Weekly notes from my time with the user centred policy design team at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

  • Culled from end of week reflections with all the non-MHCLG stuff cut out and some edits to hopefully make them more understandable.
  • This is a brain dump and not an exhaustive pick over every single activity from the week. Thoughts might cut off halfway, trail off or go off on one. There might be typos too. Sorry not sorry: Time.
  • Views are mine and possible not the wider team’s or org’s.

The notes

I was off for two days at…

After last week’s weeknote, Katy shared the note on Twitter:

I think this is the first that anyone’s said publicly about some really cool cool work we’re doing trying to answer the big question: what is MHCLG for, and how can we do it better.

So another week, let’s have another public weeknote. This is a brain dump and not an exhaustive pick over every single activity from the week. Some questions presented are rhetorical, have been dug into further but not going into that detail here or may actually be where does the thinking go next?. …

Despite it being a guiding principle for work I’ve not been very working in the open the last couple of months. I’ve more been:

  1. Focusing on the full time contract I have been on since early December.
  2. Trying to preserve evenings and weekends for not work (when these sort of working in the open notes are tapped out).
  3. Helping the kids now they are doing school work from home.
  4. CHORES.

I’ve had A Lot Happen this week and trying to get a bit of focus by doing this. …

In the middle of October I was told to lay off running, to lay off just about anything strenuous on my right leg for six weeks. The detail is in October’s run note. So November has been a waiting game, an observation game, a little trial game.

In November I can count the runs on one hand: One on Saturday 21 November, the second on Sunday 29 November. Both were trial sessions, a week apart, to see how the injured area feels. Both had a warm up walk for about ten minutes down to the canal, then 10 repetitions of…

Not carrying a Union Jack on this packaging, sorry.

Project stuff

Project MT was steady away this week then had some reprioritisation. Which is fine, but not so straightforward if that needs some of your time and you’ve only two days a week planned/budgeted for the project and you’ve used them by that point aaarrggghhh. I had some spare time in my week, and got on with what was needed half because I don’t like doing a bad job and half I am in a team that seeks the counsel of the service designer. Kit published the council’s digital strategy this week…

It got quite cold towards the end of the week, eh. I am being literal here.


I spent the most time on Project MT (I think a few people know I am working with/for Pilot Works, Placecube and Kit at the Royal Borough of Greenwich council), doing service design work for two days overall. We ended the week having a chat about a couple of journeys and sometimes how we name things shapes our perception of the journey. The journey work we have done is actually good, in that we’ve tested it, got some feedback, done some changes, feel confident…

Here’s a method I have used for the last 15 years to help me get on with my working day.

I do this out of habit at the start of the working day. I have had roles in the past where things can change overnight so I found too much planning the night before could be wasted.

I currently have the 4 calendars I am a member of viewable simultaneously through the calendar app on my MacBook. I open that for reference. Every session with other people can be found in one of those calendars.

I write out the working…

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Several days back it was Ryan Gosling’s birthday, the cue for design people on Twitters to reshare the Papyrus Saturday Night Live (SNL) sketch from a couple of years back.

As a sketch it is a good laugh, and there’s a few really great moments — Gosling in a conversation asks what the font is and is told the Avatar logo looks tribal yet futuristic — but scrolling through Twittter for a moment it felt like a no disrespect to the likes of Grimsby for typefaces and fonts, Papyrus being the fall guy, the butt of this popular joke (at…

Four Seasons Total Landscaping, LOL!


It was project MT for the first three days of the week. The service design side is going along fine, there’s an understanding of what the structure is and could be, there’s abstract possibilities for service improvements, but there’s a reliance on a few things shifting for change. Realising something better is taking a bit of knitting and re-knitting. It’s the usual though. 30–40% of what you design isn’t seen by the team but helps them fill in gaps and make decisions; 80 to 90% of what you design isn’t seen publicly. It’s getting there…

Patterns for these notes:

  • I’ve been doing them monthly since early last year
  • I’d start by telling you where I was up to with my running numbers, coming into the month and leaving the month
  • There’s a little commentary about some things that happened, tough stuff and rewarding stuff
  • I wind up things looking head to the next month

First up this is a note for three months not for one month, but more why on that shortly.

My last run note was for July. Coming into August I had run 1138km so far in 2020, past halfway to my…

Simon Wilson

Independent strategist, designer and team builder. Previously: Agency land big cheese; Senior designer at HMRC, DWP, and NHS Jobs; Design lead on #NHSbeta.

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