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Working on creating HMRC’s digital services there’s great benefits using GDS’s work as a platform (blogged about previously here). It’s informed. It’s easy to access to crib from. It helps us get up and running. It helps us get on with the work.

The pay-off: There’s also limits in what we do at work. Do not misread this: The work I do is fun, a certain kind of fun.

Everyone likes to cut loose once in a while, especially when you’re working off a design platform on digitalising government services.

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Today some of the HMRC Digital team left work after their day’s work, and headed off for a little design session.

GDS have their own stickers (have a look at Ben Terrett’s first Mac at GDS). We thought it’d be fun, even cool to have a go at thinking about, designing some stickers from the work we do. It was also a great chance to think about design outside the platforms and services we focus on daily.

In an hour, we talked, scribbled, explored ideas around where we work.

HMRC is a rich hive for “topics” associated with it.

There’s the language of finance. It can be technical. It can be daunting. But what about more popular references to that?

Super Mario Bros

There’s the form numbers – which is a government love – and what they mean. Some of them tie into life events, such as leaving a job, with the infamous P45 most widely known.

There’s the way we work: agile, by listening. Could we celebrate, say, a novice building their first prototype in-browser?

There’s the challenges creating digital services, the benefits of what digital services can bring, the improvements that can happen, constantly in the public eye.

We delved into looking at the more public faces of HMRC in the past - Hector the Inspector, Moira Stewart.

We also had a look into the places leading the creation of HMRC’s digital services: Newcastle, London, Telford, and Shipley. What makes them stand out. A sample of Newcastle: the bridges, Jimmy Nail, Viz, the football team, Charles Grey, Joseph Cowen.

(Note: We really need a great bridge in Shipley to help us do a series of bridge based stickers for each location. Not quite sure the one on Otley Road over the canal will do the job.)

In an hour we got through so much, pulled together some rough ideas, sketching ideas on paper and in Keynote. We decided we’d get three or four ideas into three pots: “locales”; “recognition (of success) / motivation”; and “slogans/straplines”. And we thought through what would be appropriate, in tone of the stickers themselves and how you could get a sticker (which could we just give away? which would need to be “earned”?).

We’ll be taking our ideas back to the wider HMRC Digital team – not just the design team – and get their input, what they like/dislike, and see if there any other needs. Working with our wider colleagues is a big part of what we do, cooperation is key.

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The biggest takeaway: It’s easy to have your head down at work. Just getting away from work, to talk about our work with a specific productive goal, in a more open manner is something we should all do more.

Whether you think stickers are cool or daft, it gave us that focus to talk, to create with purpose.

It wasn’t just a case of getting out once in a while to look around you – but to get out once in a while, to get out of the bubble, and do something.

And we had fun doing it.

ps. In case you’re here looking for an example of taxpayers money being wasted, we’ll be continuing this work in our own time and paying for the stickers ourselves.


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