I knew Top Shop had gone bust but I hadn't been past the shop on Oxford Street until last week. Odd to see the huge retail presence in the centre of Oxford Circus with a 'to let' sign. Even weirder because there's the usual jarring estate agents sign which reads "be the future".
In the very early days of GDS we used to do lots of presentations to explain the benefits of digital for government. Government is very big (c400,000 people) and there's no easy way to reach them all so we traipsed up and down Whitehall telling the same story again and again.
There was an unspoken assumption that it was OK for government IT to be rubbish because it's government IT. Not only is this lazy and stupid, it's outright harmful because people need government IT more than they need, say, Clubhouse. As Dai said at the time it's #unacceptable.
We often asked people to raise their ambitions for digital government. Normally we were talking to ministers and very senior civil servants. We tried to put this in context they would understand, especially as they weren't familiar with technology and often didn't use the services they were in charge of. We quickly learned that almost all of them did their banking online and booked flights with British Airways online.
So we used to frame that as "X (government service) should be a simple as Y (familiar modern web service)". There's a communication benefit in making the government service from the same category as the modern web service.
For example "Managing your business tax should be as simple as managing your business banking"
Or "Applying for a visa to visit the UK should be as simple as booking a flight online".
A screenshot from an early GDS presentation
Nine years on and here's a tweet from the world's most famous flight booker praising a government IT project.
As someone who spends (shall we say...) a certain amount of time with booking systems, a big shout out to whoever sorted this baby. Received a text, clicked the link, had both vaccinations sorted in minutes. Clear. Effective. Top work! pic.twitter.com/jPWFKjHyN1
Nothing to do with me of course, and not really GDS, but made by NHS Digital. All of whom are part of an established digital government community. Those teams deserve huge praise for delivering this under the tough conditions that coronavirus brings.
This feels like a narrative loop closed. I like to think that we helped raise people's ambitions and that those ambitions will forever stay very high for government technology, services and service design.
Nine years - change can be slow but often that's exactly the type of change that lasts.
20 years ago this month Michael Landy did an Art called Break Down. He took all of his possessions, all 7,227 of them, and destroyed them, broke them down.
Lisa and I went to the show which was in the old C&A at the posh end of Oxford Street. Back in 2001 I was working for a now bust dotcom agency, at the other end of Oxford St, that did work for loads of now bust dotcoms. Happy days.
Inside the empty shop Landy set up a huge conveyor belt and took everything apart, documented it all. Apparently it all went to landfill. The show struck a chord with us for some reason and we remember it vividly and often talk about it. I can't really explain that. We don't do that with other Arts.
Because it's the anniversary there are lots of articles about it. This one in the Guardian and this one in the FT are both good.
Feels very strange now, no mention of recycling or reuse or the environment at all. Sort of anti-capitalist but without the bite. I guess the YBAs weren't really the group to critique capitalism.
In writing this I've just found out it was sponsored by Artangel. I didn't know that at the time. Artangel are national treasures responsible for a huge quantity of amazing public art projects over the last 30 years such as Rachel Whiteread’s House, Jeremy Deller's Battle of Orgreave, Ryoji Ikeda's Spectra, Fiona Banner and David Kohn's A Room For London and recently Steve McQueen's School photos.
Shall we do a post about logos for old times sake?
Here is the first logo I've seen in years that made me stop. The first one I've thought it's actually worth commenting on.
It's for a company called Nix & Kix who make health drinks. (The whole brand looks nice FWIW.) Designed by Alec Tear who has a very nice portfolio. Stuff like this. I spotted this after Sagmeister posted it on his Instagram which came across my active daily eyeballs somehow.
Anyway, let's not overcomplicate matters, this is a just a nice logo. Just enough design to make you ponder, but simple enough that you don't have to wonder what it says. First logo I've seen in 3 years that wasn't algorithmically generated and designed to only work well at the IMAX.
Can't talk about ampersands in a logo without paying homage to the definitive example of the V&A logo by Alan Fletcher. Designed in 1989 and still wonderful. Still so good.
I've never been a huge fan of Sagmeister, as you may have guessed our styles of work are vastly different. But I saw him speak once and he was incredible. A real performer. And afterwards I spoke to him with some of the GDS design team and he was warm, fun and engaging.