Brought to you by Tier 2, fired by the righteous rage of Andy Burnham. Also, while I don’t believe in heroes…Marcus Rashford.
Didn’t think a Twitter thread could make me cry, but the one he posted on Friday, crowdsourcing responses from local restaurants about where kids could get food during half-term, really did that. Let’s hope he changes the government’s mind. But even if he doesn’t, that’s a campaign that’ll launch a thousand social media strategy decks and thinkpieces. Faint praise, I guess, and I’ll spare you my analysis.
Still. Just incredible work.
The past is a horrible country
Fun fact: I was looking up the history of collective punishment in the UK. I’m working for an organisation that focuses on poverty. You can see how it would spring to mind.
Did you know that the frankpledge (where a group of 10 people are collectively punished for one person’s transgressions) actually hasn’t been fully abolished in the UK?? I thought it had ended with the Magna Carta. Turns out it still applies to rioting. Extraordinary scenes. It’s a Wikipedia fact though, so tread carefully.
Structural comms in grim times — less “hope”, more Martin Lewis
There’s an interesting thing about acknowledging structural issues, and trying to affect change (and yes, that’s a link to sociology article from 1905, because it’s a well-established way of approaching social phenomena, and don’t let some fool blind you with their blustery, confident and inaccurate nonsense).
How do you stop people either not-caring, or feeling like something’ too big a problem to take on? It’s a challenge I heard in a meeting this week, and it struck me as fair. I don’t have the answer, and I know the JRF team has lots of insights and thoughts about how their use of framing fits with addressing general malaise. (My training on how they do that is next week, I think?)
But it made me think about Money Saving Expert.
Here’s the thing. Martin Lewis is one of the most trusted people in the UK. His website and newsletter are almost comically boring. Not to mention ugly. But they’re weirdly reassuring. Martin and his crew don’t pretend that they can fix why you’re “skint”, in his language.
What they do, instead, is give you a really clear set of small steps you can do to make things a bit better. All those numbers and really tangible examples, in my inbox on a weekly basis, feels really reassuring. I wonder what that would look like, but aimed at MPs and about poverty? (Thinking out loud. Not a “strategy” or plan of any kind.) Because there are no new ideas, here’s a much better discussion about how Martin Lewis became the UK’s “only truly popular centrist” .
Best service design case study I’ve ever seen
It’s about mutual aid societies in New York. So clear. So crunchy. And everybody around it could talk about it, and the design decisions AND technical decisions involved.
Love love love. New bar: your service design and /or tech case study should be interesting and CLEAR enough for an underpaid middle class socialist 25 year old Vice-reader to deem newsworthy.
That slide is no beauty, but it does the job. It’s the right level of granularity, and actually shows the processes and software decisions involved. Which is described really well in the interview, too. If you’re teaching service design, which a few of you are, this would probably be case study I’d pick.
Lest you think I’m uniquely clever, I was reminded of it by tweets surrounding this really interesting article about “small tech”. I find a lot of that dialogue often falls into being inherently small c conservative. For many, the “past” was an awful place, filled with ignorance, bigotry and injustice, and, like Louise Hoffsten, I have thoughts about how it should be treated. Or, as I said last week, unhelpfully distant from actually doing the work. But this was a good read.
Product-y reading and listening recs
In “fun with tech”, I saw this from the Chromium team, and enjoyed it. I wonder how many website owners this is going to affect? But also, it’s what the Germans call “gefundenes fressen” for anyone running an old, shit website who needs to make a business case. You can thank me later.
Also, I watched this by Anna Pickard from Slack, about how voice and product influence each other. It’s the best thing about how language and software work together I’ve seen in an absolute age, and I will be returning to it many, many times.
Lukewarm takes about showing participatory work
I’ve been digging around on the internet for good ways of showing human-centred innovation and services and stuff. It’s hard, for lots of reasons. Politically, I’m extremely there with approaches like co-design and participatory design. Did you know that it comes from the Norwegian Metal Workers Union getting involved in the computer systems that were about them? I did not. Very nice.
Haven’t seen much good documentation of pros and cons though. I thought this lot did quite a nice job with their case studies. I don’t *love* the logo, but also, logos don’t matter.
It’s not my area of expertise, and I don’t want to shit on something I don’t understand. I am, after all, not a newspaper columnist.
But it feels that a lot of the documentation of participatory practices show the “failings” as isolated experiences, rather than having the kind of rigor of “this process is good for X but not for Y.” And, as a case study of one, it undermines my trust in the processes. I always wonder ways of thinking where I can’t see examples of them failing, or of having limitations. It makes me think about that now-classic “design thinking isn’t magic” example of PlayPumps.
I was at a conference at Space10 a couple of years ago where Clara Balaguer from Hardworking, Good Looking (great name) talked about community building projects they’d run in the Philippines that hadn’t worked, and it really was one of the best things I’ve ever heard. FWIW it made me more confident about working in those ways. But I can’t find the talk represented online.
I was asking someone I know who works in this space if they had any failed examples of co-design for me to look at. They responded: “I figure that if it doesn’t work we just don’t call it co-design”, which I thought was funny and felt truthy. But I’m extremely interested in examples of successes and failures (and *MAYBE* about varying definitions of success? But I’m generally not super-interested in semantics, because it often devolves into a lazy way to sound clever. Which is fine-ish in pubs — if you’re hot — and terrible at work.)
I’m also thinking about smaller but still-knotty problems about how to show this sort of work, effectively: how do you show it’s done with people? The privacy concerns about using photos of people with one or another stigmatised aspect of their identity are very real. And Ame sent me some really interesting stuff on the western, charity gaze a little while back, which has, as you’d expect, refocused my interest. (It wasn’t this one, but it raises a lot of the same issues, and I can’t find what she sent me originally.) The general way out of this challenge, at the moment, is by showing little vector drawing people. I get why. But they bore me, and feel inappropriately aestheticised for what I’m looking for.
Any good examples, team? Ideally as crisp, clear and questioning as the Vice article above.
👆 few things are as obviously “aging creative director-y” as BOTH quoting a Vice article and asking other people to solve your problems for you. I know, I’m sorry, and I will be removing Fat Boy Slim’s “Right Here, Right Now” from my portfolio presentations in the future.
Some other things I’ve done this week
A lot of what I’ve been doing this week has been talking about budgets, listening to how people explain their work, and meeting colleagues.
Kicked off a quick piece of work with Laure (user researcher) and Holly (delivery manager) to see if there are any quick wins around ways of working. I had management training on Monday, which I was sort-of dreading but which was very tangible and useful. Thanks Amanda and co. :)
Plus, the number of video calls I did on Thursday broke not only my brain, but also my laptop. The brain bit is sort-of OK (I did much, much worse things to it in my 20s), but the laptop frying is an issue. Especially because it conked out during a team member’s goodbye drinks. Annoying.
Arbitrary creative and historical vibes
Bad Gays is back! Joy!
Also, I’ve been listening to podcasts in Swedish because I don’t want to sound like an Overseas Swede when I go back next. Famous examples: Dolph Lundgren and Anita Ekberg, both notorious for forgetting how to speak Swedish within an inappropriately short timeline. We’re talking months. Not a good look. As if Emily in Paris actually adapted a French accent after her first 3 weeks living in her apartement.
A lot of my love of podcasts comes from freeing myself from the brain rot of doing part of a history degree at a UK university in the late 90s. Arguably the most one-sided, “common sense” nonsense found outside The Spectator’s editorial meetings.
Anyway, the best one I listened to was about both the Empress Nzinga and Pu Yi “The personality traits of a child dictator aren’t particularly relevant to history” was a line that made me punch the air. Because it’s true. It doesn’t matter that he was a horrid little creeper. But also, wow Bertolucci. Maybe don’t base a biopic just off someone’s autobiography, hmmm?
And, as someone who over-identifies with Dominic Toretto, I’m lamenting the end of the Fast & Furious franchise (although I was hoping they’d just get rid of Statham).
Please tell me directly if I’ve pissed you off
Before publishing, I asked Mark if he felt this was all too career-limiting. He said, “My blog has been career-limiting for a decade, and I won Design of the Year before I was 30.”
Reader, he’s now a freelancer.