3 min read

5. Speak, Memory

New Journalism, accessibility, and blogging
person opening photo album displaying grayscale photos
Image from Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

While this is a Bank Holiday weekend for those of us in the UK, for me it’s also a weekend of preparation. On the 1st I’ll start a two week summer intensive at SVA on design writing. While in the last year I’ve been reading a lot of famous essays and memoirs (including the sublime Nabokov title that lends its title to this month’s update), the reading for the course has introduced me to names that had passed me by thanks to my age and, possibly, nationality. Truman Capote (OK, I knew of him but only as a novelist). Orianna Fallaci. Gay Talese.

Talese in particular was a surprising gap in my knowledge, given that his Esquire story ‘Frank Sinatra Has a Cold’ (which I did know of) is seen as one of the defining pieces of New Journalism. In the book Interviewing America’s Top Interviewers, he describes his approach to interviewing people from Jo DiMaggio to the Mafia as being eternally curious, connecting with his own life stories, and asking “What is it like to be you? Tell me about yourself”.

This month in design and digital government

After many requests (and a quiet day at work), I’ve shared a template for mapping the Government Service Manual across the phases of delivery. Get the template on Mural.

UX veteran Dan Saffer has been bold enough to share candid reflections on his 6 month job search. Hiring managers I know have given mixed opinions on making portfolios have videos and animations, but agree that ages. Lessons from a job search.

I’m as into maps as the next designer (in other words, a lot). However this discussion on maps uses it as a lens for topics ranging from Covid to general inequality. How to map nothing.

I’ve spend several years in government calling out people for using design system components in indulgent and just plain inaccessible ways as they didn’t take the time to understand the purpose of an existing component. So the BBC design system’s “Focus on what components achieve rather than their appearance” is music to my ears.   Shifting left: how introducing accessibility earlier helps the BBC’s design system.

Until I read this article, I couldn’t have told you the difference between a librarian and an archivist. “Rather than create a detailed description of a single book, like a catalog librarian might do, archivists evaluate an entire collection of material, describing it accurately, evaluating the significance of the material, and creating a system of organisation.” Why UX research needs archivists.

The Accessibility Maze attempts to do edutainment with accessibility (and I don’t mean this in a good way!). Play the Accessibility Maze or read the guidance.

Speaking of accessibility, my former colleague Craig Abbott has created an accessibility manual for the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions and made it available to the public. Given that this department is not only the biggest but also probably has the largest number of service users with access needs, it makes sense that they lead on this work. I’m hoping to see it eventually incorporated into government-wide guidance.  Why we’ve created an accessibility manual – and how you can help shape it

I’ve been reading Luke Craven’s newsletter as he’s interested in systems thinking and is smarter and well read than I am. Though he’s also prepared to shine the light on other people, with his most recent update highlighting other great Kiwis in the systems in the systems thinking space. Five New Zealanders you should be reading.


According to sociologist Deborah Tannen, some cultures speak with ‘competitive overlap’: “talking along to show enthusiasm, as a way of encouraging the other person to keep speaking rather than cutting them off.” I’m pretty sure that Kiwis do this—partly because we speak fast?—but my fellow nationals may prove me wrong. How Zoom killed the fine art of interrupting.

As someone who did several years doing a PhD (including 3 years full-time on a paid scholarship) before dropping out, I understand the shame that comes from not succeeding on something. This story of a female entrepreneur picking herself up after stumbling at that most ‘meritocratic’ (in other words, competitive) of domains - the startup incubator Y Combinator - is worth a read even if you’re not in that domain. My Startup Failed Six Years Ago. I’ve Been Hiding from My Shame Ever Since.

Speaking of meritocracy, it turns out that the phrase—like the game Monopoly—started out as satire before being adopted in earnest. The satirical origins of meritocracy

Cory Doctorow reflects on 20 years of blogging. The Memex method.

I remember hearing the buzz about the film Bridesmaids on its release in 2010, and was happy to see that it lived up to the hype. The bathroom scene has grown on me as well. ‘Bridesmaids’ at 10.