This is my annual attempt to capture some reflections. They’re as much for my own benefit and something I always find useful. It’s been another busy year, with plenty to think about as I reach the finish line of work today.
The work year in review
It’s been a year of turbulence in the wider tech and design industry. At TPXimpact I’ve focused on making sure we’re been a stable and sustainable design practice during this time. Despite the uncertainty in many places, we’ve been able to continue investing in our teams.
There’s a few specific team things I’m proud to highlight in 2023:
- I’m proud of how we’ve grown. We’ve nearly doubled in size this year across our design teams. But it’s not just about the numbers. We’ve done this sustainably with continued investment in how we run design operations and in our Communities of Practice. Reflecting our investment in our people and communities, I’ve especially loved the moments we’ve been able to come together, like both of the in person team days we’ve held this year (April and October). It’s been great to see our investment in team learning and development growing, including the training we invested in with KA McKercher. And we’ve also been able to increase the number of people we have attending and speaking at industry conferences and events this year which has been great to see.
- I’m proud that we’re working in the open and sharing more of our work. Our teams published 36 posts on our new design blog this year. This is just the start of how we want all designers and researches at TPXimpact to use this platform.
- I’m proud that we’ve invested in creating a Design Academy. First announced in June and launched in September (rebranded from our ‘graduate scheme’), it’s been great to see how our wider team have supported making this a success so far. A massive thank you to Tash Willcocks for developing and leading our Academy work.
- And, I’m proud of how our work has delivered impact and value for the people and places we work with over the past 12 months. There’s so much important work everywhere I look, and I want to make sure we get better at telling and sharing these stories next year.
I’ve especially enjoyed some of the client work I’ve been closer to this year. In particular central government work where I’ve spent time working with teams at DWP, MoJ, and Defra. I also really enjoyed supporting some work closer to home with Lancashire County Council. My involvement in the Scottish Government Leading in a Digital World programme continues to be a highlight (with more to come in 2024 and 2025), and it’s been wonderful to see our team’s work with YoungMinds continuing to grow. This talk from SD in Gov is a great introduction to that work.
Capacity and time management is always a challenge with my role. Early in the summer we said goodbye to Bella Burt-Morris (our former Design Director) but have subsequently welcomed Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino to the team as our new Design Director. The gap in between meant I needed to lean more into day to day team management for a few months, but I’ve been grateful for the role Vicky Brown has now stepped into as our Head of Design Operations. This has supported us to make sure we’ve had a smooth transition as we continue to grow. A big thanks for the continued hard work of our Design Ops team (Lead Design Managers), and our other Heads of Practice, Imeh Akpan, Jaskiran Kang, Liberty Howard, and Charles Reynolds-Talbot, especially in how we’ve rapidly recruited and grown our teams this year.
Finally, I wrote last month about the mantra of “hold it lightly” – I thought this was an important message for the teams I lead this year. Not just with the challenges in our work, but more because of how we’re collectively living with the realities of the world around us. 2023 has been a lot to hold, so this is a more gentle version of my previous mantra to “keep going”.
A final book review
To wrap up on work it’s worth revisiting Multiplied one last time. Last year I wrote about publishing the book in my 2022 review, including all the events and work that followed. This year, that focus has continued. I’ve worked out that the book has set up a speaking opportunity, or intro to a new organisation, about once a fortnight on average (it’s maybe even more than that).
I’ve made sure that I’m building in new examples to these talks and conversations. Topics like Generative AI are now at the forefront of digital transformation conversations, and the core idea of understanding technology as a multiplier in our work feels increasingly important here. But more than ever, I feel strongly that design has an important role to play in how we work with emerging technologies, and how we will be able to respond and shape new types of services over the coming years.
This feels like the end of the book cycle for Multiplied (it’s 2 years since launch in February 2024). I looked at Amazon the other day and realised I have 20 reviews (mostly positive). I was reflecting how that is absolutely enough for me. It’s an amazing thing to write something that speaks to even a handful of people, and the book has been a fantastic experience on that basis. I now feel that the time and effort in 2021 was a worthwhile investment (writing books is hard work, and it didn’t always feel like that at the time).
Something I’ve not really shared publicly this year are our family trips. We were never a family that had done much international travel together. A trip to New York in February 2020, to celebrate our fortieth birthdays (just before the world shut down), was the only time our kids had flown before 2023.
Plans were put on hold for a few years with the pandemic, but, with our kids growing up fast, we were determined to make up for that this year.
In the end, we managed to travel to Fuerteventura for some winter sunshine in February, do a Disneyland Paris trip (via Car and Ferry) at Easter, before a big family trip to California at the end of August. The US trip took a lot of planning, and I was nervous with our itinerary which also required me to drive. But this turned into a proper family adventure. We spent 4 days in and around Los Angeles, had a long weekend in Huntington Beach, and then drove down the coast for a final 3 days in San Diego. It was an amazing trip full of sunshine and memories.
A final mention goes to our annual family trip to Cornwall. We had a great week in July, but it was a complete wash out. The worst possible wet British summertime weather. But that didn’t stop us going in the sea most days, just fully kitted out in wet suits. It’s fair to say that LA made up for the weather disappointment later in the summer.
More outside adventures
My work means I spend a lot of time inside, but my goal over the past few years has been to increase the time I spend outside. I shared last year just how important this is for my mental health.
An honourable mention here for the UK Lake District where I’m still making steady progress with my plan to walk up all 214 Wainwrights. This year has added some notable additions including Blencathra back in January (with snow on the top), and Skiddaw back in June. But the big one was walking up Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England and one of the three peaks. This was back in May half-term. Verity (aged 10) joined me for a nights camping at Wasdale, before we set off in bright sunshine for the 6 hour walk at 7am in the morning. It was a glorious day and another amazing memory – the best walk this year by far.
Since July, the wet British summer weather has slowed my walking progress (and enthusiasm). I’ve been revisiting some smaller walks through the autumn and winter instead. I’m at around 80 Wainwrights completed, so still plenty to go if we get good weather next year, and if I find the motivation to get back out on the fells!
There’s plenty to look forward to with work next year, but that can mostly wait as I’m ready for a rest first. I am thinking about writing another book eventually, and I want to make more of this blog. More to get writing regularly again – this still feels like an important part of how I work, reflect and develop my thinking. I’m still posting on Twitter/X, but right now I’m also experimenting with sharing more on LinkedIn, and more recently on Bluesky.
I definitely want to get outdoors more, and want to make the most of opportunities for in person work in 2024. I don’t enjoy any times I find myself working remotely 5 days a week (I still don’t think that entirely remote teams are healthy for creative or collaborative work).
I might do a separate post about books this year. I’ve done plenty of reading, including research for work, in particular around around AI and emerging technologies. I’ve also got a long reading list I hope to get into next year.
For anyone reading this and still following my blog posts, I wish you the very best Christmas and new year. See you next year!
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.