Week #36 at the Digital Service: Notes for 2–6 January 2023

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A small poster on a concrete wall saying in German: “Designing for people with dyscalculia and low numeracy” with a list of 6 DOs and 6 DO NOTs and little illustrations for all 12 of these tips

My 2023 started rather calmly with 3 days of work. So there was time to translate an accessibility poster from colleagues at the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions into German.

In late November 2022, they published a poster on ‘designing for people with dyscalculia and low numeracy’. The related post on the ‘Design in Government’ blog – by content designers Jane McFayden, Rachel Malic, and Laura Parker – became the most popular one on the blog for the year. Following the series of accessibility posters started by the UK’s Home Office years ago, it provides a list of do-s and do not-s when designing more inclusive public services.

We started using the other posters in our now monthly accessibility intro sessions, offered to all new starters at the Digital Service. On Thursday morning, Nadine and I ran it for the second time. This time, we did it in German. That means we will have to maintain 2 versions, which is some extra work, but new colleagues are likely to benefit from it. For most of the posters from the original Home Office series, there is already a German translation available.

We had a bit of back and forth with the authors of the poster, and they expressed their eagerness to see a German version of it available. Another person had already translated previously developed posters. As they apparently have descended from the internet, we at Digital Service are glad to pick up the baton. Providing translations to well-evidenced material is a small effort and a way we can give back – after having built on so much work from folks abroad, especially the UK public sector.

Warming up to the year and picking up 2022 tasks

I started picking up some not-so-urgent but important things from last year. Our 4-people design leadership revisited the almost-complete draft of our design-level definitions. While the draft is complete regarding content, now, it’s about getting the wording right.

I may have mentioned it before: We defined 12 skills in 4 skill areas with definitions for awareness level, working level, expert level and evangelist level. These are somewhat linked to junior-, mid-, senior- and principal-level seniority. But they are not matching them one to one, and they are not supposed to.

While we, of course, have job descriptions, designers have been asking for a clearer progression path and sharper descriptions of their roles. In the coming days, we will share them with the design team for discussion and dissection and also use them for individual goal setting.

Another thing that I left incomplete and picked up is a dedicated design discipline page as part of our website’s ‘how we work’ section. Before starting any new recruitment activities, I’d like us to have that page live so it can give potential applicants a good idea of what designers at the Digital Service do, how they work and who they are. Such a page only makes sense if simultaneously published with a product and software engineering page. So that’s something to complete in the coming weeks, too.

What’s next

Next week, I’m finally expecting us to publish the previously mentioned blog post about visual culture and design artefacts. Sometimes the editing process is more swift and easy; at other times, it’s not.

Not all designers at the Digital Service report directly to me, and that’s how it’s supposed to – given our growing design team. At the same time, those designers have less face time with me. So, I’ve scheduled some 30 minutes for everyone to chat and check in. Conversations could be – but don’t have to be – around:

  • What they are looking forward to in 2023
  • What they think might be challenging in 2023
  • What they think I could help with or sort out

Starting with conversations with everyone in the design team will be a helpful way to get a briefing for the months ahead.