When Design is Public Infrastructure: Reflections on the Pandemic
Beginning in March of 2020, North American governments were faced with launching new digital products and services to a public in desperate need, with tremendous urgency. To succeed, all the design disciplines — UX, content, visual design — needed to collaborate with elected leaders, health officials, and emergency managers under unprecedented pressure. As the emergency winds down, our panel of public servant designers reflects on a year that stretched from lockdown notifications to masking posters to vaccine registration websites, drawing lessons for the field about equity, collaboration, and the role of design in civic life.
About Cyd Harrell
Civic Design Consultant
Cyd is well known in industry and government for her creative approach to UX research and service design. Since 2012, working with the Center for Civic Design, Code for America, and 18F, as well as independently, Cyd has helped multiple executive- and judicial-branch agencies in the US apply research techniques and user-centered practice to serving the public. Her book, A Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide, is an onboarding guide and survival manual for tech people joining public sector work. When not at the office helping public servants use design for good, Cyd is a mentor for mid-senior UX practitioners. Her favorite tools are metaphor and (metaphorical) duct tape.
About Sara Hall
User Experience Practice Lead, City of Philadelphia
Sara Hall is a User Experience professional with experience working in the health, public, and private sectors. Currently, she is the User Experience Practice Lead with the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology, where her team is responsible for all phases of the UX process, from discovery to wireframing and prototyping. Together, they work to create accessible digital experiences for the residents of Philadelphia. Additionally, Sara is an adjunct professor teaching Design and Research Processes at Thomas Jefferson University. As a professor, she brings her in-depth knowledge of UX practice into the classroom.
Sara is a strong advocate for bringing more underrepresented people into the design field, supporting initiatives and events that focus on women and people of color. Sara holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Philadelphia University (now Thomas Jefferson University) and a Master of Industrial Design from the University of the Arts. In her free time, she enjoys reading, eating and cooking, and spending time with her family and cat, Patricia.
About Hillary Hartley
Chief Digital and Data Officer, Deputy Minister, Ontario Digital Service
Hillary Hartley is Ontario’s Chief Digital and Data Officer and Deputy Minister. As the head of the Ontario Digital Service, within the Treasury Board Secretariat, Hillary is responsible for leading the government’s digital transformation efforts and the administration of the Simpler, Faster, Better Services Act to deliver simpler, more easily accessible services for the people, communities and businesses of Ontario.
Hillary joined the provincial government in April 2017 as Deputy Minister Responsible for Digital Government. She also served as Deputy Minister of Consumer Services, where she led the government’s retail services operation (ServiceOntario), and programs focused on consumer protection.
Previously, Hillary was the Deputy Executive Director of 18F, a digital services agency in the U.S. federal government, and was a Presidential Innovation Fellow in 2013. She has worked with governments, across jurisdictions, for more than twenty years, serving as a director at NIC Inc., an organization that helps governments deliver programs and services online.
About Anita Cheng
Content designer, San Francisco Digital Services
Anita Cheng is a former cancer researcher who went into tech to help people faster. She gets to do just that working for government, currently for San Francisco Digital Services. As a content designer, she's worked on COVID-19 response and cannabis business permits. Previously, she worked on the websites for affordable housing programs in San Francisco, as well as building inspection at the City of Los Angeles.
Anita has given talks at Confab, IA Conference, DotGov Design, Code for America Summit, and League of California Cities.