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Introducing our design philosophy

by Ben Holliday

How we’re growing our user centred design practices at TPXimpact, and the principles that are helping to shape our work.

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Since the launch of TPXimpact earlier this year, we’ve been bringing together our designers and researchers into a new user centred design community. We recently brought everyone together in person for an away day – for the first time since the pandemic.

We used some of this time together to focus on how we work. The question I wanted us to focus on was how our design practices create value for the organisations we work with.

Design Team Away Day

The importance of a design philosophy

As Chief Designer, my challenge to our teams is that we are able to clearly explain and show the value of design and research through all of our work. This means that people outside of TPXimpact should be able to recognise the values that shape how we work. 

I think about this as our ‘design philosophy’. Every organisation should have one and ideally, they should find ways to make this explicit through how they develop and build their teams.

With this in mind, we have started to define what a design philosophy means for us. Reflecting what it’s like to work in our teams as a design specialist, and what it should feel like to work with us.

To break this down further, a design philosophy is partly about what we do now and partly about what we intend to do in the future. It’s something that should underpin the approaches to our work – mirroring who we are, as well as who we aspire to be as teams of designers and researchers. 

Introducing our principles

To make our design philosophy something practical that our teams can work with, we’ve created a set of five principles.

Design Principles (1)

1. People focused

We put people at the centre of all of our work. Good design creates positive outcomes for the citizens and organisations we work with.

2. Diverse reach and thinking

We encourage diverse thinking through well targeted user research and co-design work. Good design should work for everyone. 

3. Visual and creative

We create explorative, visual artefacts to support change. Good design should be creative — making our work engaging and enjoyable.

4. Ideas made real

We learn by doing and prototyping. Good design is something people 

can directly interact with.

5. Bold and ambitious

We challenge ourselves and others to be bold and ambitious. Good design is about what can be made possible. 

Describing the importance of good design

A key part of these principles is giving ourselves a clear, shared definition of how we describe what good design is. 

As I’ve said to many teams and organisations – design is a good idea. All of our principles are based around a belief that the impact of our work has the potential to be far greater through engaging, creative approaches, and learning by doing. 

At TPXimpact, our work involves working as part of large digital transformation programmes. It can be part of complex technology and data focused work. When we‘re asking our teams to think about and apply these principles, it’s because we believe the best way to support this type of change is with good design.

Our final principle about being bold and ambitious applies to everything here, and ‘challenging ourselves’ is especially important. Design practice is always about understanding and working within constraints. But we should be bold within the context of where we are, the work we’re supporting, and who we’re working with. 

Next steps and working in the open

To bring our principles to life, we used our time together in November to talk about what these mean for our work and different practice areas. Each of our communities of practice are now taking these principles away and working through how they can best apply them to their work.

Something that’s key to how we want our teams to grow is working in the open. It’s important to say that no set of working principles is ever perfect, but what I’ve shared here is proving to be a good starting point for our teams to develop and work with. This understanding of our philosophy also leaves space for us to continue work with other sets of principles and the service standards that support good design in places like government and the health system. 

Finally, we want to share how our work is continuing to reflect these principles as we grow in the coming years. To do this, we’re launching this dedicated design blog as a platform for our teams and those we work with. Expect to hear much more from our people as we move into 2023.

Ben Holliday's avatar

Ben Holliday

Chief Designer

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