With over 30 designers, 18F has assembled one of the largest groups of designers within the federal government, each with our own set of experiences and skills. Some of our designers have worked in the private sector on large-scale products, while others have worked in public sector environments helping agencies across the country at all levels – local, state & federal – navigate the complexities of design.

How design works (in government)

Our design work is unique because it often goes beyond just doing hands-on, tactical design work. Sometimes, our projects vary in scale or require different elements. Sometimes, the work is straightforward and comes together naturally. Other times, the complexity of the work is more opaque. As the scale of the work increases, it might require different people focused on different aspects for it all to go well.

While all 18F designers have a core set of skills in human-centered design, our work and skills are far from homogeneous. We often hire designers who are skilled in more than one design discipline. Technology-enabled public services are complex, and require different types of complex humans to pull it off.

While our designers are diverse in their skills, the design chapter is organized into four discipline-specific cohorts:

  • Service design
  • User experience (UX) design
  • Product design
  • Content strategy

Within these cohorts, people specialize in areas such as information architecture, UX engineering, front-end design & design systems.

What do 18F designers do?

All of our designers broadly participate in identifying, researching and communicating the needs of people who use or are impacted by a product or service. We ensure that:

  • The right problems are being addressed to better serve the public
  • Everyone has access to what they need regardless of age, disability, or other factors (accessibility and inclusivity)
  • Design and development decisions are evidence-based
  • Continuing to improve through research and iteration

What sets the design disciplines apart?

Designing technology-enabled public services requires deep expertise in how different elements of the experience come together (or don’t!). Each of our design disciplines has a primary focus, with corresponding tools, methods, and techniques.

At a high level:

  • Service designers specialize in the broader ecosystem — understanding how different levels of government (federal, state, local), organizations, people, technology, processes, and policy can affect a service.
  • UX designers understand all aspects of people’s interaction with a product or service. A UX designer may be expected to focus on research strategy, data collection and analysis, then make models, diagrams or prototypes to communicate research findings.
  • Product designers bring expertise on current user interface, visual, and interaction design standards and guide teams through design iterations. Visual design and branding skills can be found in this discipline; some product designers also have front-end development skills to implement designs in code.
  • Content strategists help our partners write, edit, and manage human-centered, sustainable content. Many are also information architects with deep experience navigating systems thinking, content platforms, and governance.

Shared problems, unique lenses

Any one of our designers can help improve the public’s experience of government — we can all “design” — but each discipline brings a unique lens to understanding and solving problems alongside engineers, product managers, and subject-matter experts, and stakeholders. Given the scale and complexity of designing public services, we often work best when we work together.

Want to learn more about how we work at 18F? Check out some of our guides!