Ben Holliday is an experienced designer, leader, writer and speaker. This is his blog (started in 2005). If you’re new to this site, Ben has published a playbook for design linking together many of his blog posts from the past 8 years of work in the pubic sector. You can get in touch or follow him on Twitter.


Simplify your slide decks

Some practical advice for simplifying your slide decks, and for thinking about what you want to communicate.

The push and pull of giving design feedback

Some more thoughts on design feedback. Push or pull? Some doors open one way, and the rest open the other way. Sometimes ideas needs more pull. And sometimes you need to push…

Creativity is putting all the balls in the paddling pool

Sometimes there isn’t a good reason to try something new. Other than, why not? #shortread

Map making

I love maps. They’re an essential part of a design process. This quote is taken from an article originally written for ‘Interactions magazine’ in 2008:

“Making a map is a way to hold a domain still for long enough to be able to see the relationships between the various approaches, methods, and tools.

The link between hypotheses and telling stories

Back in 2015 I first wrote about hypothesis driven design. I explained that everything can be seen as hypothesis driven design – “The real question is whether or not we write down the assumptions behind the design decisions we make and measure outcomes.”

Never read something cover to cover, except for pleasure

“80 per cent of the value of any work will come from 20 per cent of its activities; and the other 80 per cent of activities will arise because of needless complexity.” – Richard Koch (The 80:20 Principle)

Based on the main idea in the book (described above), I found some useful advice about reading when looking back through The 80:20 Principle.

Living in the future: reflections from Services Week 2020

Some reflections after speaking in Newcastle at Services Week 2020 (a Government Digital Service series of events for UK government).

Open is inspiring

Why working in the open can also be inspiring…

There’s no such thing as a bad idea

Why the line between good and bad ideas is very thin…


It doesn’t have to be complicated. Most strategy is finding the clearest, or best available route forward for making progress (rather than standing still).

Human-centred design, organisations, power and control

Shortly after publishing my blog post about different types of design focus, I shared a tweet/quote from last week’s Techfestival in Copenhagen (via. James Cattell who was at the event):

“Human-centred design scares [some organisations], because their entire model is based on concentration of power and hierarchy.”

A house without windows

The windows we build into our work are about giving ourselves a way to see the world outside, as well as letting the world see us…

Make it happen

A general observation from work I see happening across the public sector:

The quality of creative thinking, communication, visual and content design limits the effectiveness of the process or practice of designing services. There’s also a lack of implementation as the result of service design work.

Types of design focus

Some working definitions. Why the language we use and what we mean when we’re using a design-led or based approach is important.

Blog post round up – Summer 2019

It’s been a busy year so far and my intention of writing regular monthly updates hasn’t materialised (my last proper update was back in February). I’ve been prioritising other things, mostly real life and family.

I am still finding some time to write, especially as part of my role as Chief Design Officer at FutureGov, so I thought it would be useful to collect together everything that I’ve written this year.

It’s okay to be a design leader

I’m encouraged by the number of people talking about how they are taking on more responsibility to lead design. Emma’s blog post was great about her decision to take on a new role, and Ale’s call out to bring together more people in lead design roles has had a great response. 

Stepping outside the design community

More and more I feel like I’m stepping outside recognised design communities to have conversations about design.

I think that this is important. For me, the practice of design is secondary to being able to translate design into something more impactful.

Seniority in Design: personal responsibility

Seniority in design is about personal responsibility.

A disclaimer to start with. While everyone can take personal responsibility, not everyone has the same circumstances, privilege or types of choices to make when doing so.

But, whatever your situation, everyone can can take personal responsibility for their work as a designer.

Simple models

“Complexity in the work. Simplicity in how we approach the work.”

Following on from my previous blog post, I’m a big advocate of designing simple models, or frameworks (including working from first principles).

When we’re working to solve problems, it’s the simplicity and clarity of frameworks that can help us to work with subject matters that are inherently complex.

The horizon and the next steps

In a design process there are two immediate things that matter – the horizon (immediate goal), and the next steps (immediate steps towards that goal).