Mark Hurrell.

The first design principles draft was derived from workshops with the original team. It contained a lot of tone-deaf patriotic signalling, which I managed to gradually eliminate over several iterations
Later I heard the industry rumour about Russell firing designers who try to edit his words. Happily that didn't happen on this occasion
The first version of the Design Principles was set using Gill Sans as we hadn't started using GDS Transport at this point
I used the Design Research Unit handbook as a design reference. Transport is an updated version of the font DRU designed for the UK road signs
Later, Ben noticed that government departments were putting the Design Principles up on their walls, and had the idea I should make posters of them
Another idea was for technical architect Paul Downey to illustrate them. Finding visual analogies that everyone could agree on caused endless arguments

GOV.UK Design Principles

Design, copywriting and editing for Government Digital Service

2012  2012

Principles are a good way to build a shared understanding of what good looks like and what you’re trying to achieve. That’s especially true when you’re scaling rapidly. There’s rarely time to develop a formal brand language or design system when a large number of self-managing agile teams need to keep up momentum. That was very much the case for GDS in 2012.

To kick things off we ran workshops to give everyone ownership of the process. Then Ben Terrett, Russell Davies and I spent a few days (and long evenings) in Google Docs turning them into ten short statements that could describe what we wanted to achieve with GOV.UK. I then worked with Frances Berriman to design a web page to publish them.

The principles blew up on social media, and we got a lot of positive feedback from the design and technology industry. Pretty soon after, Ben saw teams printing out the Design Principles webpage and sticking copies on their walls. So I designed a series of posters featuring illustrations from technical architect Paul Downey. Again, these posters were widely shared in industry press and social media.

Tim O’Reilly described them as the most significant piece of UI guidance since Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines. See also: GOV.UK beta to live, the GOV.UK visual identity and brand and the Government Design Principles posters


Design Principles written and edited collaboratively between myself, Russell Davies and Ben Terrett. Front-end development from Frances Berriman, with emotional support and feedback from Guy Moorhouse. Design Principle posters with illustrations from Paul Downey, and design direction from Russell Davies and Ben Terrett.

Selected projects