Design For Good – feat. Ned Gartside

We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead. As part of this, we caught up with Ned Gartside, Senior Service Designer at DEFRA to learn about his work and a framework for creating low carbon digital services.

The purpose of our ‘Design For Good’ content series is to shine a light on how creative innovation can be a driver for positive change. We feature those that are making it happen, those with grand potential. Businesses and individuals that are shaking up their sector and finding ways to do things better, for social or environmental good.

Sam @ ADLIB: First of all could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about the work you do as a Service Designer at DEFRA?

Ned: I’m Ned, and I’ve been a Senior Service Designer at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, based in Bristol, since June 2022. I work on the ‘Waste Tracking Service’ project, which is aiming to digitise a currently paper-based system, allowing waste to be tracked in near real-time. The aspiration is that this will help reduce waste crime, boost rates of recycling and re-use of materials and thus empower the transition to a more circular economy. As a service designer, I work to ensure that user journeys are consistent and valuable end-to-end, across digital and non-digital touchpoints, and map how these journeys can be delivered technologically and operationally.

Sam @ ADLIB: What is the Digital Service Carbon Footprint Framework and what is its purpose?

Ned: The Digital Service Carbon Footprint Framework was created to guide a holistic approach to the design of low-carbon digitised products and services. It currently consists of a set of principles best practice from a carbon point-of-view, written to guide collaboration across the user-centred disciplines, from user research to content, interaction and service design. These are being expanded out to include all the roles that are often involved in digital projects, including delivery managers, service owners, developers, data teams and architects of various sorts. Following that, we will work on creating guidance on how practitioners can map their ‘service system’, and then use this to calculate its carbon footprint and identify where savings can be made.

Sam @ ADLIB: What have been some of the major lessons developing the framework?

Ned: That sometimes there are many people within an organisation (or without) that are passionate and thinking a good deal about a particular topic, but it takes a small team who are focused on bringing things together and rapid collaborative progress can be made. If you can find a way, as a relatively junior member of staff at an organisation, to ‘work towards’ organisational goals (such as net-zero targets) then the backing of seniors will naturally follow.

Sam @ ADLIB: What’s your advice to fellow Designers looking to understand and improve their carbon impact on projects?

Ned: There are some very significant low hanging-fruit in terms of energy usage and thus carbon footprint for the design of digital products/services:

  1. Page weight – ensure that webpages are as small in size and optimised as far as possible. Be especially wary of images and videos. This will bring general UX benefits as well as reducing the data transferred when loading a page.
  2. Data storage policy – ensure that data that is being captured and stored is really genuinely needed and in the most efficient format. Data center’s use large amounts of energy and the great majority of data stored is never accessed again.
  3. User journey design – journeys that genuinely allow users to achieve their goals in as efficient a way as possible. Particularly important is reducing ‘failure demand’ – the need for users to reach out for assistance via phone, email or in person, as far as possible.

In terms of design teams reducing their OWN impact:

  1. Reduce time with camera turned on on video calls. Video means huge data transfer and thus carbon footprint
  2. Store and share files via one platform, ideally Sharepoint or equivalent, and avoid duplication via email or Teams, Slack etc.

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Head of Design Recruitment

User Experience & Design Recruitment

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Sam Firth