York Times pegged Gerwig as one to watch back in 2010. So, I went in pink with my friends to see Barbie, ate pink cupcakes and drank pink prosecco at a special afternoon tea (which the cinema promptly ran out of) and then enjoyed the film immensely. It's hard to avoid the marketing, but I did particularly enjoy Gerwig talking to Letterboxd about the 32 films that influenced Barbie, and Mark Ronson talking about the soundtrack.
- In looking up that AO Scott article, I discovered that after 20+ years reviewing films, he put down his film review pen earlier this year and hopped over to the book section of the paper. Scott conducts his own exit interview, but I'll point you to his movie Critics Picks series of the late 00s and early 10s that I adored and used to discover many films, ranging from Muriel's Wedding to All About My Mother. This series might have even introduced me to my favourite film ever, Annie Hall. (Yes it's tricky to square this with the director, but at least Scott struggles with this too. I think Annie Hall stands up on its own, personally). I'm a little less sure about Scott's book on criticism, but did love the final chapter which mashed a homage to Oscar Wilde's essay on criticism to, of all things, Ratatouille.
- Speaking of that book section, there are some great stories about translation. This is a beautiful example of how a literary translator may work through many drafts before settling on an appropriate translation for a single sentence. There is also a piece on the art of translation, with a call out to the PEN America 2023 manifesto of literary translation.
- RIP twitter bird branding. The designers behind the Twitter bird which ran from 2012 until 2021 have tweeted their design process (so many circles)
- I’ve loved exploring metaphors since discovering Lackoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By when doing my Masters, so loved this piece from the Verge on metaphors of the internet (and the underlying politics behind them)
- And finally, while I did Barbie, I didn't do 'Barbieheimer' (bless those that did, that double feature sounds intense). Seems like those that did it did it hard
Until next time