Civil servants urged to use design techniques to develop services

All civil servants should be trained in design principles such as using prototypes and involving users to create solutions, according to a report published today by the Design Commission, an industry-led group that investigates how design could address public policy problems.

Cabinet Office

By Suzannah.Brecknell

13 Mar 2013

The report, which follows a parliamentary inquiry considering how design could be used to improve public services, says that adopting design techniques across the public sector would make policy and services more responsive to user needs and cost effective.

Inquiry co-chair Baroness Denise Kingsmill said: “The UK is a world leader in design. Yet we seem reluctant to apply that expertise to that which arguably requires the most effective design: public services.”

The report says that good design starts by considering user needs; “seeks multiple sources of inspiration” when looking for solutions; uses prototypes to develop these solutions; and enables “productive public engagement” in policy making.

“All of this helps designers build products and services that meet users’ needs most acutely and at lowest cost,” it says.

Policy makers should establish “multi-disciplinary design studios” similar to the Danish government's MindLab, says the report, and the Cabinet Office should ensure that design skills are built up across government. It also recommends that government establishes a network of design advisers who can mentor and support leaders across the public sector.

The report highlights the Government Digital Service's work creating the new website as an “excellent example of a design-led development of a public service, which has saved money and works better for the citizen.”

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