Design director Ben Terrett and three other senior staff have announced that they are leaving Government Digital Service (GDS) – following its overall head Mike Braken leaving last week for the Co-op.
This is in advance of huge cuts to GDS expected this autumn.
GDS is best known for creating the Gov.uk website (above) – a project lead by Ben (below) – which brings together all central governement websites into a cohesive whole that has a user experience based around the needs of people rather than being structured around the processes of governement departments.
Essentially bringing best practice for web design and user experience from the commercial world into government, Gov.uk has been seen as a big success – both with users and the creative industries – winning both a D&AD Black Pencil and the Design Museum's Design of the Year prize in 2013.
Announcing his resignation in a blog post, Ben says that "every designer should work in the public sector", referencing the importance of design-led projects for the general public – such as Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinear redesign of Britain's road signs in the 1950s and 60s.
"Being a civil servant and using your talents to help the people in your country is an honour. In an industry so often obsessed with novelty and persuasion, government is a chance to do real design work. If the government started a fast stream programme for design grads it would start to change the industry and make services better at the same time."
It's perhaps ironic considering what the government is about to do to GDS. GDS had a budget of £58 million and a total headcount of almost 700 – but this is likely to be drastically cut during HM Treasury's attempt to find savings this autumn. Sources have also told our sister site ComputerworldUK that GDS's big project to establish ‘Government as a Platform’ – which brings together technology platforms across governement to save millions of pounds – is also expected to be ‘much reduced in scope’, as it doesn't have the support of civil service CEO John Manzoni.
Alongside Ben, also announcing their resignations today are deputy director Tom Loosemore, user research head Leisa Reichelt and strategy director Russell Davies. Leisa is heading back to her native Australia to join its new government Digital Transformation Officer. The rest have left without jobs to go to, which tells you something.
Replies to Ben's announcement on Twitter have full of praise for him, his also-departing colleagues and the projects he led.