Blog post round up – Summer 2019

It’s been a busy year so far and my intention of writing regular monthly updates hasn’t materialised (my last proper update was back in February). I’ve been prioritising other things, mostly real life and family.

I am still finding some time to write, especially as part of my role as Chief Design Officer at FutureGov, so I thought it would be useful to collect together everything that I’ve written this year.

I’m writing more for the FutureGov blog at the moment than my own blog, and the part of my role I’m particularly enjoying is helping with other people’s writing. This either means co-writing, editing and curating series around different topics that I’m interested in.

Here are some highlights and posts that you might find useful*.

*Note: I’m mostly linking to Medium publications here, but the majority of these blog posts (outside of the FutureGov blog), were first published on this personal site.


The first blog post I published for FutureGov this year was ‘A design state of mind‘, exploring what it means to move to a design mindset. I’ve used this outline for a number of talks and workshops since, and I’m finding it’s a good way to introduce how to think about the value of design to a room of people not familiar with these ways of working.

In March we started a series of blog posts about prototyping – kicking off with ‘A guide to different types of prototyping‘. I also wrote about how ‘Learning to prototype is more important than learning to code‘.

More recently I’ve been mostly curating and helping to write a series around approaches to designing services, and how to use service design as a way of approaching organisation design.

I’ve been working closely with Alessandra Canella on this, with feedback from the wider FutureGov team. Combined together there is a methodology documented in these blog posts for how to approach the design of services in large organisations.

In a short series of blog posts I also shared on the ‘Leading Service Design’ publication I’ve written about how to think about ‘Building blocks‘ for services. This is a simple framework for reviewing work across a service and may be useful if you’re starting to introduce and use service design as an approach in your organisation.

I also wrote about ‘The importance of frameworks and first principles in service design‘ and ‘Simple models‘. This is essentially the foundation of my approach to designing services. These blog posts introduce how to use simplicity, new tools and visual communication as a way of working with complexity (as introduced in ‘A design state of mind’).

Organisational Design

The approaches to designing services that I’ve written about in the last 9 months are all ways of approaching organisational design. Another topic that I’ve been exploring is the relationship between service design and traditional business or organisational design functions.

I published ‘Comparing service design and business design‘ to look at this in more detail. My feeling here is that the argument for ‘user centred’ design is not yet won in many large, or more traditional , ‘enterprise’ type/level organisations and industries. I’ve seen service design especially come unstuck in parts of UK government this year because we haven’t been able to talk about this relationship. For me, the design of services and more transformational service design approaches are a radical shift and require us to move away from traditional approaches to business design (skillsets and mindsets).

User Research

Another area of work I continue to think about and develop is how we use hypotheses in design to work through problems or design services. My original blog post about hypothesis driven design (2015) is still one of my most read and shared pieces four years later.

As a follow up to this previous blog post I’ve now written about using ‘Hypotheses in user research and discovery’ to look more closely at how we can start with what we think we know is true in discovery, using hypotheses as as approach to planning and working with user research.

The important thing here is framing this as a way of working to understand how and where we might be wrong, as well as applying local context to the problem we’re working on and discovering things we don’t yet know about.

In practice we’ve used this approach at FutureGov for different projects now. When adapting it to the context of a problem we’re working on I think it’s a good approach to consider. It’s especially useful if you have constraints around time and budget for discovery research as a way of focussing and planning as a team at project kick off.

Design Leadership

Finally, I’ve continued to write about design leadership as part of a series – ‘Seniority in Design‘, in part to further explore material I’ve presented at conferences and events this year. I think I’m almost done with this topic for now, but in the last 6 months I’ve added:

As well as these posts I’ve written from a personal perspective about ‘Stepping outside the design community‘ and how ‘It’s okay to be a design leader‘.

I’ve also been thinking more about my own working and leadership style as well: Hustle is how I work.

That’s it for now. If you’re reading this you might also be interested in my playbook for design that brings together and links to many previous blog posts from the past 5 years.

It’s always nice to know when people share or find work useful so please drop me a line if you want to get in touch.

Hello, I’m Ben Holliday. This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 15 years. You can follow all of my blog posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also follow my regular updates on Twitter.