Politics by osmosis
It’s election day here in the UK, which means excitement and uncertainty about outcomes, but in a way the unprecedented level of uncertainty at what is to happen keeps everyone on their toes. Thrillingly, complacency is at an all-time low. I’ve always been interested in politics, but over the last five years or so, have been increasingly interested in policy. It’s all a result of working on government report design on any number of different topics for our long-time client, Policy Connect, as well as other bodies, such as the Brighton Fuse, or the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
NEW GOVERNMENT REPORT DESIGN WORK
This week we’re working on key elements of a brand new report due out in the summer, about education policy. As I type, my team and I are quite literally sitting in our design studio in Chelsea amidst a sea of piecharts, graphs and flow-diagrams before the full copy arrives.
For now, this project is a case of creating great-looking infographic design before we actually lay out the report.
But when it comes to the real meat of the job, in many ways the interesting thing for us is not so much the political tilt of the report: more often than not these documents deal with a range of options put before political parties, rather than their eventual partisan choice. What really interests me is the options – and their pros and cons.
HOW REPORTS LEAD TO POLICY
To cite one example, much has been made of the outgoing Government’s controversial policy on raising tuition fees.
For both sides of this discussion, there have been a huge amount of discussion about either alternatives to this, or what the next steps should be.
So when we were working for the Higher Education Commission last October it was fascinating to read the different options facing anyone writing a new policy and how tough the choices are.
I remember laying out these pages – a key part of the report – and stopping in my tracks, defying my deadline, and being deeply grateful it wasn’t me making those choices. Given the newsworthiness of this section of the report, we went so far as to pull this section of the report out into a series of key double-page spreads in a different colour to the balance of the pages. It looked great, and it was really good to actually understand how the system works.
This is a very high profile example of designing and learning something new by accident…
HOW WE LEARN AS WE WORK
In truth a lot of the reports that pass through our workflow ends up penetrating my brain and I end up absorbing these details, from minutiae to mountain-sized.
The topics are incredibly wide-ranging, about anything from remanufacturing engine parts in the Far East, the dangers of disposable barbecues in a tent, to the benefits of investing in the training of workshop technicians.
Long may it continue – our next phase of work is a set of reports offering policy options for incoming ministers.
We just don’t know who they are yet…