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Being in the business of championing design, we at the Design Council love inspiring examples and this year’s Designs of the Year exhibition at the Design Museum provides a real cornucopia.

Curated by Pete Collard, the exhibition shows the immense diversity of current practice – from visual identities to folding wheelchair wheels to cunning ways to deliver international aid. It illustrates that the practical creativity of design finds ways to reinvent the world around us – to make life better in myriad ways.

But the design deemed best in show, the winner of the accolade ‘design of the year’, is something that many had given up all hope of reinventing: the UK government’s approach to information technology.

How many billions of pounds have been wasted in the government’s procurement of unusable IT systems? You really don’t want to know.

So the fact that a team has finally found the formula of success, a formula that is better, faster and cheaper than most private sector companies’ efforts, is something to be shouted from the rooftops.

And at the heart of the formula is great design.

Naming their early efforts ‘alphagov’ you might mistake them for some hoxton-based bunch of cockney start-up geezers. But you’d be wrong. These are the coolest bunch of civil servants that you are likely to meet (remembering, folks, that James Bond is fictional).

The Government Digital Service is a team that uses digital technology, user-centred design and organisational change to be a powerful force of innovation. It will deliver better services but also will transform organisational structures. It might even help to change our relationship with government.

It should be noted that there is a long way to go yet. Just as their champion, Martha Lane Fox, created lastminute.com in the first wave of UK-based Internet start-ups, so we should see this as just the first success in the massive job of transforming government.

But for now, heartfelt congratulations to Mike Bracken, Ben Terrett and all at the Government Digital Service not only for an amazing achievement of digital service design but in so doing, showing that design can be taken seriously as an integral part of significant change.


Just a couple of weeks ago, Ben Terrett, the Government Digital Service’s Head of Design spoke at the Design Council on how we can design more ambitiously for the public sector, listen again to his talk:

2 thoughts on “GOV.UK Design of the Year 2013

  1. .gov,uk has forgotten a large slug of users — those who want to use government information to find out what government does. That section of the user population were never part of the govt transformation agenda. Now we are suffering: much less information, much less accessible than before. Documents disappeared. Broken links. A real backwards step for transparency. and so busy celebrating they won’t engage. Much bettter to have recognised the awesome Heathewick cauldron or the great work of Colalife. this is just not in a fit state yet.

  2. It’s great to see the website looks nicer, but I agree to a degree with Jill Rutter about finding contact details, etc. But perhaps Govt will now extend its love of design by applying some Design Thinking and Service Design to its actual service provision… most services are in desperate need for human-centred re-invention!

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