Ignacia Orellana

Improving equity, diversity and inclusion in the GDS design community

by Ignacia

Image of two people sitting in front of a table, looking at post it notes


I’ve led work on improving equity, diversity and inclusion in the GDS design community by taking a service design and human centered approach to surface and address some of the challenges. One of them being that the design team at GDS are not a diverse and representative community.

The community wanted to look at inclusion and exclusion in our spaces and practices by taking a user-centered approach. The aim was to understand the current experience of designers and how it affected their quality of life at work.

There’s no point hiring a more diverse team if the new designers don’t have an equitable, safe, and inclusive workplace to come in to – in fact that can do real harm.

My role and approach

I started by mapping the journey of designers applying, joining and working at GDS, from the user's perspective and the back office processes at each step. In doing so, I identified pain points and an area to zoom into and improve.

I then worked with senior user researcher Leon Hubert to design activities and research to help us learn more about blockers to engaging with the design community, and identify what advantages or disadvantages do people face in accessing opportunities and progression.

We designed the process in a way that enabled a safe space for people to share their experiences, for example by anonymising the interview notes, giving full editing permissions to participants, and carefully crafting the discussion guide.


Some of the things that the community have been able to implement since this research to improve equity and inclusion in the design community:

  • inform the creation of a new onboarding process for designers at GDS
  • made changes to how we run design team meetings
  • we’ve hosted 3 UCD career events for people from under-represented groups in design
  • made changes to how line management and coaching in the design team at GDS works
  • we’ve tried to make decision-making in the design community more transparent, by consulting designers more about their ideas, preferences, and needs; talking more openly about what the design management team is working on; and challenging decision-making processes and assumptions in how designers are managed.

For more on improving equity, diversity and inclusion in the GDS design community and the changes we made off the back of this research, read our blog post on how we took a user-centred approach to understanding inclusion and exclusion in the GDS design team.

Analysed user research interviews and synthesised insights

Image of a table, zoomed into post it notes. These have titles of findings from the user research interviews. Some of them read 'designers feel the community has shared values and motivations for work', and 'Being in one area for a long time give advantages for autonomy, experience, and progression'.

Incorporated recommendations and improvements to our wider design team working group backlog

Screenshot of the improve equity in the design team working group trello board. There are 4 columns. They are 'why are we doing this', 'objectives', 'backlog', 'doing', and 'blocked'. Under each column there are cards that describe the work that is being done.

With Leon Hubert, Charlotte Downs, and the design leadership team at GDS