NGDP alumni workshop: Design in the Public Sector

NGDP Alumni Ellen Care (Transformation & Change team) shares some reflections on a recent session with the Design Council.

In August, I attended a National Graduate Development Programme alumni event with the Design Council hosted by the Local Government Association.  Jonathan Ball led a masterclass on Design in the Public Sector and led us through some practical demonstrations and a chance to experience design thinking tools in action.

I’ve read and heard a lot about design, and been involved in some projects using design thinking, but it’s always interesting and refreshing to discuss the subject with new people. Every time I add a bit more to my understanding about what design is, what it can do and where it can really make a difference in the public sector.

A particularly memorable part of the day was our lunchtime trip to get out and gather insights about a real service, and create our own journey map. Different groups visited different services in the local area, from banks to betting shops, with a specific task to carry out and the challenge to observe and notice as much as we could about the experience.

Our group went to the Post Office with the job of buying 11 first class stamps and enquiring about paying car tax online. Heading in with the mission of observing things from a service design perspective was a very different experience to a typical lunchtime in the Post Office, when I’m usually rushing to get a last minute job done, head down and checking Twitter while waiting in queue. It was surprising how much there was to take in and notice, and it soon became more natural to spot where design decisions had been made and start to think about the impact these were having on the service experience.

Once we got back to our desks, we set about mapping out the touchpoints and emotional journey of our experience, before going on to develop How Might We questions and brainstorm solutions to improve a service.

As well as highlighting some useful tools and different perspectives on design, the workshop reminded me how much we can learn about design every day, without trying very hard. Wherever we go and whatever we do we are experiencing design – in products, shop layouts and experiences. By being observant and noticing the choices that have been made and the impacts they are having, we can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t.

Keep your eyes open – you never know where inspiration will come from.



A sketch of the double diamond


The workshop underway


Journey maps