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Design

The Design team at 18F includes content, user experience, front end, and visual designers as well as researchers, editors, prototypers, illustrators, and wordsmiths.

18F Design provides design as a service to the rest of the organization, including:

Documentation

Suggested reading

Communication

Find us on Slack:


Joining the Design Team

Welcome to the 18F Design team — we’re happy you’re here! We’ve compiled a set of helpful tips to get you started. We’ll update this guide as we receive feedback, so don’t be shy to share your thoughts.

First week

You might not have much assigned work during your first two weeks here. That’s okay and expected. If you’ve gotten all the government onboarding items done and a project still hasn’t landed, the design team has a list of internal projects that aren’t funded but that will help us all work better together. Talk to your design lead (more on that, below) to get more information about these internal projects and how you can get involved.

Who we are

The Design team at 18F includes content, user experience, front-end, and visual designers. We are researchers, editors, prototypers, illustrators, and wordsmiths. We come from a variety of backgrounds, including government, non-profits, consultancies, corporations, and academia.

Structure

As per the org chart, 18F Design is itself composed of the content design, user experience (UX) design + frontend design, and visual design teams. Members of the Design team are active participants in the content, frontend, and research guilds.

As these teams have grown in size, we’ve introduced leads and supervisors. In your first week, you’ll be assigned a lead. Leads concentrate on project work while providing a first level of practical support and project advice to 2-3 people. Supervisors carry out most managerial responsibilities for their disciplines. They lead staffing, hiring, training, and project troubleshooting for their discipline. Leads and supervisors are selected through nominations and interviews according to team needs. These competitions will be announced ahead of time. More detail on Design team roles and responsibilites is provided internally.

Members of the Design team are also assigned to critique groups. These groups meet regularly (barring more urgent project activities) to discuss work in progress and help the Design team maintain its storytelling and presentation skills. Critique groups also have leaders, and their groupings change periodically. These rotations are announced ahead of time, and if you’re interested in taking a turn as a critique lead, you can raise your hand as a candidate at that time.

What we do

18F Design provides design as a service to the rest of the organization, including:

How we work

Rituals

Most of the design team works on a mix of partner-agency projects and internal initiatives. As you’d guess, everyone’s weeks look a little different. That said, there are recurring weekly meetings and commitments we all have on our calendars.

Communication channels

Tools

Here are some common tools we use, how we use them, and how you can get access to them. If you can’t find the information you need in the chart below, get in touch with your design lead; they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

And one more thing: before you start using any new tool that asks for access to files/browser data, please check the full list of approved tools. If what you want to use isn’t there, you’ll need to ask in #infrastructure first. New tools often create hard-to-anticipate security problems.

Drawing lines on a screen

Unless otherwise specified, see Software to get a license for any of these.

Project management

Every project and team has a different mix of project management tools based on what works for them. Many internal projects will use Trello because it’s fast to set up. Get more information on the How to use Trello page.

Research

Workshops / virtual workspaces

Word processing

Assets

We default to free and open-source assets, unless there is a very, very good reason to do otherwise (and you’d better be prepared to defend that reason). Luckily, there are a lot of great resources for us to choose from.


Appendix

Designing in the open

We do most of our design work in the open, which means trying to make as much documentation and decision-making as possible accessible to the public. Designing in the open means that expectations from private sector about confidentiality, disclosure, and intellectual property don’t hold true here.

Here are some of our rules of thumb:

1. Share your work early and often

Sharing your in-progress work with team members and stakeholders is one of the most powerful techniques we have — it’s central to building trust with stakeholders. At 18F, we like to team up and work a problem through multiple angles to get to the best solution swiftly.

Since GitHub is one tool we’ve chosen to facilitate public dialogue, consider also making your work available to the public (if project appropriate) by posting work-in-progress there. Before creating a public GitHub repo or otherwise sharing project-specific information, check with your project lead; they’ll let you know what information can be shared publicly.

2. Be mindful of Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

PII is any piece of data, singly or in combination, that can identify unique individuals, such as full name, email address, or even phone number. While working in the open, be mindful of discussing agency partners, collecting any PII, or accidentally disclosing PII to the entire internet. Different agencies and organizations may have different levels of sensitivity and exposure concerns about types of personal information (identifying or not) you collect and how you use it. Check with your project lead before sharing information to avoid missteps and delays; what has been approved by the GSA may not already have been approved by partners. Be mindful as you post meeting notes or sidebar conversations in Slack channels, and be aware of the potential level of visibility this information will have once you post it in Slack.

Bottom line: If you have questions about sharing information, ask.

3. Not everything has to happen in public

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guarantees that, as federal employees, all of our communication via government email, Slack, and chat can be made available to the public at some point in the future. You should assume that, at some point in the future, anyone might be reading what you wrote in any of these channels. However, in the context of day-to-day work, different tools offer different levels of access. Here’s a quick reference to who can see what, when.