Restarting Britain 2: Design & Public Services

A report by the Design Commission

This is the second publication in the Design Commission’s ‘Restarting Britain’ series. The first set out the strategic importance of design education as a driver of economic renewal and growth. This report turns to the question of public service renewal.

In the context of politics and governing, the word ‘design’ is applied liberally – the design of legislation, the design of policy, the design of public services – with little thought as to the significance of the word itself. Here we shift our focus to that word ‘design’, and explore its potential for creating cost-effective public services in the 21st century. Part-polemic, part-manual, this report is the culmination of a nine month inquiry,and our response to a substantially increased appetite for more information on the subject of design in public services.

Design, as a creative process, can be applied in almost any field of practice. Traditionally we see design being used in the world of consumer goods, but it is increasingly infiltrating other areas of life. In the course of the inquiry we discovered many brilliant examples of good design thinking being applied, with positive results, to public or governmental challenges – often involved in reconfiguring public services in places where resources are diminishing, or need is growing, or both. However design thinking is by no means commonplace in government.

Through the publication of this report we have suggested ways of normalising this kind of practice. Our recommendations included pushing for much stronger design leadership in central government; increasing design capacity (and commissioning capacity) across government through training, and aggregating of good quality information; and building capacity in the design sector itself to respond to social and public challenges.

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