Last week it was announced that gov.uk — the government’s new digital presence — was the winner of the Design Museum’s Design of the Year award, making it the first website to claim the prize.
Gov.uk (designed by the government digital service) aims to combine all the UK government’s websites into a single entity, the idea being to save public money and make vital services simpler to use.
A lot has been made of gov.uk’s design — its stark functionality, and the simplicity of the visual language. It all adds up to a product that is very, very fit for purpose. It could be said that great design feels inevitable, but this goes one step further. The experience of using gov.uk leaves you with no opinion on the site whatsoever, only the information you were looking for. It’s moved beyond inevitable, and become invisible.
This success shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, we have form when it comes to big, civic design initiatives: the London Underground map and our road signage systems being the two obvious examples. No lost tourist in a car full of screaming children has ever stopped to appreciate the reassuringly clear hierarchy of our motorway signs when looking for their hotel; they just get where they need to go. The design itself has become invisible. Gov.uk is merely the latest in a long line of Great British design projects (in fact, Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert’s Transport typeface has been re-worked and used by the government digital service).
This history of ‘getting it right’ is the best part of the whole affair. It speaks volumes about our nation, our abilities and our sensibilities. Successes like these do wonders for our soft power, and help create ‘Brand Britain’. This particular win goes further than anything before it, as there now exists a visual language, tone of voice and set of guiding principlesfor the Government of the United Kingdom. Gov.uk is so much more than a functional website: it’s defined the visual identity of an entire country, and is defining how a government interacts with its citizens (it just doesn’t know it yet).
Where we go from here is really exciting. The Government Digital Service have created something with the potential to define and improve the experience of everything from voting in a local election to receiving treatment from the NHS, and they’ve done it in an open and collaborativeway. Gov.uk as a site is great, but what it’s doing beneath the surface is what’s truly game changing.
Tom Petty is a designer specialising in experience and interaction at Wolff Olins London. You can follow him on twitter @tp
Can you be a ground-breaking thinker, doer, leader and influencer day after day?
We’re a highly ambitious business determined to help clients across all sectors better address the challenges and opportunities presented by today’s turbulent world. We’re also one of the Sunday Times’ Top 100 Best Small Companies to work with.
We’re committed to transforming existing markets, creating new markets, to helping businesses and organisations responsibly grow. And the responsibility bit is important. We put positive social impact at the heart of what we do.
If you see yourself as a game- changer and have a brilliant mix of imagination, logic, resilience and a special talent to make things happen then we may be your perfect fit. If you feel that others - inside Wolff Olins or in client organisations of as many as 100,000 people would follow your lead, we would love to hear from you.
You may be from big business, from a start-up or you may run your own show. You need solid business know-how, true creative flair and an ability to not just re-define the purpose of an organization but to re-tune its culture, processes, products, services and end goals accordingly.
We work across all sectors – technology, finance, government, professional services, arts and non-profit and we hope you would be up for some sector experimentation too. Unusual mixes of experience and expertise is inherent to our approach.
Currently, we’re on the lookout for strategy team members at our most senior levels:
Our strategy directors are outstanding leaders. They work alongside the CEOs of the world’s major organisations. They successfully manage the balance between social and commercial impact. They can think with crystal-clear simplicity but also manage extraordinary complexity and they run large multi-dimensional projects which span the full range of deliverables - from long-range envisioning through to the detail of web experiences and produce design. Most of all they have the stamina to work for months and often years taking a client on the journey of profound, market defining change. Most come to us with at least 9 years of hands-on experience.
Our seniors are the drivers of our biggest projects. They are responsible for some of the most significant areas of our impact – conceiving new products and services, building new businesses, devising new revenue streams always with a view to giving more customers a better experience and an improved belief in the companies that serve them. Often they bring an injection of new knowledge to Wolff Olins – as experts in product innovation, culture change, digital experiences, emerging markets or sustainability. We welcome focused areas of knowledge, especially if it can be applied to the wealth of opportunities we take on. All our senior strategists are inventive, disciplined, inspiring and results focused. Most have at least 7 years of experience
Beyond the impact our strategists have on client projects, they each contribute a great deal to helping us grow as a business internally. There’s all to play for in this respect. We have a highly entrepreneurial culture and we respond well to vision and initiative. We back people’s ideas and help them grow…
If you are interested in being part of Wolff Olins, please send your CV and a covering letter outlining the kind of extra firepower you can bring our business to email@example.com - with Strategy Director or Senior Strategist in the header. Thank you!
What do these three popular figures have in common? All three are introverts – quiet leaders who have had a tremendous impact on the world.
A quiet leader sounds like an oxymoron. However, Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts, would argue that quiet leaders have always existed – and often are more effective than extroverted leaders.
Introverted leaders tend to be more reflective and considered. “Ghandi said his shyness stopped him from saying something stupid.” They listen more and lead by consensus. In work places where employees are more proactive, quiet leaders are often more successful in empowering people to take initiative and make ideas happen. This is especially important as more companies try to foster entrepreneurialism.
Cain’s work on quiet leadership has many takeaways whether you fall into the introvert, extrovert or ambivert camp. Two that stood out to me:
Rethink brainstorms. The loudest person in the room doesn’t always have the best ideas. Enable people to brainstorm in solitude first, then come together to share their ideas as a group.
Redesign your workspace. We’re encouraged to work in open floor plans, but the best thinking often happens alone. Design a flexible workspace that allow for periods of quiet contemplation.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for extroverted leaders, but that we should recognise leadership takes many different forms.
Melissa Andrada is an ambivert and strategist passionate about creating businesses that inspire people, do good and make money.
New FTSE board appointments have slowed and there are just 32 female executive directors of FTSE 250 companies, compared to 558 males. It is rather disappointing, but not at all surprising. Two things struck me in reviewing all the data. Firstly, that the pace of change is still positively glacial and needs continual attention just to keep up at its present speed. Secondly, appointments of non-execs may be moving, but executive director appointments (CEO, etc.) are proving much slower.
All of which makes me wonder if a generation of talented women has missed out (or moved to more welcoming businesses abroad) and if we now need to focus on how to give the next generation a proper shot at the top?
If so, I’ve got a couple of suggestions on how we, as business leaders, can help them:
Make sure that your recruitment process is meritocratic, interviewing with a broad range of people will help you avoid the trap of recruiting in your own image. The idea that there are not enough suitable women for senior roles self-perpetuates, butwe can begin to address it at the earliest stage.
Nurture female talent
Sustainable and long-term change won’t be achieved by focusing on a few big-hitters, but by creating a business environment that offers platforms for every woman to build their confidence in voicing their opinions and taking risks.
A lack of women in visible positions of seniority creates serious aspirational disparity, with only 46% of women aspiring for top roles compared to 64% of men.
Role models help give us a sense of what is possible, they prove that women are respected, admired and have a deserved place at the table.
Make sure that the leadership acts comfortably and with generosity in operating with senior female leaders. Full access to formal and informal networks, mentors and sponsors within the workplace creates a sense of value, belonging and a reassurance that they can succeed to their optimal potential.
Let’s hope the 2014 report paints a brighter picture.
Sairah Ashman is COO of Wolff Olins. Follow her on Twitter at @sairahashman
Last week kinetic artists and researchers Carol MacGillivray and Bruno Mathez, collectively known as Trope Scope, popped into Wolff Olins London for our weekly Appleshift share. We had recently met with the duo at this year’s Kinetica Art fair where the group were exhibiting their three-dimensional audio-visual work “One, two, three…”. The work was a piece of their broader multidisciplinary Diasynchronoscope Project, created in collaboration with Prof. Frederic Fol Leymarie at Goldsmiths, University of London. We, like so many other visitors to Kinetica, were so enthralled with their work that we invited them to Wolff Olins London to hear more.
They opened their talk with an introduction to the aforementioned piece of work, a sculpture-cum-experiment that elegantly synthesises both traditional craft media and digital developments. The interface and overlap of these analogue and digital techniques in both sound and space works with a curious and hypnotic harmony—it even alleviated a migraine for one visitor. As with much of the group’s work, the piece is about experimentation and exploration. It is firmly rooted in science and a real appreciation and understanding of the human perceptual system.
Their work is undoubtedly a product of an interesting partnership. When they formed in 2011, they each brought their previous explorations and distinctly different and rich skill sets, both in analogue and digital technologies. Carol, had spent 20 years as an animator and film editor, largely working in claymation and stop motion animation for documentary, drama, music videos, and commercials. Bruno, conversely, has always been very much rooted in the digital, an audio-visual artist whose work has been referred to as “the visual equivalents of different types of media or stage practices”. His engaging and interactive visuals have been created for music concerts, operas, dance and theatre shows, much of which can be seen on his website.
As with much sensorial artwork, especially one like trop Scope’s, which is in a continual state of evolution, it is nearly impossible to capture the essence of it through film or photography. If you have an opportunity, we strongly recommend you to see the work in situ.
Sami Mallis works in Marketing at Wolff Olins London.
As a follower of the IPL since its infancy, I have seen it evolve into a colossal sporting event unlike any. Right now the entire nation and Indian diaspora are engulfed in this two-month long cricketing madness and it has something to offer to everyone. The newest edition of the IPL kicked off with a grand opening ceremony last week on 3rd April.
The IPL seemed like an ultra-promising proposition, but the excitement seems to be fading with every passing season. This three-word cricketing spectacle is indeed enjoyable, but do we still ‘love’ it? I guess not.
What did IPL promise?
When IPL was conceived six years back, the entire nation went gaga over the concept. It was touted as the magic pill that the struggling domestic cricket was looking for- better infrastructure, more opportunities for youngsters and a bigger payday. Teams needed to focus on building a loyal fan base—it was the pivot around which business value would be created. Some of these dreams were realized while others were not.
Why fans are important?
IPL was conceived on the lines of the popular club format of EPL and NBA. All successful teams across the globe rely on building a loyal fan base to keep gate and merchandise revenue flowing. However, IPL has focused more on ‘entertainment’ and ignored its long-term sustainability.
Though it’d be wrong to say that IPL fans lack loyalty, they mostly flock in stadiums to watch their favourite player play than to support the home team. On a personal note, I love watching Sachin Tendulkar play, but I don’t care if he plays for Mumbai or any other team. That is just the nature of how cricket works in India but the teams aren’t doing much to help their cause.
Could we do better?
Sure! Hunt, Briston and Bashaw (1999) classified sports fans into five categories- temporary, local, devoted, fanatical and dysfunctional. If there is ever a more apt example of a representative sport, it’s Cricket. Each category of fans has a different motivation. The existing mass media focused, celebrity endorsed and entertainment centric approach may no longer work in the Indian context. It was fun in the beginning, but needs to mature into something tangible. Prioritizing each fan base and then targeting each base may be a good place to start?
Zia Patel is a senior strategist at Wolff Olins Dubai. Aditya Julka is an intern at IIM Lucknow.
You’re an entrepreneur. You’ve identified a gap in the market and come up with a product with huge potential for growth. The problem? You’re not the only one.
If everyone is trying to solve the same problem, then what’s going to make you stand out and be different? This is a tricky question for startups to answer, as you do not have the same history and heritage to draw from as the Nikes, GEs and Microsofts of the world. It’s a future-facing question that requires you to think about the principles that make your business special and unique.
Your principles should come out of your purpose – your reason for being. They should be equally inspiring and strategic. They should get you up in the morning, but also act as a guiding compass that drives decision-making. They should define your product experience, company culture, and communications.
Skillshare is a great example of a startup that has created set of principles that clearly define what makes them different. There are many wonderful startups that are trying to re-think education, from the Khan Academy to Coursera to the School of Life. What makes Skillshare different from its competitors is its commitment to principles that include “everyone is a teacher”, “teaching isn’t what you think it is”, and “learning by doing.”
Startups in other industries could learn from Skillshare’s example. I recently was on vacation in San Francisco where rideshare services are all the rage. Lyft. Uber. Hailo. Without googling them, I’m unclear on the differences between these businesses. I know that one has a pink moustache on its cars, but that’s the extent of my knowledge.
The issue of differentiation goes beyond transportation; it can also be applied to startups in crowdfunding (Indiegogo v. Kickstarter), ecommerce (Gilt v. Myhabit v. Rue La La), travel (Kayak v. Hipmunk). The list goes on.
You might be first to market, but defining what makes you special becomes especially important as your industry becomes more complex and competitive.
Where failure is the rule, not the exception, it’s important to start thinking about this question now rather than later.
Melissa Andrada is a strategist passionate about creating businesses that inspire people, do good, and make money. In her spare time, she teaches classes on branding for startups at General Assembly. @themelissard
‘The Digital Age’ is an immersive, seamless experience so pervasive that terms like ‘the Internet of Things’ are not at all silly - but trying to think critically about it - without resorting to its proprietary tools for thought - can feel like looking at an image in the mirror. Will ‘digital natives’ become better equipped to do this, or do they lack the perspective of having ‘lived’ elsewhere?
There is a lot ‘out there’ (on the Internet) saying that the Internet is eroding concentration, so I feel I should issue a spoiler: this isn’t that.
Last weekend I went to see the British Museum’s exhibition Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind, read (two more pages of) Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, and watched the episode of Girls in which Hannah Horvath, Lena Dunham’s depressingly familiar character, shunts, sloth-like, along her floorboards in total isolation for days on end, eating condiments from the jar and googling phantom medical conditions rather than finishing (or starting) her ebook.
Each examines human response to environment. Ice Age Art argues for its contents to be considered art, not artefacts - as much psychology as art history, Kahneman reveals we are on autopilot 95% of the time, and Lena Dunham is only moved to her feet when a splinter lodges in her rear. This unholy (and atypical in self-improvement terms) trinity of a weekend set the tone for a week in which I am going through a self-conscious patch in my longterm relationship with technology.
Paris Brown. The media reaction to 17-year-old Paris Brown this week made me want to take to my Facebook wall with a nostalgic status about growing up IRL, then, on reflection, to instantly quit Facebook and learn a craft or dig up the garden. Then came Zuckerberg’s Facebook Home. A subtle but rippling change – for which a clue is in the name.
Whereas Paris Brown, in trouble for adolescent over-sharing via social media, is a strange hybrid of a teenager (she was earning £15,000 as “adviser on youth” to the Kent police commissioner) her experience of technology is anything but. Social media is home. And, as recession is writ large over the property ladder like the buttons on a telephone for the partially sighted, it is likely to be the only place digital natives can store their lives for the near future.
I was born nine days shy of 1989. This is apparently the official birth year to qualify as a ‘digital native’ according to 89plus, the ‘diamond generation’ project curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist & Simon Castets. On a good day this means I was born prematurely - on the red carpet - just outside the ‘digital native’ domain, but on a bad day I identify with Lena Dunham’s ambiguous relationship with internet related prefixes; the word you recognise is still there (book), but the ‘e’ part just doesn’t sit right somehow. It’s a narrow twilight zone; between our elder siblings – who were on solid foods and playing swing ball long before MSN Messenger arrived - and Paris Brown, who cut her first milky incisor on Twitter.
Whilst justifying my surgical intimacy with Facebook to, say, my granny may feel like standing behind a tourist getting acquainted with their first Oyster pass (for any non-Londoners, that’s personally affronted and frustrated), I have decided to savour these few and far between moments of disconnect. Not calling it home, she uses technology consciously, deliberately, and with purpose - like a guest politely navigating someone else’s kitchen. Plus every “brand strategist” needs to be taken down a peg by their granny.
Olivia Sudjic is a strategist at Wolff Olins London.
Game change is at the heart of Wolff Olins’ work and our account management team is vital to making that change happen for clients.
We’re looking for an experienced (5+ years) Account Manager who is at the top of their game in their current role but looking for the kind of challenge that Wolff Olins will deliver.
We need someone who thrives on intellectual challenge. Someone who has the potential to transform businesses, not just deliver phases of work. Someone who proactively join the dots across an account, spots connections, is an arbiter of quality. Someone who intuitively understands and resolutely delivers value for clients, for WO and for the AM resource. And finally, someone who can balance the budget with the big picture.
We have some of the most high profile, most complex clients and an ambitious, restless internal culture that never settles for second best. We need someone to match our optimism and ambition and develop as a role model for best practice client leadership.