Friday, November 02, 2007

Co-designing the future

Designs of the Time 2007
Last week I spent a happy 30 minutes browsing around the Designs of the Time 2007 festival in Newcastle. Lots of fascinating projects including a climate change "weather forecast", OurNewSchool, Urban Farming and accessible sexual health services.

What all of these projects had in common was the involvement from start to finish of the users of their services. You might think this is the obvious way to design new systems, but if so you clearly haven't spent much time in the IT world — particularly in the design of large public sector information systems. The more usual approach is that a system is hacked together to a constantly-changing specification from consultants and officials who may have never used the service in question (e.g. collecting child benefit or jobseekers' allowance), and fine-tuned by programmers who are similarly disconnected from their users.

Interaction design is a key new field between design and computer science. John Thackara and his Dott team have done a sterling job of putting it into practice, both here and in the Juice workshop I attended earlier this year in Delhi. I hope that visitors from the North East and local and central government were enthused and will build co-design into their future projects — as we are doing in Fair Tracing, e-Curator, and hopefully a forthcoming ID management project.

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