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Driving Change through Design and Innovation with Ashleigh Axios

Digital consultancy, technology-focused design, creative strategy, digital transparency, political design

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Meara McNitt
All right, here we go. All right, thank you so much for joining us, Ashleigh. How are you doing?

Ashleigh Axios
I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me.

JP Madrid

Thank you for taking some time to join us. So as I just mentioned in your introduction, you are in charge of design at the White House under the Obama administration, building everything from whitehouse.gov to the We the People petition platform. Can’t say I didn’t send some petitions when I was up there. And part of the first office of digital strategy, I’m correct. So honestly, I would call that a dream job.

Meara McNitt
I’m going to go ahead and turn it off.

JP Madrid

When you joined, what was your vision for design and a digital focused government at that point and how has that vision changed over time?

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah, you know, and it’s certainly one of the most incredible roles that I think a person could have. I was really honored to be in that position. But I think before I worked in the White House, my perception of what design and government was and could be was a really low bar. Right. Like, I wasn’t thinking creativity. I wasn’t thinking there was innovation. I was thinking there was red tape bureaucracy, that there would probably be this, you know,

you know, politics in the worst kind of way, not politics and governance and politics and communications and, um, serving constituents and all of that good thing, those good things, transparency, things that we really lived as the office of digital strategy. But I had that perception, I think from the outside, before going in of just kind of, um, really the negatives that came with government. And I was surprised to find this opportunity, I think in particular.

JP Madrid

Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
especially at that time in the Office of Digital Strategy, that it was like this startup in the heart of the White House. So there really was a chance to set a different precedent, to push the envelope, to exemplify what design systems could look like inside of government and not just kind of somebody did the branding for the agency, which they were some good work on, kind of earlier on in the 20th century. But really,

What does it look like in a digital UX context? What does design research look like in these contexts? So a lot of it was really exploratory. We’re having, you know, still a little bit bureaucracy, right? I can’t say that like all that went out the window, but we’re able to really engage in discussions about like setting policy for social media accounts that aligned with the values and our intents.

JP Madrid

Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
digging in really deep, figuring out what design systems look like from a digital vantage point for the website, what the standards were for access. So, you know, that was a large part of what was being built there. It has since become like, you know, just the foundational building blocks for a lot of what I think we’re now working on, not to say it was all some of my work, but you know, that effort.

JP Madrid

I’m going to go ahead and turn it off.

Ashleigh Axios
was still just budding that time in the government became, I think, a lot of the kind of building blocks that we’re still kind of contributing to and doing work within the civic space and with the US federal government in particular.

Meara McNitt
So.

JP Madrid

And I think it’s, I was just going to add real quick, Meara, I think it’s so interesting how you joined basically the first administration that had that connection to people via like Obama, I think was the first president to like tweet ever. Not that got great over time. But certainly like the first administration to really connect with people in such a personal level like where they were at. Whereas before I like

Meara McNitt
Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
Thanks for watching!

Thanks for watching!

JP Madrid

I think my perception of the US government was this black hole that no one could tap into.

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah, all the control, but not necessarily like ceding that power. Are you working in my best interest? Who knows? You know, once you get the office, um, kind of unclear, but yeah, I really did try to break that down, break down the walls. There was a really concerted effort to take what made the Obama campaign work so well and that like digital transparency, that engagement directly with constituents.

you know, working to meet people where they were on platforms and community and with the types of content and plain language and clear design, um, kind of meeting people where they were that worked so well for the campaign that there was a really concerted effort to make sure that was also integrated into the Obama White House to make it kind of distinct from prior White Houses and

I think as we’ve also experienced, unfortunately, like as much as we tried to pass things on, also pretty distinct from the subsequent kind of administration that kind of followed us. So, you know, there was a lot of like making things align with the, with law and the responsibility and the mandate that we had, but also looking at bringing in that intent for the individual who was elected into office.

JP Madrid

Yeah.

JP Madrid

Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
and integrating that really thoughtfully into how we operated so that those values could fully come through. So, I mean, that was fun to play with and to be able to establish. And you know, you alluded to, I feel like we’ve learned a ton from that, where we could have imagined some kind of worst case scenarios. We ended up getting hit with some of those scenarios and like faster than we thought was possible. And we had to make decisions and really talk.

JP Madrid

Thank you.

JP Madrid

Yeah

JP Madrid

The dystopian view of that. Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah, yeah, you know, less on the kind of design side of things, but in the office of digital strategy, our social media team is having in-depth conversations about, okay, we created these social accounts, but what do we do? What is our policy for, you know, whether these get passed on or do they just get archived, do people keep the followers? Got to write this in a way where we don’t know what’s going to come after this time and be as thoughtful.

JP Madrid

Mm-hmm.

Ashleigh Axios
as we can about it, try to decide what’s right and draw that line in the sand. And then, you know, feeling a little personally, a little bit of like re regret questioning, uh, with some of those choices later, like, Oh, that person’s got a platform they didn’t totally, um, earn and is doing a lot of, uh, damage, but, um, we’ve also seen just how much of that is from like personal accounts. Um,

JP Madrid

Yeah, I bet.

Ashleigh Axios
in addition to those government accounts.

JP Madrid

Yeah, that peaceful transfer of power of social media accounts wasn’t as peaceful, I suppose.

Ashleigh Axios
That’s a little bit tense. I’m glad I left, you know, I wasn’t like directly that one day hand over anything that would have been, it would have been tough for me.

Meara McNitt
So you touched a little bit about how you expected like all this red tape and it wasn’t necessarily as restrictive as you thought it was gonna be but what was like very like the most surprisingly different thing from like working in government and political design versus previous roles

Ashleigh Axios
I think it took me a while to learn this lesson, but something I feel like has been profound for me since was I never worked in partnership with like lawyers and legal and those kind of portions of the business in prior roles. It was like, okay, some things would need approval. And that was just kind of something that you’d have to go through that was separate. We really learned in the Obama White House,

to engage deeply that a lot of the stuff that we’re doing, which was effectively trying to make or change policy. So understanding why, you know, ethics team would push back on something and going, okay, here’s what we’re trying to achieve. How can we do these things? Let’s come up with some new ideas together and solve things. It was like.

totally new to me and it really flipped that dynamic on its head too of like, oh, they’re just going to shoot down, you know, all the creative things we wanted to do because instead, and I think this is really at the heart of a lot of those ideas, like co-design human centered design kind of practices too. Instead we were able to really work together to come up with solutions and make sure that they were going to be compliant and truly thoughtful and.

not create precedents that we didn’t want to have out there in the future and just make the most ethical solutions possible. And that is a huge shift from what I had before. And at first was like feeling like a blocker. But it’s something I felt like we were really able to turn on its head through deeper engagement and really thinking about the value of the things that at first felt like they were just.

slowing the process down or are kind of blockers to getting the work done. So I don’t know if that completely answers your question, but that’s something that comes to mind immediately as a big one for me.

Meara McNitt
Did you?

Meara McNitt
Yeah, did you find that having to like navigate all these different like ethical and future thinking? Boundaries I would guess I would say did you find that really pushed your creativity and made you become a better innovator

Ashleigh Axios
Absolutely. Like I think not enough designers, not enough people in general really think through the long-term ramifications of the decisions they’re making today. And we see that with climate change, socioeconomic impacts. Like, I feel like we are kind of seeing the effects of that across the board right now. And really, I think it’s a responsibility of designers and a real gift of creative industry to be able to

Meara McNitt
Yeah.

JP Madrid

Yes.

Ashleigh Axios
see things realistically today, to really understand those problems and think, you know, optimistically about the future. But that doesn’t mean pretending everything’s gonna be rainbows and sunshine. We also need to be thinking through the ways that things can fail, the possible implications for communities that might not have been in front of mind for us, or the ways that others might kind of take the gains that we’re making and…

Ashleigh Axios
use that progress for kind of other aims, even if that’s not the intent of the thing that we’re creating, or the precedent that we’re setting, just kind of knowing the ways that those things could be reinterpreted or used for ill harm over time. Those are skills that I think fundamentally we all need to build as creatives over time and as just thoughtful members of a highly connected society and globe where

So many of our decisions are impacting the environments and communities around us and communities and environments that we might not be embedded and thinking of, and just kind of recognizing that we come with our own biases and, you know, initial frameworks that need that challenging. So I think it’s been, um, really crucial in their, their fundamental skills that I wish we had like a bootcamp to, to help folks kind of get a little bit strong grab.

Meara McNitt
Yeah.

JP Madrid

Definitely. Oh, you go ahead, Meara. No, I was gonna jump to the next question, but you had a comment.

Meara McNitt
definitely.

Go ahead. Now go ahead, JP. Ha ha.

Oh, I did. I’ve definitely been thinking a lot lately about the moral responsibilities of people in just the whole digital sphere, especially when it comes to marketing, of just because we can doesn’t mean we should. And especially as I do social media, so we have the passwords. As designers, you have the code. Should we build these things? Should we enter these spaces just because the consumer is there? Does that mean that?

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah.

Meara McNitt
we need to be putting ad dollars into it or something like that.

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah.

JP Madrid

And actually, I’m going to jump to a different question because I think it goes in tandem with what we’re talking about. Because we watched several of your talks. And one of my favorites, one of my favorite ones was where you discussed how selfish design can save the world, in a manner of speaking. Basically, when you do good, it feels good. But you warn about not being the right type of selfish sometimes and about designers thinking so much about the f-ing internet of things.

and just how design and technology can drive negativity and misinformation, or even contribute to the climate crisis, as you mentioned. For, I guess, if you have seen either a mirror of my Twitter accounts, we have lots of thoughts on NFTs and cryptocurrency and just how that is driving the climate crisis in a way that many people don’t think about. So how do you think we can push emerging designers, technologists, creators

Ashleigh Axios
I’m going to go ahead and close the video.

JP Madrid

gifts selfishly but for the good of other people.

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah, it’s tricky. I think, you know, with so much creativity and energy, it’d be really tempting to look at like, the latest tech, the newest thing and try to create the newest and latest thing, right there, we have a little bit of that like shiny, shiny thing, tendency to want to create something that’s brand new and newness is always going to be appealing, at least the way our culture is right now. And I think a lot of what we have to do is

you know, move against that instinct. Like things that are the newest need the most amount of testing validation. We know the least about the long-term impacts, you know, like we’re just talking about. It needs a lot of challenging to make sure that it’s done well and thoughtfully. I think some of the most meaningful solutions that we can generate right now, and this has definitely surprised me throughout my career, but are not the newest hack. Like what?

What we need to better serve folks who are trying to immigrate, who are looking for quality healthcare, who are, you know, themselves, like coming back from combat and trying to reintegrate into the U S society, some areas that we’re thinking about on a regular basis and Co-forma. When we’re working on those, those types of challenges, the types of solutions that are needed are not.

Ashleigh Axios
types of solutions. Those are, you know, really paired back, simple service design, simple tech, and that might not sound sexy to folks, but those are the types of technologies that are highly tested that are going to make a difference. We’re really focusing on the impact on people, the impact on the environment, communities. If we’re looking at that as a primary focus.

And then using the tools kind of secondarily, people process technology, even starting with the technology, I think we’ll be a better position to make a really positive change, to make scalable change, and to make change that’s not going to create new issues down the road. But a part of that too is just

You know, I think we often, what I talk about a little bit in that talk is we think about things that we can do that are going to solve a problem that we have. And that’s natural. It’s our own biases. Like I could really use the tool that does this. Like, sure. Somebody’s made all these headphones and, but I kind of want one that has like this, you know, specific look and feel. And so we solve these sometimes small challenges that are.

JP Madrid

Yeah.

JP Madrid

Thank you.

Ashleigh Axios
around us and we can spend a ton of time on it, resources on it. So even in those little moments where we’re looking at things for ourselves, I think getting to the root of it and thinking about what we can do to actually improve our quality of life, our overall experiences, not those, you know, those details around us, those digital fixtures, those physical fixtures around us, is really going to start to change the

I started that one talk thinking I was gonna like talk about my sexuality and then I didn’t end up talking about it, which is kind of like a weird thing to say. But I like, I think one of my best examples is when I worked on lighting the White House up in rainbow colors, I wasn’t out as a bisexual person. I was actually closeted and repressed, but I ended up working over time.

JP Madrid

Mm-hmm.

JP Madrid

Hahaha

Ashleigh Axios
on this project, we didn’t even have time for it with all the other things that were moving at that time in the White House to spend significant time during the regular work week to be planning for that Supreme Court decision and figuring out how we were going to kind of market and communicate, especially since we didn’t know which way it was going to go. And there’s so many just open ended components of it, but it was the right type of thing to represent like a milestone to

JP Madrid

Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
show support for the LGBTQI community to really put our foot down on what our values were as an administration. And so a number of us took time outside of the regular work day and we didn’t come up with anything particularly fancy, like lighting the White House up in rainbow colors, doing, you know, animated social graphics that talked to the progress States had made on kind of.

Meara McNitt
Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
legalizing kind of gay marriage, same sex marriage, all of that like was actually not high tech stuff, but at the end of the day, in the smallest of ways, I was able to contribute to something that ended up making my own life better. It ended up also making it easier for me to kind of come out and recognize the fullness of who I am as a person. You know, not everybody’s going to have a

JP Madrid

Totally.

Ashleigh Axios
story as specific as that, but those are the kind of harder, more nuanced things that I think we should be trying to get to. How are we improving the overall lives and experiences of people with the things that we’re creating? And these do not need to be high technology solutions. And sometimes they don’t have to be the speediest, the quickest thing to market either. It’s often just about digging in really deep and sometimes slowing down.

thinking about the long-term impacts of something negatively and positively. If I took a moment to just recognize the needs of a community or this moment for a community, who will feel heard for the first time? Who will feel supported? Who will lean in and engage on these important topics and where they might not have before? So those are the types of things I get really excited about. I know I’m like spinning a web of all these different pieces. I can’t.

accurately, you know, can fully unpack on a podcast, but hopefully it gives people a sense of the ways this could go.

JP Madrid

Definitely. I think as you continue to say, it’s like the simplest technologies and what is making the most impact. I think about like government websites that people are not thinking about. Someone went through the process of designing this, tested it and everything, but those are the types of things that are serving the bigger populations. And it might have not taken a lot of technology to light the White House in…

rainbow colors, but the impact that did to people individually and culturally is so much greater than I think anyone can imagine when you’re in that position.

Meara McNitt
I also think, you know, you… No, no, you go ahead.

Ashleigh Axios
Like I said, for better or for worse, I’ll go ahead.

Ashleigh Axios
Oh, I was, I was just gonna kind of joke that like for better or for worse, right? Like we, um, I say like now so many marketers are also like, you know, they’re like, well, it’s June and so everything’s in rainbow colors and you’re like, okay. I like a certain point, just this lacks meaning. You’re just, you know.

Meara McNitt
Yeah.

JP Madrid

Obama did it first. You don’t have to do it just because you’re a, I don’t know, a coffee brand.

Meara McNitt
Ha ha ha.

Ashleigh Axios
I don’t know that the soda is better because it’s in rainbow colors. We do want to have support, so it’s making sure that there’s real connection and value there. But I would rather have rainbows everywhere than no rainbows anywhere, so I’m not even mad about it.

Meara McNitt
It’s a great point. And then, I mean, you have companies like Target who got called out for their rainbow capitalism, so they started partnering with queer designers and creators to make actually in the community designs. So that was, you know, that’s.

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah, to make those investments, to pay people from the communities that they’re lifting up. It’s like, don’t just lift up symbolically. Like, you know, we have real needs. Yeah.

Meara McNitt
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, but when you’re talking about how you did this thing and then you didn’t even realize it applied to you then, but that it did, I feel like one thing that everyone doesn’t think about often enough for most people is that disability, that’s the one minority that anyone can join at any time. And so many people don’t focus on accessible design.

be that the colors being legible on an e-reader or posting flat images that e-readers can’t pick up, not having alt text, all this stuff. So you make an excellent point that like, doing the good thing, even if it doesn’t apply to you, it might, and even if it doesn’t, it still helps someone somewhere along the line. And actually this goes.

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah, never regret making those investments that actually support a broader set of people outside of the communities that you’re part of. It’s always gonna pay off for people at large in some way.

Meara McNitt
Yeah.

I think a lot of the tech sphere is very focused on being disruptive right now. And you have to ask, who am I disrupting? And is this actually a good thing? But this goes pretty well into my next question. So what strategies can designers use to ensure they’re creating equitable solutions that meet and reflect the needs of the wide spectrum who live in this country and around the world?

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah, I think a big part of it is kind of getting down and shifting our mental models, so not working from a position of, I can fix it. It’s not about, you know, we’re facilitators, we’re bringing certain skillsets to the table, but we’re at our best as designers when we’re working in deep collaboration with other practices, skills, and with the broad set of kind of members of a community or user group that are actually going to be.

impacted by a decision. So I think an important thing is shifting that mental model from, I made this power ownership kind of control into, you know, a mindset of facilitation, support, bringing in humility and openness to learn and then taking in those principles of kind of

Ashleigh Axios
with and not just for really working hard to flip those power dynamics in every aspect that we can across the design process so that we’re not, I’ve got this project now I’m just gonna swoop in. Like you were saying, right, disrupt your world. Because now we’re ready to solve your problem. Oh, you’re not ready? Doesn’t matter. We’re ready to solve your problem. Like you have five minutes to tell us the issues and

JP Madrid

Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
we’re going to go in a corner and make some solutions. Like nothing about that, that works. I think at our best we’re supporting and we’re acting as that supportive layer. We’re really honest and transparent about the scope that we have and the commitment we’re making and the level of involvement that we have so that folks can make their own decisions with how much they want to engage with us. You kind of mentioned the disability community, right?

You know, the phrase, obviously it’s been around for a lot longer in the Latin, but it really became known as a calling card for the disability rights community. It’s like nothing about us without us. Like, you know, really just engaging deeply in this work has been so much of what folks have asked for from designers. And I think it’s a foundational starting point that can drive much of how we interact, how we…

who we have subcontract to us or we’re kind of paying to collaborate, the way that we recruit to interviews and whether folks from the community are paid, the way we phrase kind of feedback or respond to the types of insights we’re getting to communities that can really indicate whether we see their

personal experiences and recognize that as expertise, or whether we downplay those and way more highly professional quote unquote qualifications over lived experience. Those are the types of things I think are really critical. And those aren’t like specific tasks. They’re not specific flows that anybody has to go through. It’s like the work to kind of adjust, like I said, those mental models that

power everything because once you start to adjust those, you know, I feel like I’m finding new ways to be like, okay, we can improve this email ask, we can improve, you know, everything throughout the process as we go to include communities, think about the folks who are most on the edges, think further ahead about who could be impacted by the work and just engage humbly, deeply, collaboratively.

Ashleigh Axios
to solve the types of problems that will be kind of impacting folks for long times to come.

JP Madrid

Definitely, and it’s like a, I think it’s a labor of love and commitment to it as well. Whenever people ask me about accessibility, I usually tell them, hey, it’s not like a series of check boxes. There are things you can put through a check box, but the work is never complete. I think my favorite thing was when someone asked me, how much do you charge us to integrate accessibility? And I’m like, it’s not like a plugin. It’s not like I’m gonna…

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah.

Meara McNitt
Uh,

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah.

JP Madrid

add a little sheet somewhere. It starts from the beginning and there’s always room for improvement. So I definitely, I like sort of how you addressed it as sort of even how you communicate with people being part of that.

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah. I mean, certainly like follow the best practices, but a lot of those need to go further, right? Like ADA policies are a solid starting point, but we’re trying to go beyond that. You know, you could hit those like AA, AAA, but you know, you could, you could make a PDF as accessible as possible. And then there’s always like, was the PDF the right format? Like, you know, for it to be in, to begin with, and we remediated it. We made it as.

JP Madrid

Bye.

Ashleigh Axios
you know, as accessible as possible. What, you know, um, so it’s kind of going back to the core. I think it helps me, um, and, and kind of my team be able to think on a really regular basis, um, yeah. And those retros that we have always, like, what have we learned? What we, what could we improve for next time? You know, who did we leave out of the process? The folks that we involved, are we, are we, um,

asking the right questions, giving them enough space to be really learning the right things. Cause you’re right, it’s not a checklist type of challenge. We could have a hundred folks, the disability community, test a product that we’re launching. But if that testing criteria ask the wrong questions, we’re not gonna get to that.

JP Madrid

Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
to the heart of the problem. And we’re probably gonna create a lot more frustration than we’re actually solving. So sometimes folks really wanna do the right thing, but start at too high of a level versus starting really in the center with the values and the core and the thinking of the group. So I like to start there and then we’re constantly iterating and pushing the envelope on everything that kind of comes out from those concentric circles that ripple.

JP Madrid

Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
from the center.

JP Madrid

Definitely. And now talking a bit about the work you’re currently doing, because you mentioned your team. I know you’ve been hard at work after leaving the White House and you also are automatic for a period of time, which we love WordPress. And you built Co-Forma with your business partner, Eduardo, and y’all partner both with private businesses and with government agencies to sort of give that mix of both

love for public service with less of the red tape maybe that you encounter in the private sector. So, specifically with whenever you’re working with government agencies, what has been your experience in improving their services and how open have they been to that change?

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah. So I guess to back up one step to like Eduardo and I both worked in government. So we know deeply, you know, we talked a little bit about mine, but we know deeply kind of what it can be like in government and some of the blockers and some of the challenges that different types of civil servants have in trying to make change in those ecosystems. Part of the reason we made Coforma as a business was in part because they were blockers that were going in and the kind of administration at the time that weren’t

allowing us to continue to make change on some things that we had gotten really great connections with, that we knew there was a lot of progress that could be made that we’re really passionate about, just given the politics and the mandate coming from the top down. So areas like immigration reform, as one example. So part of our kind of working both with folks outside of government and inside of government was in part to make sure that we could continue working on still civic issues.

even when the government itself was a blocker. And that can be incredibly empowering to some of those civil servants who are embedded and are like, help me, I’m still trying to make change, but I don’t have permission to do certain things and I’m limited right now to say, okay, we’re working with this nonprofit and this private sector company, we’re gonna help tackle this area of understanding the…

you know, immigration landscape, while you’re not able to do that research internally, we’ll at least keep the progress going right on the outside. So that once you get that approval internally, you’ve got more to work with. You don’t feel like you’ve just lost ground. You’ve lost four years or however long it ended up being. And so part of that was intentional for us to be able to see progress made and we’re able to find some of those opportunities and projects like.

our immigration policy tracking project where we worked with a professor and lawyer steeped in the immigration space who had tracked every action taken on immigration by the Trump administration so that it could be like some of that stuff could be rolled back. People could know the timelines for those pieces. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds across different agencies.

Ashleigh Axios
the justice system within the executive office. And he started with just spreadsheets, but we were able to work with him, even while we’re kind of to a degree, like counter to some of what was happening politically, we’re able to track a lot of that stuff, help him develop a policy. And he’s actually, now he got awards for kind of launching this amazing platform that’s being used by the government now. And he’s actually working inside the federal government to get under a different.

JP Madrid

Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
administration. So there’s a lot more, you know, collaboration. Sometimes I think it feels like the only way to make civic change is just working with a federal government, but we see it as kind of a real, we see it as incredibly important, especially given the way that our democracy is structured, to see those connections in and outside of the federal, you know, those federal roles specifically. But we like to think that also makes us a, you know, good

partners to those folks within federal agencies who need that outside support. Sometimes they can use our services for external credibility, because we can point to things that are happening in the private sector. We can help them navigate some of the red tape because we’ve done it directly from our time in government, or we found other strategies, other teams that have kind of precedent that they can use to move things forward.

JP Madrid

Thank you.

Ashleigh Axios
So we tend to take a hybrid approach when it comes to working with the government to improve services. And there are certainly some groups where you’re just doing things really bad. We won’t partner directly with you, but we’ll work in other ways to try to keep progress happening. You know, it sounds like it’s some weird covert actions that we’re taking and it’s really just civic service stuff, just working around a team that may be dysfunctional for a time or something like that.

And then there are other groups where we know the people understand human centered design, they’re passionate, they’re dedicated, they’re experienced, and we’ll just directly work with them in partnership or we’ll listen to them about the things that they’re blocked on and look for those opportunities externally where we can maybe help unblock them. And we found the more creative that we can be as business owners and problem solvers.

the more we’re able to make change and show a ton of different examples. We’ve even done, I don’t know if any of this means stuff to you, but we’ve even done like, you know, human centered design training exercises for government, um, procurement officers who are in charge of deciding which vendors for a group to choose who are each saying that they do human centered design. They’re like, I don’t know. You know, like.

JP Madrid

Hehehe

Ashleigh Axios
We’re in charge. They all submitted proposals. Like how are we supposed to know who’s saying, you know, who’s BSing us? Who’s giving us real information. Who’s going to do a good job. How do you, how do you measure this stuff? We’ve done like deep training where we’re like, we’re not making money off of this training, but you getting this right. It’s like so important for the entire ecosystem and like not just giving some like big vendor who speaks a good game and like, it’s totally just going to sit on this money.

JP Madrid

Yeah.

Meara McNitt
Yeah.

JP Madrid

Has a nice deck. Ha ha ha.

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah, yeah. So, you know, I think designers going into the space, we have a kind of leg up on others because we are able to think so creatively. We’re like, yeah, we will help an agency come up with a new procurement process or help an agency think through, you know, ways to give

direct awards to communities that might not otherwise feel like they can directly partner with the government because that barrier to contributing is too high. So those types of challenges I think are more the as a business owner now, some of the like creative organizational design, problem solving opportunities that I find myself in on a daily basis. And they’re really just about overcoming.

JP Madrid

Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
you know, organizational people, blockers, and finding ways to empower those who are really ready with inside that space.

JP Madrid

I love that. I think it really resonates to some of the values that we share at Online Optimism, where one of them is to better our communities. And I think it’s really important to have people with that sort of love for the people they have around them, because even as you said, you’re not charging me for an exercise, but if you’re bettering the ecosystem, it comes back tenfold. So.

Meara McNitt
Yeah.

Ashleigh Axios
Well worth it.

JP Madrid

Cool, well I think that is all of our questions. Meara, I don’t know if you had any final comments.

Meara McNitt
Yeah, thanks so much for joining us today, Ashleigh. I feel like I learned a lot, and I really love the direction that this conversation went in. You have a, I love everything you have to say about the moral goodness that can come with design. So if our listeners wanted to find you or Kaforma on social media, where would they go to do that?

Ashleigh Axios
Thank you.

Ashleigh Axios
Yeah, you can find Co-forma at Co-forma Co. That’s C-O-F-O-R-M-A-C-O across different various social media platforms. And yeah, my name is Ashleigh Axios, so the first name, you know, spells Ashleigh a little bit differently, but you’ll find me in searches. I’m not too worried about it. Axios is a fairly unique last name. I’m not gonna spell it out.

JP Madrid

Just Google who lit up the White House in rainbow colors. Well.

Meara McNitt
Hahaha.

Ashleigh Axios
But thank you all so much for having me. I hope this is useful for your audience. And I really want to see more and more folks get involved in this space and this ecosystem. So I’m always very happy to point people in direction if they’re struggling to find a way to get involved totally separate from my business or me specifically. I’m here to help people navigate and find a way to get into this space. So I appreciate the platform and your thoughts.

questions today.

JP Madrid

Awesome, thank you. Cool, all right, I guess that’s a wrap.

Meara McNitt
All right, Kat, are we good to? All right, so what do we need to do now, Kat?

What is Online Offscript?

Online Offscript is Online Optimism’s official podcast. We created the show to dive deeper into trending topics online. As an agency that works primarily through web-based platforms and media channels, we love to stay up to date on what is influencing the space we work so heavily in.

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