Chicago, the city of Illinois has added a new design office and director to its municipal government for making it the most recent wave of cities embracing design philosophies to build a platform that better serves constituents. The city has built its design office earlier this year and establishing it within the city’s existing Department of Innovation and Technology where much of its government technology and innovation work resides. The design was created by the behest of the department and the mayor’s office.
Currently, the office is essentially staffed by a team under the Design Director Jason Kunesh. His main work right now pertains to Chicago’s 311 systems, a platform that residents can use to request non-emergency city services like information on events or having potholes filled on their streets. Alike 311 platforms have become standard in cities across the country over the past decade; Kunesh said his new role was created as part of a 311 modernization effort. One of the big parts of his work in that ability is to ensure that updates and changes are made to the 311 systems because dweller’s engagement continues to factor into the process. The design philosophy is such that it takes into account the experiences of human users with platforms and systems. It is often applied by private sector companies, and now it’s also becoming more common in government circles. However, Kunesh noted that there are some changes who working in the public sector and requires designers, largely comes from a private-sector background. He further said that one of the main differences between the corporate world and the government world is that governments are not trying to invent the product that fit for the marketplace. They have very specific things and need to get done. Currently, Kunesh’s office handles 4 million 311 requests a year. The majority of those requests come through phone, in which half of them are information-based.
Chicago also has a flourishing civic tech community that meets weekly at Chi Hack Night, which could be leveraged by the city for a design perspective. Moving ahead plans call for looking at the government design and innovation work being done at the federal level by groups like the U.S. Digital Service and 18F for finding ways to imitate it for Chicago and other local jurisdictions. The city has also created a website to house related work here.