Angelica Quicksey's insights into civic design are unique and insightful. She designs federal government services with a focus on digital transformation. As a recent graduate with two masters degrees from Harvard University, she is also now co-teaching a course on technology and innovation in government. Angelica is passionate and our conversation touched on the many changes going on in the industry. If you want to learn and be inspired make sure to give this episode a listen!
Angelica Quicksey's insights into civic design are unique and insightful. She designs federal government services with a focus on digital transformation. As a recent graduate with two masters degrees from Harvard University, she is also now co-teaching a course on technology and innovation in government.
Angelica is passionate and our conversation touched on the many changes going on in the industry. If you want to learn and be inspired make sure to give this episode a listen!
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Maurice: All right. So, tell us who you are and what you do.
Angelica: Hi. My name is Angelica Quicksey. I am a service designer with Fjord here in D.C.
Maurice: Now, what drew you to service design? I'm really curious. I think we've had some service designers here on the show before. But I'm curious to know, one, what drew you to service design, and if you can, for the audience, talk a little bit about what that is.
Angelica: Sure. I think what drew me to service design is it really looks at things as a system. It's very holistic. So, what service design is is it's designing a service from end-to-end, from front to back, and in every channel. So, when you're thinking about a process from end-to-end, it's similar to user experience design, interaction design, where you're looking at a user journey from when someone starts to achieve a goal to when they finish.
Angelica: But what's unique about service design is it's also including the front stage and the backstage of that service. So, not only the customer experience, the front stage, but also the internal processes, the organizational components, the technologies behind it. And then in every channel. So, while, with interaction design, you might be looking at a single touchpoint, an interface, a website, with service design, you're looking at a lot of different channels, from digital, phone, mail, face-to-face, even your physical environment when you're looking at a service.
Angelica: So, one of the examples that I tend to use is taking an airplane from say Seattle to Washington D.C. Well, the service is everything from you know you want to go from Seattle to D.C., you go online, you search for a ticket, you purchase the ticket; before your flight, you check in, you get to the airport, maybe you drop off your bags, you go through security, get on the plane. You have the experience of being on the plane, and then landing at your destination. So, that would be the service from end-to-end. But there's so many components that are enabling you to have either a really excellent or potentially a negative experience when you're flying. So, there's not just the interface when you're buying your ticket, or when you're checking in on your phone, or at the kiosk at the airport. There's also the people that you're interacting with when you're dropping off your bag, and the TSA agents when you're going through security. And then there's the systems that they're using to process everything. And then there's the actual physical environment of the airport and of the plane.
Angelica: So, if you're really imagining designing that entire service from end-to-end, you would be looking at a whole host of components in this system and all of these interacting pieces.
Angelica: So, I think it's really cool because it touches so many different elements, and it gets beyond just the digital component. But it also is uniquely suited to address organizational change, which I think is partly ... I encountered service design when I was already working in city government, and was seeing that a lot of the issues that we were trying to solve, even though I was working in the department of technology, were not just technological issues. And to improve the experience of residents in San Francisco, which is where I was working, really required you to work on all of these organizational challenges as well, and get beyond just what we would typically think of as design.
Maurice: Wow! It's funny you mentioned that airline example, because it just reminded me of something I read recently about how Delta is ... I think they're employing service designers or they're working with service designers for that very same example that you just gave, sort of like the end-to-end experience of if you buy a ticket on Delta's website, what's it like from there to getting to the airport to getting on the plane to what's the whole experience like. They want to be able to kind of interact and control that experience and make it as pleasant as they can for the customer.
Maurice: So, that is a lot of components to go into one thing. For the projects that you work on, I'm curious ... And you don't have to name them specifically or anything. But I'm curious to know, do all of the projects that you work on normally have that many components to them, or does it vary?
Angelica: Most of the projects I've worked on at Fjord have been really big projects that crossed multiple agencies or multiple units within a single agency. So, when you first hear at the beginning of your project what you're going to be working on, you're sitting there thinking, "Oh, my god. How are we going to improve the X experience for this huge process?" But I think it's really exciting because one of the things that drew me to working in the government space is just the scale that you're working on, the number of people that you're impacting. So, when you're making these changes and improving the experience, it's touching so many different people. The hardest part is really working across these silos and trying to get people to work together.
Angelica: So, in your Delta example, Delta's a huge organization. So, you're going to have to be working across all the components of Delta. But then there's also parts of that experience that they don't control, like they don't control the airport or the TSA. So, they have to find ways to integrate with these different organizations, and work together, and form partnerships in order to create a really excellent customer experience from end-to-end.
Maurice: What's a typical day like for at Fjord? What is it like from day to day?
Angelica: There are so few typical days. I refuse to schedule lunches or coffees anymore during the day because my day shifts from moment to moment so often that I'm always canceling on people when I try to schedule things during the day. The only thing that solidly happens every single day is our stand up in the morning with our project teams where we all get on the same page. But then it's planning, executing, synthesizing, research. We might be doing stakeholder interviews at an agency, or be out in the field interviewing users. We do a lot of design workshops. So, really working with the clients to co-create the services that they're trying to build, which requires a ton of energy. And I'm a little bit of an introvert, but I really love facilitating these workshops, and drawing the people out who maybe normally wouldn't contribute, and getting these teams working really well together over the course of a day or two days. Sometimes our workshops are two or three days.
Angelica: I'll give one example, which wasn't a client, but I volunteered to facilitate a workshop for International Women's Day last month around how to be a better ally and make more authentic connections. And we got 50 women in a room, all from different parts of the company, to really imagine what being a better ally looked like, and sort of like brainstorming around that the different things that you could do, the different things that it meant. Not only the actions, but the emotions that went behind it, what people see, what people say, what people think, what people feel, what they do. So, building empathy maps around being a better ally. And then, at the end of the day, we actually had everyone fill out intention cards where they wrote down something that they were going to do in the next week, put down their name and their number, and exchanged it with someone so that there was some sense of accountability.
Angelica: And coming away from that, I felt so energized, and it felt like the people in the room were really energized to go out and really take action. So, part of that is it requires a lot of energy on your part, but you're trying to impart that energy to your participants, and get them really excited about whatever it is that you're trying to co-create. And in this case, it wasn't a service, it was this very abstract concept of allyship and gender equality. But I really feel like the methods of design can be used in so many different ways, and this is one of those examples.
Maurice: Now, do you approach most new projects in the same way, or does it vary?
Angelica: I feel like when I'm starting a new project, it often just starts with getting the team and the client comfortable with the ambiguity of service design, that things are going to change and iterate throughout the process. And it will often start with reframing the question that we're being asked. So, one of the ice breakers that I like to start with is this idea of drawing a vase. So, if you were to ask the people in the room to draw a vase, they would all kind of come out the same. But then, if you were to ask them to draw something that could hold flowers, you're suddenly reframing what you're asking, not as a solution, but as a challenge or a problem. And they might draw something different.
Angelica: So, when someone comes and says, "Okay, we want a dashboard.", what is it that you're really trying to get at? This is actually an example of a project that I worked on that I really loved, where instead of starting with, "Okay, here's the data. How do we visualize it?", what we did was we looked at, "Okay, what are the actions or decisions that you guys are trying to make, and in what context?" And then given that, what information do you need, and what's the best way to present it? Are you going to be looking at it on a mobile device, on a computer, in low bandwidth situations, or in an office with great WiFi? What are the different contextual attributes that need to go into this too to help you make the right decision at the right time? So, then you can take all of those elements and bring it together to build a dashboard that's actually going to serve your needs, or even some other way of visualizing or communicating data that's going to help you make those decisions and maybe isn't what you imagined when you first came and said, "Hey, we want a dashboard."
Maurice: Yeah, being able to reframe questions. I always tell designers that's just a very important skillset to have, whether that's questions coming from a client, or it's coming from a supervisor, or a stakeholder, or something. Getting to the root of what the question is actually about is really important, because like you said, you can uncover new things, you can discover new kind of paths to go on for the project just based off of what it is that they really are trying to get out of working with a designer.
Angelica: Absolutely. And it's good for your team too. When someone is stuck, it can help to just reframe the question around what they're stuck on, even trying to do that for yourself. You can't figure this thing out, take a step back and say, "What is it that I'm really struggling with here? What is the problem?", and try to attack it from a different angle.
Maurice: Now, we've had designers on this show before that have worked either with the government or worked with government services in different ways. For example, Episode 150, we had Ashleigh Axios, who was the creative director for the Obama White House. We've had Ron Bronson, who I think currently is doing some work for 18F. And I think it's important to note that while you're designing government services and you're working for Fjord, this does not mean that you are explicitly working for the current administration. I want to be clear for folks listening that there is a difference in those two things, that you're not directly working for the administration.
Angelica: So, I'm working as a contractor now.
Angelica: I work for Fjord, and I work with the government with different government agencies. I've never worked directly with the administration myself or on any of my projects.
Angelica: But I actually really do admire the folks who have stuck around through the transition. There was a huge boom in and emphasis on technology and design in the government space under the Obama administration after the failure and then sort of revival of healthcare.gov, because there was this realization that one of the President's signature policies was really reliant on the technology behind it. And that was the first time in history that that's ever happened. And there was this sort of realization that if you don't get the technology right, it can really harm ... It can make or break your policy proposals and the things that you're trying to get done while you're in office.
Angelica: So, 18F emerged, the U.S. Digital Service, the lab at OPM, the Presidential Innovation Fellows. There's a whole host of programs that are bringing technologists and designers into government to work on different systems and projects. And some of those folks left when the administration changed. But some of those folks stayed because they're not ... Many of them, they're not working directly for the administration. And realistically, most of the people who work in the federal government aren't working for the administration. They were there under Obama. Some of them were there under Bush. And they're there really because they care about the work that they're doing, and they're delivering services whether it be to veterans, or immigrants, or people that are vulnerable and would need assistance with housing, they work at HUD. There's so many elements and branches of the federal government that are evergreen. There's career civil servants that are going to be there no matter what, and they're the ones that are going in day in and day out. And I think we don't even hear about them until something like a government shutdown happens, and you realize how many people are creating and delivering these services on a day to day basis, not just in D.C., but in places like California and Colorado, that are going to keep doing it regardless of who's at the top of the food chain.
Maurice: Yeah, that's a really, really good point that I want to really just kind of impress upon the listeners and make sure that they know that, because it is a privilege to work for the government. And again, as we're seeing, not for the administration, but to be able to work for the American people, and to make services that will benefit them in the long run is a really kind of noble thing.
Maurice: And this is something that we touched on, actually, before we started recording is that there's no alternatives.
Angelica: Exactly. In the private sector, if you don't like a product or a service, you can go to a competitor that has a different experience and a different offering. But when it comes to government services, you don't have another option. So, there isn't an alternate DMV. There isn't an alternate provider of SNAP or food stamp assistance. There isn't an alternate VA or immigration services. This is all you've got. And I think it's really incumbent on us to create the best experience possible because people don't have anywhere else to go.
Angelica: And I also wanted to point out that when it comes to government digital service delivery, it's not just the federal government. You have state and city government, and actually, city government is where my heart is because it's so close to people. It's where the rubber meets the road, and people really feel the impact of what it is that you're doing very quickly. So, people notice when their trash doesn't get picked up. And that's actually at the state level is where SNAP benefits are distributed, and that's where so many programs occur for homeless individuals.
Angelica: I began my career in government digital services working in city government, and that is longterm also where I hope to end up.
Maurice: I remember you also taught a course at Harvard on technology and innovation in government. So, I can tell this is something that is really-
Maurice: ... technology and innovation in government, so I can tell this is something that is really super important to you. And I think it's something that designers and developers should think about when looking for sort of the big projects to work on. Yeah, it's cool to work for Apple or Dropbox or Netflix or whomever, but to be able to impact as many people as you can at scale by being... whether it's a service designer like you are, or whether it's working on the local level or the city level, state, what have you, the kind of impact that you can make there that really affects people's lives, is something that I wish more designers would sort of just kind of explore as an option, look at civic design as an option and not just sort of the boring work.
Angelica: Absolutely. And I think there's so much space for people to get involved, whether it's you're making a career change or you're just volunteering your time, there's things like Code for America Brigades that accept volunteers and work on different projects. And there's all kinds of different projects that you can work on. So there's healthcare, there's an incredible organization called the Center for Civic Design that does a lot of work on ballot design, and looking at how we design plays a role in our elections. And their civic design field guides actually ended up in the Smithsonian. There's so many cool things that you can work on that have this incredible impact. I think the scale that you're working on... and I mentioned this before... but when you're working in government digital services, you are impacting millions of people's lives. Millions of people are using your service, and you just don't see that anywhere else in the private sector.
Maurice: How do you ensure that accessibility is factored into your work, throughout the design process?
Angelica: I think accessibility's something you need to be thinking about from the very beginning. And it's not just what you would think about as like visual impairment or hearing impairment. There's things like color blindness, so the color palette that you choose should be able to be seen and distinguished for people who have red green color blindness. And it's not just designers. It's the people that create content, the information architecture, because you want to make sure that people with cognitive disabilities, or people for whom English isn't their first language, can also understand the content. I think government websites have a reputation for being full of jargon and legalese, and one of the things that I've really pushed throughout my career is to think about rewriting that stuff so that it's at a sixth or an eighth-grade level. It's easy to understand, it's easy to translate as well.
Angelica: So I worked on my very first government digital services project, was the San Francisco business portal. And I was helping with design for that, but a lot of what I did was the content strategy, and writing all the content on the website and rewriting it so that it was easy to understand and easy to translate. A huge percentage of the population in San Francisco speaks Chinese and Spanish. So I speak Spanish, and my boss, who was leading the project, also speaks Chinese. So we were sort of going through, taking out idiomatic expressions, anything that didn't translate well, so that even though we can afford to have a separate version of the website in Spanish and Chinese that was just going to rely on Google Translate, we could at least make sure that the language would translate fairly well across the different languages.
Maurice: Now I want to go back to when you and I actually first met up, which was in 2017, I believe. You were at Harvard, you were helping to plan the Black in Design Conference. What was your time like while you were at Harvard? I'm curious to know that.
Angelica: I was there for three years, and the Black in Design Conference was by far one of the highlights of my experience there. I worked with a really wonderful team. It wasn't all people from the African American Student Union at the Graduate School of Design, but it was a lot of folks from that executive board, and then we also brought in some people from elsewhere, and even some alumni helped plan the conference. And it was huge, I think we had 500 people come in for that. And I think one of the things that was so wonderful to me about that conference, was the positivity and the diversity within diversity.
Angelica: So first of all, you get there, and Harvard's a pretty white space, so you just arrive and see all of this milling and all of these black and brown faces. And so much diversity within that. Like people dressed in lots of different ways, and people that are involved in lots of different parts of the design process, different ages, all sort of coming together, to talk not just about the problems facing the black community, but the various solutions that they're working on. I'd been to a lot of conferences at Harvard, and elsewhere, black policy conferences and what not, that were really talking about the challenges around healthcare, economic development, social justice. And I think what was so exciting about this, was how positive it was. We were talking about the positive impacts that designers were making on mental health in Chicago, around brown sites in New Orleans, Afrofuturism in Detroit, and creating community in Seattle.
Angelica: It was just so inspiring to hear people talking about forward progress, and the creativity, and the things that they were excited about, and the impact that they were having in their own practice, whatever that might be. I mean one person, she was looking at different hair textures, and she was taking pictures of people's hair and using it to inspire the sort of like woven art that she did. There was just so much diversity in experience, and in the design practices, and people's experiences. I loved it.
Angelica: And I was running around like crazy, like handing mics to people, like going in the green room, making sure that everyone was alright, trying desperately to find a place to put people's luggage, because we hadn't thought about the fact that all of these people flying in were going to need a place to store their luggage. Just sort of running around and making sure that things went smoothly. But even though I barely had a chance to stop and watch all of the panels, and I did go back and rewatch them because it was all videotaped, so if you weren't there you can still check it out on YouTube, but even that like I was still able to feel just so much energy in that space.
Angelica: And it's happening again next year.
Maurice: Next year or this year?
Angelica: This year. Sorry.
Maurice: This year. Okay. I was like no. It happens every other year. So it started in 2015, and then 2017, and then this year, 2019.
Maurice: I rave about that conference on this show so much. I forget how I first found out about it. I don't remember when I first found out, but I did go in 2015 and I just remember coming back and feeling whole. Because I've been to a lot of design conferences and events and Meetups and stuff, and you go to these places and you're one of the few people of color, you might be the only person of color. And then that automatically creates like a barrier, in a way, between you and the other attendees. Like they may not want to talk to you, you may not be sure about talking to them, that sort of thing. And granted, I've gotten more comfortable with that over the years and learned to break through that, but it's still something where... Like I'll go to events here in Atlanta and still be one of the few people of color, and it's Atlanta. It can still be pretty jarring at times.
Maurice: But, I mean, I went to the first Black in Design Conference and it was something where I felt fulfilled not just as a designer, but as a black person as well. And like you said, it was very positive, it was all about solutions. I remember the first year the focus was on, I think, space or spaces or something to that effect, where they started at the neighborhood and then expanded out to like the city and then the state and then the region. And so they had designers that talked about the work that they did, whether it was organizing like a community dinner, or whether it was building a huge plaza as a monument to like the transatlantic slave trade.
Maurice: Seeing how people took design and applied it in such varied and different ways was just astonishing to me. I mean, I left there, and I was like, "Oh my god I have to find out, how do I be a part of this, how do I..." And we helped sponsor the 2017 event, but I told as many people as I could, on this show and outside of this show, about that event. I was trying to get AIGA involved in it, and like, "Oh you all should really sponsor this," and this sort of thing, because AIGA claims to be about diversity, but that's a whole other conversation.
Maurice: But like I was trying to get just... especially black designers also interested in this as well. And the one criticism that I got back was that they thought that it would be more, I guess, like you said, the videos are on YouTube, so for 2015 and 2017, we'll put links in the show notes so you can check them out. But people saw them and thought it would be more, I guess, technically-oriented. Like I guess they were expecting to go and learn the newest coding framework or the newest Photoshop plugin or something. And I remember having to tell people like design is not just what's on the computer.
Maurice: I think what people should look from this as, I mean, yes, it is inspiration about what can I do to apply the design skills that I have outside of whatever it is that I work with. And I would say to that effect, the 2017 event did seem to be a lot more broad in scope... I forget what the theme was for 2017. I think it was something about community, or something to that effect. Do you remember?
Angelica: It was Designing Resistance, Building Coalitions.
Maurice: There you go, yeah, design... Because I remember DeRay Mckesson was one of the speakers for that. Or he was the keynote speaker.
Angelica: Yeah, he was the keynote and he's not typically considered as a designer. I think one of the things that I was really pushing for, was to broaden our definition of design and who can be considered a designer. And we invited a lot of people that were involved in organizing and in different ways of building community, that wouldn't have gone to art school, for example. And I know you have a different background, like you didn't go to art school, but you have found your way into the design profession. And I eventually went to design school, but had come from a very different educational background.
Maurice: Yeah, like I started as a... or my degree is in math, my undergrad's in math, my graduate degree is in telecommunications management. And I do design, like it's completely outside of the scope of both of those things.
Maurice: But I would say one thing that was different, aside from just sort of the scope of the event, one, there was more people. So more people found out about it, which was great. But I also thought it was interesting that some of the same naysayers that were like, "Oh I don't know if I should go to this event," they were there, they showed up. And they enjoyed it. And they were like, "Oh this is like"... Someone was saying it sort of felt like a family reunion in a way, because you got to see not just other people that you knew, but like people that you maybe had heard about, or read about, or something. It was great. I definitely will be back this year.
Maurice: I hope we can find a way, whether it's through Revision Path or through Glitch, to help sponsor this year's event. I think it's just super important to the entire design community, not just in terms of it being, quote unquote, a black event, I don't want to say that it's important just because of that, but because of, like you said, the diversity that's there, the positivity, the solutions that come out of that. You don't have to be a black person and go to Black in Design to be inspired. It's just a great design event. Period.
Maurice: So hats off to you and to the rest of the folks that put it together. I mean, I know, like [inaudible] running around, trying to make sure everything went smoothly. From the attendee end, everything was great. I loved it, and I can't wait to go back this year.
Angelica: I'm so glad to hear that, and I'll definitely be back. It was really a family effort too. It was an incredible group of people that worked on it, and shout out to [Natasha 00:29:12], and [Shonda] who I know are hard at work right now, planning for the next one.
Maurice: Nice. And now you're in D.C. So what is the D.C. design scene like for you now?
Angelica: It's so funny having come from this wonderful, close-knit community. I've only been to a handful of design events here in D.C. and it just doesn't feel... I don't have that same close-knit feeling of community. And I feel like a lot of what I'm doing is building community on my own here. Like meeting people in different spaces who are working on design from different perspectives, and kind of building my own small group of folks. But I think also like there just is a little bit less wind in the sails of some of the civic designers than there may have been under the prior administration. So one thing I'm thinking about doing, is try to do some sort of convening of people in the civic design space here in D.C.
Maurice: Interesting. I guess I could see that with certainly all the news that seem to come out the administration lately is mostly negative or scandal-ridden, and it would make you think, "Well, why do I want to contribute my skills to something like that," I would guess, but. I could see why that could be the case though.
Angelica: I don't know what exactly... I think there was a just a level of excitement, partly because it was also so new, and you were bringing in people from lots of different places. And so now it's a matter of thinking about how to sustain that effort, sustain that enthusiasm. And, again, I don't work directly in the government, but I have a lot of respect for the folks that 18F, that are in the PIF program at USDS, that are going in day in and day out and working in these spaces, and working alongside their government colleagues to improve government services on the ground.
Maurice: I think it ebbs and flows too, because certainly around the mid terms, I mean, there was a flurry of activity around getting people elected, and making sure people turned out to vote and things, which is great, but like in the years when it's not an election year, it's almost like radio silence, which is bizarre to me. You would think you'd want to kind of keep that momentum going. Like I guarantee by this time next year, designers are going to be interested and they're going to be getting out there and doing stuff. And it's like how do you keep that momentum going to continue to innovate on government services when it's not just getting your favorite candidate in office.
Angelica: And I will say, there's a difference between politics-
Angelica: ... say there's a difference between politics and governing and one of the things I've seen is some of my design colleagues in a specific space moving more towards political tact and political design so thinking about how to support campaigns and mobilizing people in a very different way than when you are just thinking about delivering government services. Just more of a longterm and some would say a more boring effort. Like you think about bureaucracy but again I think it's so impactful.
Angelica: And I'm not drawn to politics at all. I think I've gotten into the government space and it's like, "I hate politics," and was really kind of turned off by it. And since I've been in this space I realize how important it is and how they go hand in hand. But they are very different and they come with different expectations, a different pace as well. And I actually think one thing that's interesting about those two pieces is the political tact has gotten better faster and so you have these politician people that are running that have really incredibly sophisticated tools and then they get elected and they come in, they put this hunk of metal on their desk and they're like, "What is that?" And it's like their desktop computer for their term.
Angelica: And so I think that that actually might be one thing that's inspiring people in the government space to pursue better technology and design because they get access to these incredible things when they're running and then they get into office and there's a whole different story.
Maurice: I can tell you 10 years ago of the date that we're recording this, we're recording this in April 2019, but 10 years ago I worked on a political campaign for a woman, she was running for the Mayor of Atlanta. And I was working with new media and stuff and this is the first set of races after Obama got elected. Everything that we know now about tech and campaigns and things like that, didn't exist really 10 years ago. This is the first set of races where we're trying to figure out how can we use Myspace to connect with voters? How can we use Twitter to get out the vote?
Maurice: And really doing a lot of trial and error and trying to figure out what works, what doesn't work. I can totally understand about being turned off by the politics part because now I think certainly we're still kind of feeling the effects of how technology has affected politics from the 2016 election. And I can see why that would sort of turn people off. It certainly turned me off. Once I did that first municipal race I was like, "I don't want to work in politics." I would prefer not to know how the sausage is made. Now that I see it it's like, "Yeah, I'm good." Ignorance is bliss. You know you hear that saying? I'm like, "I get it. I don't want to know. I'm good."
Maurice: But yeah, being able to work on the end of making services that will help people out, certainly I think it's more rewarding. It's not partisan. And like you say, you're helping people directly. And it can be something as small as going to a neighborhood meeting and helping design flyers or talking to your city council about something. It can be ... The things that you can do to get out there and start getting involved is really small. And I think people might get political design or working in politics and working with government confused like you said. There's a difference between those two. But the actions of just getting involved are pretty small.
Angelica: Absolutely. And I think there are, like you said, there are small ways you can get involved. You can do flyers for your local city counselor's office or for events and all the way up to joining an additional service team. But there's lots of ways. I mentioned those Code for America brigade teams earlier that you can volunteer your time. And just experience what it's like to work in this space.
Maurice: When you look at back at your career what do you wish you would have known when you first got started?
Angelica: I think I wish I'd felt comfortable calling myself a designer earlier.
Angelica: Like I said, I studied history in college and I was kind of ... I had been drawn to design work for a while. I had this incredible graphic design teacher, Judy DeFord in high school, that I took her graphic design class and she pulled me aside the first week or two and she was like, "I want you to join our yearbook staff." And then I became our Design Editor and just spent so much time in our little design studio. It became sort of like a second home for me. And I continued to do design work on the side throughout college. Like you said, like making flyers for different events. Actually speaking of politics like making the campaign posters for my friends who were running for Vice President of the Student Council or what have you.
Angelica: And then continued to find ways to do design work afterwards. And it took until I went, got two masters degrees, graduated and finally got a job where designer was in my title that I felt comfortable calling myself a designer. Even though I'd been doing design work all along. And I think we need to get out of this mindset where the only people who get to call themselves designers are people that went to art school and were trained in this really technical way. Because I think there's a lot of opportunities to bring people in that have different perspectives and different skills. Especially on the design research side.
Angelica: People that are in the Social Sciences and Sociology and Anthropology who have a lot of to contribute when it comes to the qualitative research that can inform design. That we don't think that they get to call themselves designers but they really have a special skillset set and perspective to bring to this field.
Maurice: Now you mentioned this high school design teacher but did you have any other mentors or people that helped you along the way or helped influence you or anything?
Angelica: She was a big one early on and then when I was in grad school I had a really great professor. I never actually took a class of his but I became his research assistant in the first couple weeks of grad school and I worked with him all the way through those three years. He was the one who I developed that course with and helped teach a class on technology and innovation and government. He was the Deputy CTO under the Obama Administration.
Angelica: He had experience in government and in the private sector and he was extraordinarily encouraging. Encouraging me to not just help develop and facilitate the class but get up and teach certain concepts and be really hands on about coaching different student groups. Encouraged me and helped me find the right role for me after school. And this year he actually asked me to come back and guest lecture. That was a really special moment. Neither of my parents have bachelor's degrees or went to college so the idea that I would go to a place like Harvard for grad school.
Angelica: And then a year later come back and be teaching graduate students there was just this really incredible feeling and I got to come back as a practitioner who's now working in the Service Design field to talk about the different methods that we use for synthesizing design research. And just sit with the teams and learn about what they were working on. And that just felt so special to me.
Maurice: Now for people that are listening, what advice would you give to somebody that maybe wants to either follow in your footsteps with your career or with getting into Service Design. What kind of advice would you give?
Angelica: One of the pieces of advice that Nick, that professor I just mentioned, gives, he, at the end of the year he gives these 10 pieces of advice. And the top two are just to work hard and be kind. I think that that's really important. But then the second piece of advice is not to think about the job that you want to do but to think about the impact that you want to have. And I think that's guided me.
Angelica: This job, the one that I have now, isn't one that I knew existed when I was in high school or in college. But I kind of found my way here by understanding not the title that I was after but the kind of impact, the kind of work that I wanted to do, the impact I wanted to have on the world. And that's what keeps me motivated too. When I was working in the City of San Francisco I ran this big design workshop out in a neighborhood helping people that lived there reimagine this one particular turnaround where the light rail ended. And brought in designers to work with them to sketch out what it was that they wanted. And by the City Council there and the City Counselor ended up giving the community $10,000. Just imagine what they ... To realize what they had created that day. To implement some of it.
Angelica: And afterwards, one of the women came up to me, her name was Diana Rivera and she'd lived in that community for like 30 years and she told us that that was one of the best days of her life and she really felt heard for the first time by her government. And that is the kind of impact that I want to have. Helping people, helping them feel heard, helping them interact with their government, get the services that they need. Knowing that that was the direction I was going kind of helped be my North Star. And I figured out the job title along the way.
Maurice: Nice. Where do you see Service Design going into the future?
Angelica: That's a great question. I think Service Design is so new in the U.S. I think part of it is just expanding here and people knowing what it is. Like so many of my classmates had never heard of this field or job title before and it's a much more mature practice in Europe but it's still really new here. I think just becoming more mature here in the U.S. and then specializing a little bit. Right now Service Design is pretty broad. People feel they can apply it to anything and they can, but maybe you'll start to find Service Designers who focus specifically on healthcare or who's focused specifically on financial services or who focus specifically on government services so that you start to get not only the design expertise but some of the domain expertise that helps you think about longer term solutions.
Angelica: And one of the things that I'd like to see in the government space is to not just be applying Service Design to implementation but to look upstream at the policy decisions that are being made and think about how you can inject user research and Service Design upstream in that process so you're not just implementing something when it's already come down the road.
Maurice: What's next for you? What kind of work do you want to be doing in the next like let's say five years or so?
Angelica: I think my ultimate goal is to be the Chief Digital Officer or Chief Experience Officer for a major American city. Shout out to my hometown of Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan, I'm available. I mean not right now but that I think is my longterm goal to be back in city government and to be thinking holistically about all of the services that a government provides. And not just looking at the website but how do we deliver services in a user centered way, unified across government agencies. And just really keeping resonance at the heart of everything that we do.
Maurice: All right. Well, just to kind of wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work online?
Angelica: I have a website. It's angelicaquicksey.work but I'm super active on Twitter so you can find me on Twitter @angelquicksey. The last name is Q-U-I-C-K-S-E-Y.
Maurice: All right. Sounds good. Well, Angelica Quicksey I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I mean I think first of all I want to thank you really for the work that you've done for the [inaudible] design. I really cannot stress enough how much of an awesome thing that is to exist but also talking about the work that you're doing with Service Design and talking about how other designers can really get involved in all of this. I think it's really helping at this point to show what people can do with design, to show that there's not just one way to get into design and that I think also that design isn't just a computer aided visual type of thing. You can design services that can help people. You can design things that can really make an impact at scale. I hope that people will listen to this and really learn something and hopefully go into the field. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.
Angelica: Thank you so much for having me. It was a real pleasure.