Ben Holliday

2017 – End of year review

I’ve published an end of year review for a few years now (2015, 2016). It’s good to look back and reflect on what’s happened.

It’s been another busy year.

The biggest change for me this year was leaving my role at DWP Digital and joining FutureGov as Design Director in August.

I miss the teams I helped build, and the people I was privileged to work alongside at DWP. I still believe it was the right time for me to leave and the right thing for the design team there.

There’s some big challenges ahead for DWP, but also some great people still working there that want to make a difference. I wish them all well.

I think it’s been a solid start to my new role at FutureGov.

There’s a lot of work in progress or starting. Everyone I’ve met is genuinely excited about the scale of the challenge and projects we’ve got coming up in 2018. As I said when I joined, local government feels like an opportunity to deliver real change over the next few years.

It’s been very different taking on the leadership of a design team that I didn’t hire. It takes time to build strong relationships. The quality of work in the team is good, but there’s always room to improve, especially if we want to make a bigger and more significant impact next year. I’m starting to shape and challenge how we work with this in mind.

My challenge to the design team at FutureGov – the same as with every design team I’ve worked with – be creative, be clear, and be bold. I often find creativity is taken for granted in design teams, but then we’re not clear, or bold enough with what we’re designing and communicating. It’s something to work on again next year.


My health has been okay this year. Regular travel for work can make staying healthy more difficult than it should be. Also, leading design teams tends to mean I end up putting other people’s welfare before my own (often without realising). It’s something that I’m becoming more aware of.

To the few people that occasionally, and sincerely, ask me how I’m doing – thank you.

Leaving the Civil Service has been good for my health. Small things, like better use of open technology and web based tools (blocked or difficult to access in my old job), have given me back valuable time. This has helped me to focus on things that matter more (including myself).

I joined a gym for the first time on my 38th birthday back in May which I’ve also found has helped give me some balance back.

Conferences, events and speaking

I missed the Leading Design conference this year (my conference highlight in 2016) because we had a family holiday planned.

I spoke at a number of events and conferences during the year (full speaking list/archive).

Here are my highlights:

I was invited to speak at Transform 2017 in Australia back in March, a Web Directions conference organised by John Allsopp. This was my first trip to Australia and I had a great experience, visiting both Canberra and then spending a few days in Sydney before flying home. I also visited the Australia Government Digital Transformation Office (DTO) while I was there, and it was great to catch up with Leisa Reichelt and other friends.

A few months later, I ran a Leading Service Design workshop with Kate Tarling at UX London 2017. It was great to have the opportunity to work with Kate, and we’ve run the workshop a couple of times since elsewhere. We’ve also published some of the material as a series of leading design blog posts.


I’ve not read as much this year – I think this is because I’ve been working more while travelling.

I’ve found that writing reading lists gives me some focus – I still buy too many books so need to prioritise what to read. These were my Summer and Autumn/Winter reading lists this year. I mostly stuck to them with a few exceptions.

And, on a personal note, I’m 5 books into the Harry Potter series with my eldest daughter (aged 9). It’s been very enjoyable reading them together


I’ve been regularly writing and publishing blog posts again this year.

I haven’t counted how many, but I’ve been trying to get better at sharing my thoughts. This sometimes means publishing shorter posts, or less finished ideas.

I found the original 140 character constraint of Twitter useful. Since the move to 280 characters I’ve found myself move willing to write shorter blog posts (rather than long tweets).

A significant change is that I’ve started publishing more on Medium. It lets me get things published more quickly and easily than my personal website/blog (which has run on WordPress for over 10 years now). I need to decide what to do next year, as it’s considerable effort trying to publish everything twice, which is my approach at the moment.

Something I’ve also found using Medium is that it’s made me focus more on curating and organising what I write. Publications are useful for grouping related articles or blog posts into series. This is how I’ve ended up writing a whole series of posts about digital, and the idea of things that are of the internet. It also meant we could set up a leading service design publication following UX London.

I plan to write a separate blog post about the things I’ve written this year, along with some of my highlights.

Looking forward to 2018

I’m very much looking forward to 2018.

At work, I predict more travel, hard work and team building. While back at home we’re excited to be expecting our 4th child in May. We’re all very excited about the new addition to the Holliday household, and I’m sure that we’ll cope somehow.

Thanks to everyone that takes the time to read the things I publish and share.

Have a great Christmas and New Year – see you in 2018!

This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 18 years. You can follow all of my posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also find me on Bluesky, less frequently now on X (formally Twitter), and on LinkedIn.