Use the human voice

Case study: It’s ok

The It's ok poster for GDS

Towards the end of my time at GDS I was involved in hiring some new people for the creative team.

“Wouldn’t it be nice,” I wondered on a train one day, “if when these newcomers started work, there was a little list of things that it’s culturally nice to know, but that it’s no-one’s job to explain?”

So I started writing a list, with “It’s ok to…” at the top.

The creative team helped improve the list, and designer Sonia Turcotte turned it into a striking and beautiful poster.

I wrote a blog post about it, and very quickly the idea spread far and wide.

Since then, it’s been borrowed and iterated by many organisations - I can’t say how many, but I suspect hundreds. I know it’s been used in UK government departments, in foreign government departments, in NHS hospitals, digital agencies, charities, non-profits and commercial organisations large and small. It’s been turned into more posters and into websites.

I started keeping a list.

Most recently, Google made a similar version as part of its corporate Well-being Manifesto.

Our 'It's OK to' poster written by @gilest is currently exhibited at the Vienna Biennale. Download your own copy:

— GDS (@GDSTeam) June 22, 2017

The It's ok poster in an office

The It's ok poster in a government office

The original poster on the wall at GDS

It’s ok continues to appeal to people because it’s an unusually human approach to running an organisation. It would not have happened without the genius of the creative team, the comms leadership, and the senior leaders of GDS in 2016.

I’m proud of the part I played in it, and of the ongoing positivity it generates online.

📮 giles (at)
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