Q&A How can design help the public sector?
People are at the heart of design. Designers start any project by canvassing the opinions of their customers and assessing their needs, regardless of the client brief. People are, after all, the audience that the end result is created for.
Though a client might seek to make money through effective design, without the buy-in of an audience their product will either fail outright or an important message will be lost in the general hubbub of information.
While this concern with people benefits commercial businesses, it is also vital to any government, civil servant or local authority seeking to engage constituents. It’s not just about reducing costs – every politician’s dream – but of using resources more effectively and targeting the right outcomes.
Public sector bodies can change behaviours through clear communication and this is best achieved with a design-led campaign. Take the gradual move away from smoking in the UK over recent years, part-attained through redesigning cigarette packs to convey graphic health warnings. Likewise the promotion of cycling in cities such as London and Vancouver has benefited from a design approach, with attractive bike rental schemes and simple street guides.
Add to this the development of products from street lights to medical equipment, that help to enhance and even save lives, and you can start to appreciate the effect design can have. This is particularly pertinent in areas such as healthcare where products form a strategy to not only cure disease, but prevent it; thus reducing long-term costs.
For example, seven years ago the UK Design Council successfully launched a raft of initiatives in the healthcare sector. They aimed to demonstrate how you can combat the spread of infection in hospitals and healthcare centres, while also preserving patient dignity. Indeed, a hospital gown by fashion designer Ben de Lisi won media acclaim across the UK.
But it is not just about product and communication design. Designers can apply creative thinking to systems and services as well. Anything from voting systems to tax collection can be improved by early intervention. Take GOV.UK, an information site developed inhouse by the Government Digital Service, that is now being replicated by governments around the world.