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Q&A: Head Of Interactive Design at Ordnance Survey Ben Scott-Robinson

Q&A: Head Of Interactive Design at Ordnance Survey Ben Scott-Robinson
Sunday May 11 2014

When you think of Ordnance Survey, traditional paper maps are probably the first thing that spring to mind. By Amy Edwards

But these days their products are now very much part of the digital world and are being used right across smartphones, tablets and desktops by millions of people all over the world every day.

Over the last few years the £120-million-a-year organisation has been expanding their digital teams at their head offices in Hampshire rapidly – and this year, they’re focusing on growing their digital design team in a bid to improve the overall user experience of their digital and mobile products.

Last week I got the chance to chat to Ordnance Survey’s Head of Interactive Design Ben Scott-Robinson about the roles on offer and the candidates they’re looking for.

Q: Tell us a bit about the design roles that are on offer at Ordnance Survey…
At the moment we’ve got four different design roles available at our head office in Southampton – two in visual design and two in user experience design. With these roles, the focus is going to be on taking the complex needs of our different audiences and distilling them down into simple, usable products.

It’s also going to be on creating simple, usable effective products that are going to be used by millions of people on a daily basis – not throwaway products that are going to be used once and never looked at again.

Our products are used by people in every sector imaginable – from cyclists planning their routes, to a top five supermarket deciding where to build their next outlet, or government ensuring boundaries are correct before election.

Q: What are the main focuses of the roles going to be?
A major focus is obviously going to be on designing mobile products – and it’s worth mentioning that for Ordnance Survey at the moment, we’re starting with mobile products – ensuring our maps and products can work on smartphones and tablets – and working out from there. Mobile is very much our focus right now – along with taking a look at our digital products overall and asking how we can make them more usable and accessible for our customers.

With these roles it’s definitely not about starting from the bottom. Ordnance Survey already has the products in place – so the challenge isn’t going to be on starting from scratch. Instead, the focus is going to be on improving these existing products, especially mobile products, from a user point of view.

Q: And the challenges?
In terms of challenges, the successful candidates are going to be tasked with helping the brand to become mobile/digital first. As I said earlier, it’s about taking the complex needs of our customers and then building simple, usable products around these needs – so the successful candidates are going to be responsible for leading the way to drive the brand forwards from a digital/usability perspective.

Q: What can the visual design and UX design roles available at Ordnance Survey offer candidates?
First and foremost they’ll be offered freedom and the chance to work in a semi-autonomous team that has the full trust and support from the overall organisation. The roles at Ordnance Survey also offer candidates the chance to create something from the ground-up and the opportunity to build something they couldn’t elsewhere.

What’s more; they offer the opportunity to take a user-centred and a lean/agile approach to the design challenges within the business.
This is a rare opportunity to compete on an even playing field with some of the biggest names in digital innovation. There are not only huge resources at Ordnance Survey but huge possibilities.

Q: Some of the roles are suitable for graduates – so does this mean there’s room to progress?
Yes, absolutely. I believe UX and visual design to be a sustainable growth area so with the associate design roles we’ve got available, I’d say there’s definitely room for candidates to progress, learn and grow within the organisation.

Q: What are the key qualities you’re looking for from candidates?
Firstly I want to see a real passion for the roles. I want to hear from candidates who have a deep desire to learn about UX and visual design as a whole – and who have a strong desire to create products that people use every day. What’s more, the successful candidates will also be able to express an interest in the specifics of how maps work – so I’m really looking for candidates to send in examples of UX design examples and engagement and design that they’ve worked on first hand. I don’t want to see portfolios of designs where candidates have maybe just designed one icon – I want to see projects which they’ve owned and have really invested a lot of time and effort into.

We think the opportunities we’ve got available offer candidates a real chance to grow as a designer – so we’re looking for talented people who want to create products which become an everyday part of people’s lives.

Click here to find out more about UX design and visual design vacancies available at Ordnance Survey today.