Ignacia Orellana

Designing the GOV.UK Design System service

by Ignacia

A screenshot of the homepage of the GOVUK Design System. It reads "Design your service using GOV.UK styles, components, and patterns"


GDS had noticed that teams across government were building the same interaction design patterns over and over again, due to the lack of visibility 
of what teams are working on - duplicating effort and creating inconsistency. This was one of the reasons the GOVUK Design System was created.

But it was not enough to create a library of design resources, guidance and tools for teams to use. In order for the GOVUK Design System to grow, evolve
 and sustain itself over time, the team needed to make sure that it was fair and representative of its user’s needs.

The team would also need to support a wide range of
 users, from novice to expert and from designers
 and developers to product managers.

My role and approach

I joined the GOVUK Design System team as their first Service Designer, and led the design of the platform’s service features for just over a year. During this time I worked with the team to create, run and improve processes for:

  • facilitating and assuring external contributions
  • running multiple support channels for users
  • building and maintaining a healthy cross government community

I did this by embedding service design thinking into the team, quickly identified the key stakeholders and the likely barriers to adoption, and co-created processes and principles with users, the team and stakeholders.


These processes have been foundational to the success of the GOVUK Design System,
 and are still being used now.

Since the service went public in June 2018, around 70
 people have contributed to research and learnings of 
patterns and components in the community backlog.

The NHS and other governments around the world have used this contribution model as reference to create their own.

To find out more about this work, you can:

Led co-design workshops with the cross government community

An image of people standing around a journey map on a wall, adding post it notes on to it.

An image of an index card and post it notes stuck onto a wall. It's referring to a co-designed principle for the design system community. It reads "Think locally, share globally"

I co-created a open community backlog using GitHub to raise the visibility of design work across government

A screenshot of a GitHub project board with a backlog of component and pattern contribution proposals. There are columns that read "Proposed", "To do", "in progress", and "Published". Under each column there are card with titles of contributions being proposed by the community

Ran workshops with the team to take a service approach to the GOVUK Design System products

Image of a whiteboard with a journey map drawn on top of it. Its a journey map of a user using the Design System and its products to prototype and build government services. There are post it notes across the board.

Developed a contribution journey and identified user's needs

A screenshot of a contribution process map. The map shows from left to right the steps of the contribution journey. Under each step, there are the needs of the contributor. And under each need there is the role of the Design System team and what they do to meet that need.

Created a multi-channel support model to enhance the service offering

A screenshot of a blueprint for a support model. It shows from left to right high level steps from a user gets in touch with the team for support until its been resolved and then analised by the team. The blueprints shows under each step the touchpoints, users, actions for the design system team, and data collected.

Fostered a community around the GOVUK Design System, increasing the adoption of the products and the relevance of its content

Image of a person presenting to an audience. Next to him is a screen with their presentation and it read: We have contributed 4 patterns to the GOV.UK Design System

With Amy Hupe, Tim Paul, and the GOVUK Design System team