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2019 and the end of a decade

Since 2015 I’ve always published a yearly round up. This year there is so much that I could say and focus on that it feels overwhelming to reflect for too long. This is especially the case as it’s also the end of a decade.

So I’ll keep this brief.

I turned 40 this year. It came and went as big milestones always seem to. Never quite as important as they feel once they’ve passed. I feel a bit older but still energised and ready for challenges ahead, rather than needing to spend too much time looking back.

Orchestration is the best word I can find for describing my work in 2019. The idea of coordinating, and maintaining focus or direction across different strands of work represents a lot of what I’ve been doing, and the types of relationships with the people and teams I’ve worked with. My year has mostly been about connecting and bringing together ideas, some new approaches for doing and thinking, helping shape how organisations work and the pipeline of work at FutureGov. As my role as Chief Design Officer has developed over the past 12 months this was often the year of working in the spaces between our teams, meaning that I was more focussed on playing a senior sponsor role on client facing work and leading on business development, versus working more closely with our teams internally.

I’ve written around 40 blog posts this year (8 of those were for the FutureGov blog, with some written as collaborations with our team). This is still an important part of how I work at a time where working in the open and transparency is as important as ever.

I also did more speaking this year. More lower key events overall, with a couple of bigger conferences including UX Manchester, and my highlight, which was opening the day at Create Leicester in October.

In 2020 I’ve already said I would like to write a book. I would also like to speak and travel more. I’m already confirmed to keynote UX Scotland in June next year and will be looking at other opportunities to build on this, and to develop new ideas and speaking materials.

A decade of leading design

The last decade for me was really the time that I found my voice. I found myself saying yes to opportunities, increasingly leading from the front, and with a lot more responsibility. Some of this was intentional, while some of it was luck and down to the support and encouragement of the many people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.

It’s been hard work but I’m glad I stepped up. I’ve been saying in recent talks that design is something you have to lead. It has to lead somewhere. It’s not passive and needs people to make it happen. Design is about being intentional, and that person who leads can be you.

A final footnote to this. More recently I feel like I’ve been consciously stepping back again. Leading as much from the side as from the front. Making room for other voices, and trying to give other people opportunities while finding new spaces to work in myself. This is more where I see my work going in the next 10 years.

Into 2020

I hope that 2020 will be another year of focus and creativity. My goal is still to help organisations and individuals use design as a way of doing things differently. There’s never been a better time to be prepared to lead design, and to believe that anything can change if you’re prepared to commit to the work required to get there.

To everyone that reads this blog and follows my work – thank you. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

Ben Holliday is an experienced designer, 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.