GOV.UK wins at Designs of the Year

Last night it was announced that GOV.UK, the UK government’s single online domain designed by the Government Digital Service, has won the Design of the Year 2013

Last night it was announced that GOV.UK, the UK government’s single online domain designed by the Government Digital Service, has won the Design of the Year 2013…

It is the first website to win the Design Museum‘s top prize which the GDS’s executive director Mike Bracken and head of design Ben Terrett received at a reception held at the South Place Hotel in London. As an example of clean, accessible, user-focused web design, which millions of UK citizens will use, it is a worthy winner.

CR spent several days in the GDS offices last year as they prepared to launch GOV.UK and the resulting feature, which can be read here, looked at the aims of the new government site and the ongoing design decisions the GDS has taken along the way (their own set of Design Principles is also well worth a read).

Moreover, only two years since its launch with the Cabinet Office, the GDS is transforming not just the British government’s online presence but, potentially, the way it acts, talks and works with the public.

“Britain has this history of brilliant public sector design,” Terrett said when I interviewed him at the GDS. “Government projects that are well designed, that have stood the test of time and are copied around the world. The Festival of Britain, Kenneth Grange’s work on InterCity, the tube map – in that style of diagrammatic design, it’s obvious to me that it is ‘user-focused’. It’s so effortless that you ignore it now, you don’t even notice it’s designed.”

And that’s the thing with GOV.UK – users may not even notice it yourself next time they renew their car tax, or check the VAT rate. But it, too, is a product of Britain’s public sector design lineage. For example, it explicitly cements a relationship with the achievements of the past by making use of a new version of the classic 1950s typeface Transport, originally designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert for use on British motorway signs. Calvert worked on a new version of the face for GOV.UK with London studio A2/SW/HK.

As I wrote last November, “the bigger picture is that improving these kinds of small interactions with government, just making them simpler and less stressful to do, can only improve well-being.” And that’s certainly something a lot of people could do with at the moment.

Congratulations to everyone on the GDS team. Check out their blog at, and follow them on Twitter at @GDSteam.

The Design of the Year exhibition is on at the Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD is open 10.00 – 17.45 daily. Last admission: 17.15. Admissions: £10.75 Adults, £9.70 Concessions, £6.50 Students, under 12s free. Public information: 020 7940 8790.

Past winners of the Design of the Year prize: London 2012 Olympic Torch designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby (2012); the Plumen 001 Light bulb by Samuel Wilkinson and Hulger (2011); the Folding Plug by Min-Kyu Choi (2010); Barack Obama Poster by Shepard Fairey (2009); and the One Laptop Per Child by Yves Béhar (2008).

The April print issue of CR presents the work of three young animators and animation teams to watch. Plus, we go in search of illustrator John Hanna, test out the claims of a new app to have uncovered the secrets of viral ad success and see how visual communications can both help keep us safe and help us recover in hospital

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