• Bt

    A version of the new-look site in use

Graphic Design

An interview with Ben Terrett about the Government's digital design principles

Posted by Rob Alderson,

It’s all very well talking of “the importance of good design” but it’s a term often used and understood in wooly ways. So it’s always refreshing to see an organisation put their money where their mouth is and set out what they see as the fundamentals – all the more so if that organisation is part of, oh I don’t know, the British Government.

The British Government’s Digital Service (GDS) has recently released in Alpha a set of ten design principles which will act as the guide on the path towards a single domain.

Evolving from a 2010 report by the Government’s digital champion Martha Lane Fox, the ten ideas are an interesting read for all designers and are part of a wider drive to rebuild Britain’s reputation for public design excellence.

The former Wieden+Kennedy creative has no qualms about the magnitude of the task he faces but is clearly buzzing with any pressures it may bring.

“Direct.gov has the same number of views as something like Facebook. That’s what’s really exciting about the job, the numbers are just massive. You do feel greater responsibility as you are effectively designing for the whole country. That is why it’s so important to get it right.”

“You do feel greater responsibility as you are effectively designing for the whole country. That is why it’s so important to get it right.”

Ben Terrett

Ben likes the long-term nature of his project and the new challenges involved with focusing on one overall project rather than lots of little ones as would be the case at an ad agency. And he stresses that these principles are “definitely a draft.”

“The idea is that the alpha is the show what we believe are good principles for designing a digital service and we’ve tried to back that up with examples."

“We had quite a few of them, then we went down and were stuck on nine for quite a while and now we’re up to ten. I think they are sort of obvious but always worth restating."

  • Principles

    The ten principles

And Ben is keen the ideas are released into the public realm to see what people think as soon as possible.

“We get things out as quick as we can – rather than just debate it in the office we want to see what people make of it. The response has been really positive.

“The nicest thing people have said is that they would not expect something like this from the Government. People have also said they’re good ideas for anything, not just websites.”

He hopes that they will help prove that the Government is serious about good design, but this is a restoration rather than a new direction as far as Ben is concerned.

“Britain has a brilliant heritage of public services design – the National Festival, Margaret Calvert, Kenneth Grange– but it kind of stopped in the 1980s/90s. We should be able to get that back and the future is obviously online so this could become the digital equivalent of the road signs.

“I think that is possible –  that is the standard we want to set, not just in terms of visual design but in terms of navigation, accessibility and everything like that.”

And if they can achieve that it will help attract the best young design talent too. “I really want for us to become a place where young people want to come straight from college, attracted by the scale of the thing – there’s not many challenges of this size in this world – there’s also the mission to make peoples lives better. And there’s great talent involved here, we have hired people from the Guardian, Google, Airside and the BBC recently.”

  • Gov2

    The Ministry of Defence website (old version)

  • Gov3

    The Ministry of Defence website (new version)

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. List-muir-mcneil-its-nice-that-muir-mcneil-its-nice-that-lcc_type_design_1200

    It’s Summer Shows-time again, and so we’re bracing ourselves for another slew of smart identity projects to go with them. Today, we present to you the work of MuirMcNeil, which has created the identity for the show at London College of Communication, where the duo teach. MuirMcNeil is comprised of Hamish Muir, lead tutor of BA Graphic and Media Design and Paul McNeil, course leader for MA Contemporary Typographic Media. Naturally, it’s a very typographic identity, and “confronts traditional letterform” according to LCC.

  2. Tomaslaar-itsnicethat-main

    Nice body of work here from Dutch design student Tomas Laar, who has a pleasing understanding of typography and the fun there is to be had in publication design. Even though he’s still studying he’s been very busy immersing himself in the design world, taking part in Hort’s raucous After School Club and a number of different group shows and workshops. What I like about his work is that he’s not afraid to mess around a bit, and the more professional journals he’s put together and professionally bound are contrasted by mini-projects that see him making posters in homage to designers he admires and pasting them up on walls around The Hague. Even his typography is light-hearted, and shows how unafraid he is to get stuck in with different materials and processes in order to get the best result. He’s also got an absolute ripper of a blog.

  3. Spd-newyork-itsnicethat-list2

    Call me a massive magazine nerd if you must but I really enjoy the conversation about what makes a great cover. Is there a science to it as Tyler Brûlé maintains? Does it have to be meticulously planned or can it be the simple execution of gut instinct? Where is that fine line between bold and daring on the one hand, and obtuse and gimmicky on the other? Anyway yesterday two “best cover” shortlists were unveiled which gives us a glimpse into what two leading industry bodies think (The Society of Publication Designers and The Professional Publishers Association).

  4. Flatland-itsnicethat-list

    “We hear a lot about the death of print and the dominance of digital,” begins Epilogue’s Kickstarter pitch video for a new version of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland, “but it’s having access to either that makes this an exciting time. The challenge is, how do you make something that is interesting and meaningful with both?”

  5. Jaimezuverza-itsnicethat-main

    If you ever want to read a truly inspiring interview with one of the coolest designers out there, look no further than this one with Jaime Zuverza we ran on the site back in 2013. In it Jaime said: “Lately I have been inspired by the strange things the body and mind create. I think those things must be welcomed in a friendly manner. The body produces blood, tears, boogers, vomit, caca, gas, wax, urine, spit, odours, etc. The mind produces dreams, hallucinations, delusions, paranoid associations, psychic vibes, phobias, visions. All of these things are usually kept hidden but they play a big part in people’s daily lives.”

  6. Stosh-itsnicethat-list-2

    Stosh is the leading case in my new argument (actually my only case, but that’s neither here nor there) that all studios formed of two or more people should be named by combining those two names together. Freelance graphic designers Stephanie Cuérel and Josh Schaub (Stosh!) have been collaborating since 2010 and judging by their website – a trichotomy of bold design made by one, the other or both of them, with the odd GIF thrown in for good measure – it was a good decision.

  7. New-dps-itsnicethat-list

    It probably won’t be of much interest to you, but I wrote my dissertation on the intersection between digital platforms and physical publishing and the interesting ways people are finding to merge the two. For me it was fascinating, for some of you it’s probably exceptionally tedious. But for those of you with a similarly perverse interest in these curiously anachronistic forms of publishing there’s an interesting online archive that brings them all together. P-DPA (the Post-Digital Publishing Archive) is an impressive resource created by Silvio Lorusso dedicated to documenting projects at the forefront of modern publishing. It’s far from comprehensive, but the user-generated archive offers up some exciting examples of progressive publishing. I could go on, but I’ve probably already bored some of you to tears.

  8. Spin-itsnicethatlistfull_screen_simon_pengelly_2

    When graphic designers take on furniture designers, their broadening solutions can sometimes feel formulaic – all wholesome browns and chatter about “craft.” That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Spin’s work for British furniture designer Simon Pengelly. “The idea for Simon’s identity came from a visit to his workshop and noticing the lovely graphic stripes on the edge of the plywood used on one of his chairs,” says Spin. “The various iterations of the marque reflect different thicknesses.” Despite the fact, as Spin puts, it, Simon’s design approach “brings together a blend of organic minimalism and a distinctive feel for natural materials,” the identity focusses on the minimalism and shuns the organic, taking on a bold, direct and a very brave aesthetic.

  9. Anagrama-itsnicethat-list

    Mexican design studio Anagrama has turned its focus to one of its own this time around, creating a solid brand identity and new interior for a “cantina” called Botanero Moritas. Anagrama had the restaurant’s rich brand history – stretching all the way back to 1939 – to wrangle with, and chose to channel as much of its tradition and history into the new identity as possible while still striking a chord with contemporary branding. It went with a simple, bold logo on dark grainy backgrounds for much of the printed collateral including business cards, postcards and packaging, employing a rainbow foil to jazz it up where necessary, while the variety of typefaces used on menus and signage hints at the diversity of old and new references.

  10. Wife_web_backdrme-itsnicethat.list

    It’s always such a joy when great music and great graphics combine, as we explored recently in our Art + Music series. So when we found out that Manchester agency DR.ME was behind the sleeves for one of our all-time favourite record labels, Tri Angle, it was a happy day indeed. “Happy,” however, is perhaps not so apt for describing the sleeves themselves – or indeed the music of Tri Angle’s roster – characterised by a dark, brooding, experimental sound. Some dub it witch house, others drag, but by any name, it’s downright weird and often rather brilliant. But enough gushing about these strange, cracked-out sounds, let’s talk about the sleeves.

  11. Graphilately-itsnicethat-list

    For some years now stamp collecting has been relegated from the status of a widespread and admirable pastime to a somewhat nerdy pursuit, and this is a perception that Blair Thomson, creative director of design studio Believe In, is keen to shake off. Having had a passion for stamps instilled in him at a young age, Blair is the designer behind Graphilately, an Instagram account dedicated to his own beautifully curated, and very well photographed collection, which celebrates stamps as a form of graphic art in their own right.

  12. Anna-kulachek-itsnicethat-list-2

    The very best graphic identities, as designer Anna Kulachek would attest, take on a life of their own. The Moscow-based creative has been working on identities for the Prague School of Design since 2012, and they’ve since grown into an evolving body which grows and reforms with each new brief. “In the beginning it was built on the illustrations of the city,” Anna explains, “because one of the points in the brief was to show what’s happening in Prague. So I decided to draw the school in simple shapes.”

  13. Chris-van-niekerk-itsnicethat-listfine_furniture_1

    Chris van Niekerk’s designs are direct, accomplished and considered, but what makes them extra intriguing are the process stories behind each. Take his special edition vinyl sleeves for Cheap Thrills. They look good enough – all dingy, limited palettes and dynamic type – but he explains that the imagery was created by sampling the sound waves from side A of each vinyl, and visualising them, which is pretty cool. The project that really caught our eye, not least because of how well shot it is, is Chris’ branding for bespoke furniture maker Jake Coleman, which takes a fresh look that’s true to its product, using a puzzle piece inspired by dovetails as the centre of the identity. To show the versatility of this kid, we’ve also included the designs for an Aperture publication, marking 60 years of the photography foundation, which looks very slick indeed.