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UK Government design systems

  • Role: Lead designer
  • Organisation: Home Office and Government Digital Service

Design at the Home Office is on a giant scale. We deliver hundreds of services to the public and our own staff, helping to meet the Home Office’s crucial role of keeping people safe and the country secure. With a large team working across design and research, we needed a place to document and share good design patterns and components.

Identifying a need

I identified a need for documenting design patterns while working full-time as the lead designer on a service that provided intelligence data to Government analysts. At that point, there was no easy way to share design patterns that were performing well. I identified this gap and put together a small team of designers to help me build something. We built a working prototype and started collecting patterns and components from services around the Home Office.

After delivering the intelligence service, I joined our newly formed design operations team to lead on design systems at the Home Office and across the UK Government. As a dedicated resource, I could really push on and build faster. At the same time, I could run regular research sessions with our designers and teams to get a better understanding of their needs.

Usable and accessible

After identifying patterns and components that could meet needs across multiple services, I make sure the designs will scale and flex. Making a pattern or component reusable takes a lot of work, and a considered approach.

I focus on a pattern or components usability, testing it in a variety of situations and services to make sure it will flex across a broad range of services. I also put a lot of thought into the accessibility of the element and it's potential implications on how we deliver services to our users.

The impact on Government

The design system has been used extensively across the Home Office, improving services used by millions of people, like passport renewals and visa applications.

Our design teams depend on the system to not only help them design services but also to prototype. I've built code snippets and flow diagrams to make using our patterns and components as easy as possible. And we integrate directly with the prototype kit used across Government.

I run regular research with our designers and researchers to make sure we are meeting their needs. The research shows that the system is an important tool for our designers. It helps designers keep their work consistent, gives them good patterns to kick off new work and improves our design community.

I work with teams across the Home Office to see what is working and what patterns and components are ready to be contributed to our design system. Having visibility on as many services as possible is an important part of my work. We have over 25 designers working on sometimes multiple services so it can be easy to miss good design work. The more good design patterns I can identify, the more re-use we can achieve saving time, money and providing users with better services.

Working with the GOVUK team
Working with the GOV.UK design system team
Working with the GOVUK team

Collaborating across Government

The Home Office design system documents good design across the Home Office. It also serves as a testing ground for patterns and components that could be useful across Government. I have been working with Government Digital Service (GDS) for the past year to model how design patterns are contributed from Government departments, to being used across Government as part of the GOV.UK design system.

My work on design systems has helped drive community, not just at the Home Office but across the UK Government. Designers have a place to share work, discuss learnings and contribute to the wider delivery of good services.

Home Office design system GOV.UK design system
A screenshot of the Home Office design system
Our current design system
A screenshot of the Home Office design system
Our current design system
Our system project management in GutHub
The project has an open backlog on GitHub.
An early version of what was our pattern library
An early version of what was our pattern library
Our design system
Contribution guidance that I helped shape on GOV.UK design system.
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