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One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the past year is that being a ‘designer’ is hugely ambiguous and can be very confusing for people.

UX designer, interaction designer, product designer, service designer. It’s not exactly obvious what these involve is it?

When I joined the team at BPDTS, I walked into the building assuming that my fellow team members would vaguely understand what a designer should do and what outputs they can be expected to produce.

I’d made this assumption because the DWP follow the GDS model of service development.

It’s fair to say that I was completely wrong in my assumption and that this isn’t a mistake I will make again.

It has become clear that other team members see designers as the UI guy, who knows what components to use and where to use them. It’s not about making the user’s experience better, more about ticking a box that ‘this person’ has looked at ‘this thing’ and come to ‘this conclusion’.

I’ve actually been told to just ‘do the UX’ – which is a quote I always thought authors on Medium just made up for the claps.

I was initially confused about why work wasn’t piling up at my door when I first walked into the office and said ‘hi’.

It’s now obvious that team members simply didn’t know when or how to let me know that this thing needed looking at or we’ve found that this thing is a problem.

The past few months have been really difficult. The service I am currently working on is very much focussed on business-driven delivery and user centred design (UCD) is very much on the periphery.

When you’re in an environment where the team is working in a frantically hand to mouth manner, it can be difficult to try and force design into the process especially when you’re trying to teach people about UCD at the same time.

So what have I done to make design easier for people to understand?

  • workshops
  • design reviews
  • clear, consistent communication
  • a ‘design’ wall – comprising a kanban board and space for design artefacts

Ultimately, progress has been made by clear and constant communication. Speaking to BA’s, devs and senior stakeholders has been vital in ensuring that the service remains aligned with its future users. There is still a lot of work to be done, but it’s obvious now that people better understand what it means to be a designer.