Student Perspective: Design for Government

Second-year CoID student Molly Balcom Raleigh shares her perspective on Design for Government

Have you ever wondered what courses outside of the CoID program interest CoID students? Now is your chance to find out! Molly Balcom Raleigh tells us about her experience with Design for Government and its partner course, Design in Policy and Governance. Both of these courses are taught by Ramia Maze as a part of the Creative Sustainability program, but are open to CoID students.

Let’s turn it over to Molly:

I’m interested in service design and strategic design, especially design for the public sector. 

Before taking Design for Government, I looked through the course materials and past projects on the DfG website to see what the course would be like. I was really curious to learn how service design functions in government. I was expecting to work with a multi-disciplinary team, gain studio experience, and learn about public sector design through doing, and the course exceeded my expectations.

Because the DfG takes place over two periods, we could spend longer on each phase of design and practice professional work-life balance. Sometimes there are intense periods of work before a big project milestone or presentation, but other times it is steady and at our own pace. The main teaching contact time was on campus, but we were able to do interviews with partners and visit their offices. There was some discovery work in the field, too. 

There were so many take-aways from this course. My group had surprising friction over design process. We were all coming from different backgrounds and expertise. CoID as a program has a lot of shared expertise, but the DfG cohort is truly interdisciplinary. It was a really good learning exercise on how to manage design process with collaborators from different backgrounds. We really got into the depth of intercultural communication and learning how to work in an international team. 

I also took the companion theory class, MUO-E8026 (USP-323) Designing for Urban Governance and Services. The way they line up is kind of difficult, but I think the teaching team is continuing to refine how those classes go together. It was helpful having the theory alongside studio practice — it gave more depth to the practical learning. The theory course covered concepts of governance and how design could shape and function in government, and has a great reading list. You really come out of DfG feeling like you understand how design relates to government. And it was a great window into what it’s like to work as a designer in the public sector.

I am actually doing my thesis with a governmental agency and after the course I had so much more confidence going into this thesis work. I have a sense of how to engage with the agency and understand my position as a designer approaching governmental organizations. Ramia and the teaching team are inspiring, it’s a resource-rich class. 

If you think you want to take it, apply. I would say, really look at the previous years’ presentations and reports to get an understanding of the projects you might be doing. But if you’re interested in how design can make an impact through public policy and through the workings of government, this class will give you great perspective and insight.

Sound interesting? There is still time to apply for Design for Government. Check it out here!

Illustration by Anna Tolonen