It’s that time of year, when Design Offices and civic institutions of all shapes and sizes publish year end reports reflecting on all the acorns we stowed away for winter. Momentarily suspended above the pitched fray, let’s collect our thoughts and review the past in hope it sparks reflection on future need and insight into 2020 plans.
Here we share a short report of our progress in 2019 for your consideration.
In the Department of Innovation & Technology 2019 Strategic plan Design Office work supports five key strategic objectives:
- Strategy 2: Improve Usability And Accessibility Of The City’s Digital Services
- Strategy 5: Support Data-informed Decision-making
- Strategy 6: Modernize & Consolidate Applications & Promote Efficiency Through New Implementations
- Strategy 7: Invest In Culture, Communications, Collaboration & Staff Development
- Strategy 8: Support Policies & Actions That Promote Digital Equity For All Residents
The document lays out specific initiatives taken in each area to impact design quality. With the transition to a new administration and subsequent changes in leadership and organizational structure, there were significant impacts on the ability of the Design Office to forecast and plan accurately. Thus, the year was often more reactive than intended, and once again a host of unforeseen requests and policy changes result in microsites and communication strategies removed from our department’s goal of services over sites.
The report’s strategic frame is the kind of policy document you write for a department of the nation’s third largest City. For the Design Office, I wrote a simpler document of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs, which you can read more about here). Though they use a quarterly timeframe, I applied it to our yearly goals.
2019 Design Office OKRs
- Design Office expanded
- 4 Partnerships, 2 interns, & 1 hire
- New brand for the City of Chicago:
- chicago.gov everywhere
- chicago.gov redesigned with constituents for accessibility, internationalization, and inclusion
- 311 & other content unified & accessible on chicago.gov
- 311: product development with the community:
- Features ship with community input in 2019
- Usability & Accessibility testing
- Nextdoor social media support
- More focus, less everything else:
- Accessibility & inclusion
- Training & integrating design capabilities better
- Telling the Design Office story better
For full details visit the 2018-2019 report the Design Office made in January 2019. So, how did we do?
2019 Design Office results
- Design Office expanded
YES, Mostly: We had partnerships with Northwestern, the University of Chicago, and DePaul University (twice!), we also had Gregory Kim and Abigail Lammers join us as interns. Those partnerships produced design We have an open head count, but have not be able to post and hire staff yet.
- New brand for the City of Chicago
NO, Mostly: chicago.gov is nearly everywhere, but not on our email addresses and some sites yet. In 2020, we’ll get there. The same is true with our website. We have multiple appearances of the new brand digitally, but haven’t redesigned our key sites quite yet. We put a chicago.gov redesign out to bid, but will put it out to a broader RFP market in 2020 for a full redesign with constituents for accessibility, internationalization, and inclusion. Unification of 311 & other content must wait. This goal was probably too broadly defined, upon reflection.
- 311: product development with the community
YES, Mostly: We definitely shipped features with the community, including Follow a Service Request, but stopped updating our Trello roadmap in July due to a lack of response, and a general winding up of the CHI311 marketing efforts. Nextdoor marketing continued through most of the year, but people engaged more around how to do 311 tasks than what 311 could become. We performed accessibility and usability testing on a limited basis through the help of partners like DePaul University.
- More focus, less everything else
NO, Mostly. We did a better job of telling our story with sites like design.chicago.gov, but failed to secure funding for accessibility testing or arrive at a meaningful language access plan and implementation. Most of this was due to the changing nature of our work in the turnover and change in priorities from administration to administration and procurement.
Design Office accomplishments
As a result of the context above, I will not attempt to tie the work below to individual initiatives under each strategic objective from an internal planning document. Instead, each piece of work will be tied back to the aforementioned strategies by number, like so:
- This work product or activity was performed. (2, 5, 7)
We (the royal ‘we’) view design work as falling into one of four categories, generally: Culture, Process, Product, and the ever-lovin’ Miscellaneous.
- Awesome interns give hundreds of hours of design help to Chicago
The Design Office and the City of Chicago thank Gregory Kim & Abigail Lammers for their participation as interns in 2019, working on usability testing for data visualization, testing, data cleansing, designing, and an all manner of intern-ish things. For more details on what they worked on, nose around any one of our GitHub repositories. This is a good one to start with. (2,5,7,8)
- City of Chicago Partners with Northwestern Engineering to Explore Civic Service Design
We set free a team of service designers from Northwestern’s EDI program to understand how people in difficult contexts get services from the City. The answers frustrated at times, but often gave hope for a better way of doing things. (2,7,8)
- DePaul EXP 480
Designing with DePaul EXP 480, twice, thanks to Drs. Denise Naicu & Sheena Erete, special thanks to Sheena for round two. More on this later, but in short, these folks could put yours truly out of a job like blowing out a candle on a birthday cake. Just check out this file if you don’t believe me. You ever have see of those presentations where you are so wowed by the work and the spirit and the humility you sit in the car after & cry a little from gratitude? Yeah, me neither.
- University of Chicago Design Thinking Innovation Challenge
We paired U of C MBA students with different departments across the City to re-imagine common service experiences through design thinking and prototyping.
- Think Chicago
Facilitated the Think Chicago design challenge again, and they stiffed me on tickets again. Something tells me Lollapalooza has a no old man policy. Wiser than they look. I’m kidding, I do it because it’s an awesome event, and I get to try out so many dad jokes on the country’s brightest young graduates. Win-Win. If they can survive it, they can thrive in Chicago.
- Array of Thing Hackathon Support & Facilitation (7,8)
- Over 500 code contributions across our open source projects. (2,5–8)
- Found two speaking opportunities for co-workers from under-represented populations in technology, at Code for America & Chicago Camps.
- Spoke at San Francisco Design Week, Design For America, Government Digital Summit, Adobe Creative Jam.
Talk - action = 💩 as the Brian Jonestown Massacre has let it be known. Hopefully, we avoided that category for our efforts this year.
- Policy memos:
- Social media & domain support
- Obtained CHI.GOV from the federal government for the Mayor’s Office & configured it for use with Bit.ly. (8)
- Obtained & verified @CHI311 Twitter handle for OEMC 311 City Services. http://twitter.com/chi311 (8)
- The ones that got away:
- Many partnerships, little direct interaction with residents for staff due to legal and logistical reasons. It’s a frustrating barrier we’d like to bridge.
- For all the work on moving our paperwork through procurement, starting in January, to come away without a new website in the works or being planned is painful.
- Things that happened but didn’t even merit mention
Multiple prototypes, project management, product management, application development, data-wrangling, and ordinance interpreting. Train ignored, training delivering, training taken. Lots of ethics & security. Still no pizza party, but perhaps that belongs in the one that got away. And this concludes our 2019 report.
It has been a tumultuous year for the Design Office, and DoIT. Instead of looking at what might have been, let’s consider what we did with the opportunities presented to us in 2019, and look ahead to more of the same in 2020 with a renewed vigor.
Happy holidaze and thank you for the privilege of serving you.