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What matters. Building a design community

I’ve been leading the User Experience team for just under 12 months now at Digital DWP.

At the moment we have people working in 3 different locations across the UK (Interaction Designers, Content Designers, and Front End Developers).

Everyone is working as part of agile delivery teams on different products and services, so our focus has been on building a design community.

We want this to become a community that not only supports each other, but also encourages frequent collaboration.

Everything we’ve done so far is based on 3 principles.

1. Make sure everyone can talk to each other

Everyone should be able to talk, ask questions and generally keep in touch with each other. This means having access to the right technology – for example, Macbooks.

So far we’ve had to rely on mailing lists and instant messaging. We also send out weekly updates so everyone knows what everyone else is working on.

2. Give everyone the opportunity to meet face-to-face

Everyone should be able to meet face-to-face at least once a month. This is an opportunity to meet each other, see what everyone else is working on, and take some time out for a retrospective.

We also encourage everyone to meet as a team where they work (for example, over lunch on Monday) – essentially a more informal weekly gathering where everyone checks in with each other.

Cross government design meetings are equally important. We hosted more than 60 designers in Leeds last month – it’s noticeable how these events energise everyone.

3. Encourage everyone to work in the open

Everyone should be able to talk about their work. This gives visibility to everything that we’re working on, and encourages collaboration.

It’s important that people share designs and prototypes they’re working on with the rest of the team. They should also be contributing to government design patterns and hackpad discussions.

Get involved

If you want to be part of a community like this, we’re still hiring Interaction Designers. I’m always interested in sharing experiences with any one else that’s building a design team. Get in touch.

Ben Holliday is an experienced design leader, writer and speaker. This is his blog (started in 2005). You can follow all of Ben's blog posts by subscribing to the RSS feed, or follow him on Twitter for more regular updates.