Week #2: 9–13 May

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View out of a small office phone booth to call video calls in – with a laptop computer standing on a small table while looking out into the office space with empty desks and office chairs

Berlin is warmer than London already, and as great as these phone booths in the office are, I’m not sure I’ll enjoy them for 3 hours straight in mid-August. But let’s see! 🙂

Meeting the designers

This week was about meeting almost all of the designers at the Digital Service in 1:1 sessions. Everyone seems driven by the mission, is deep into their work, and has different experiences and backgrounds – from working at government-owned German rail to a major civic tech project to a boutique design consultancy.

Quite a few of us have studied at FH Potsdam, Potsdam’s University of Applied Sciences. It was the first in Germany to launch a degree programme for interface design (back in 2003), where I took some courses. It still attracts and educates excellent designers today. You don’t want too much of the same school of thought, though, cause that can lead to groupthink. 

Understanding what design needs

I also got involved in recruitment and shadowed an interview with an applicant, letting the senior designers do what they have done exceptionally well so far. 

We also started talking about design roles, specialisation and differentiation. To be fair: It took GDS about 4 years to split out design into graphic, interaction and service design. The German government’s Digital Service is just about 1.5 years old. So maybe the generalist approach to design, combining user interfaces and user experience, fits for now and is suitable for the organisation and its work.

And what artefacts and building blocks does design need at the Digital Service? GDS’s design principles – that are now the UK government’s design principles – turn 10 this years. And they seem still as relevant and useful as they were in 2012.

Do we need some, too? Something to explore …

Meeting more people

I met a few more people this week. I had a much too short lunch with Next Netzwerk’s Vincent, a walk talk with Joshua, and another buddy session with my colleague Lisa.

I also spoke with Robin Pfaff, who started developing a design system for the northern federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, and a little working group he’s putting together. Their goal is to create a design system for Germany. For it, two states and their local IT supplier are collaborating already and want to bring more people into the fold. I’ll be joining their regular call from now on to see how I might be able to connect some dots.

What’s next

I did not manage to speak to everyone in the design team just yet. One person is missing as they were off. 

Next week, we’ll have a social design gathering, which I’m looking forward to.