We are all designers, even in public services

Golden spiral in rectangles

Design is fine for our fashion and our cars, our homes and furnishings, even cell phones and laptops. But public and social services are often delivered on shoestring budgets, making design seem beyond extravagant, superfluous. When times are tough for us taxpayers, as they have been for several years now, we don’t often tolerate perceived luxuries in public spending.

Design, however, is not arty colors and curlicues, not expensive materials, not white or empty spaces. Design, at its heart, is thinking through needs and how to meet those needs.

If you work in public or social services and you’re writing documents, planning meetings, or creating and managing services, you are a designer. Really, we are all designers–or should be.

And on the flip side, as a citizen, you probably feel grateful, and a little surprised, when a bureaucratic process goes smoothly, when your questions are anticipated and answered, when a needed service is available and appropriate and maybe even a little pleasant. That is a product of design. We are all consumers of design, as well.

The Design Council in the U.K. lists more than a dozen types of design. Wikipedia list nearly two dozen types of design. Believe it or not, the U.S. government maintains a website for principles of user-centered design for their web pages.

For those of us who are primarily knowledge and service workers, we often encounter visual and communications design as we work with documents and information. We could probably stand to focus more on service design.

You don’t have to go to design school to benefit from design. A little knowledge about the fundamental concepts for a type of design can have immediate and positive impact on your work. Want to stand out from your peers? Apply a little design knowledge.

How would you approach your job differently if you thought of yourself as a designer?

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