The beginning of the year is always tricky: Still lethargic from year-end holidays, often cold, and slow to get started. But it’s a good time to hunker down, reflect on the past, and envision the future.

We brought some of that reflection into a design chapter meeting, where we asked the team: “What did you learn in 2022? What are you looking forward to in 2023?”

Here’s what some of our team members had to say.

Julie Strothman, Product Designer

Learned in 2022: When the work of the team feels tangled and awful and hard, you may just be in a normal phase of uncertainty. Even when you’ve experienced many times that this is part of the work, in the moment it can feel like you’re doing something wrong.

Looking forward to in 2023: Prototyping data governance processes, particularly a process for managing a controlled vocabulary in a system while also supporting the need for flexibility and growth over time. The system serves needs that are sometimes in conflict. We’ll want to ensure designing and iterating on the process includes representative end-users of the system as well as the decision makers.

Anne Petersen, UX Designer

Learned in 2022: More about effective co-design, and times when we shouldn’t use co-design methods (here’s an example of when co-design might be viable). We should ask: can participant input actually change these designs, and how? I also learned more about (and tried out, and then taught others about) implementing better teaming practices, such as team charters and READMEs.

Looking forward to in 2023: More official support for our learning, teaching, knowledge management, and documentation efforts, such as the 18F Guides and Methods.

Jia Gu, Product Designer

Learned in 2022: I’ve spent most of my career working as a consultant, but spent time in 2022 staffed to the product team. It has exposed me to different ways of collaboration, conducting design and research ops, and capturing and synthesizing research. While the design methods I use are the same, it’s a different level of interaction when you’re focused on a particular aspect of a product, and coordinating across multiple scrum teams.

Looking forward to in 2023: We have a couple of accessibility trainings that I’m really looking forward to — one on manual accessibility testing, and a two-day session covering web accessibility techniques, strategies, and evaluation. I also started with 18F about a year ago, and I haven’t met most of the team in person. I’m hoping we can have a design team IRL meetup this year so I can finally see how tall everyone is!

Laura Nash, Design Supervisor

Learned in 2022: This year I learned a phrase that keeps echoing in my brain — “everything is a designable surface,” coined by the immersive experience designer Johanna Koljonen. Teams are designable! One-on-ones are designable! Safety is designable! I am designable! That’s a lot of exclamation points, but it’s had an outsized effect on my work as a service designer and supervisor. If truly everything is designable, we have a responsibility to carefully choose what we will or will not design… and who will design with us.

Looking forward to in 2023: Digging into the nooks and crannies of civic tech. My colleagues introduce me to new concepts all the time — I can’t predict what I’ll learn in 2023, and that’s thrilling!

Amanda Costello, Design Supervisor

Learned in 2022: Because of the scope and scale of the work we do, setting boundaries and sticking to them is very important. The work will always ask more of you, there’s always another thing to do or a way to help, so you have to be aware of what you offer.

Looking forward to in 2023: Doing more work with partners, which is super energizing!

Mel Choyce, Product Designer

Learned in 2022: This was my first year working at 18F, and in government! I’ve learned a ton, especially from my fantastic coworkers and partners. One of my favorite projects was a deep dive into a partner’s beneficiary travel reimbursement process. Our partner’s digital team has sophisticated research capabilities, and working with them really helped me level up my government research skills.

Looking forward to in 2023: Learning even more! Each project I’ve worked on has been so different so far, and I’m excited to work with more partners and see how the different agencies work. And most of all, I’m hoping to make a positive impact!

Amanda Kennedy, Service Designer

Learned in 2022: Last year, I relearned how to cross-stitch after 20+ years of not doing anything with it. My mom taught me when I was 9 years old. It has been a meditative and creative way to spend my downtime.

Looking forward to in 2023: I just joined 18F and am looking forward to being here and working with everyone! I previously worked on government projects as part of a vendor team, so I’m excited for a new chapter working within government.

Join us!

We’re always looking for new people to share and grow with us. Learn more on the TTS website about our open positions, and find out how we work in our UX Design Guide, 18F Methods, and Content Guide (or look through our other guides).