Planet-centred design training with Defra

Developing design teams’ ability to understand the impact of design decisions on the environment
A photo of a field in the British countryside

The Defra user-centred design team (UCD) works across a variety of services, ranging from flood warning systems, and governing food businesses to processing requests for pet passports.

In the environmental department, the UCD team champions the effort to move towards planet-centred design practice within government. Defra already does amazing work, winning awards for their work leading on things like carbon-neutral ICT in government digital services. The aim of our training was to further develop design teams’ abilities to ask questions and spot opportunities that benefit the planet.



“It’s almost a muscle memory to do this in an environmentally-conscious way, and put that to the fore instead of an added bonus”

DEFRA UCD team member
an image with illustrations showing 8 qualities of planet-centred design: 1. zoom in and out 2. work with nature 3. norms, power and values 4. Inclusive of all 5. Collaborate 6. Reduce, reuse, recycle 7. Challenge the status quo 8. opportunities and inspiration

Hands-on training sessions to develop practical skills

The training programme consisted of six interactive training modules, first introducing planet-centred design, then focusing on specific key areas:

  • Introduction to planet-centred design
    Understanding the main issues, the role of design in tackling them, and the core values behind planet-centred design.
  • Framework for designing sustainable products and services
    Drawing on Snook’s principles for designing sustainable services, this module explores rules and guidance for designing with the planet in mind that can be applied to any project.
  • Running a design project with the planet in mind
    Key opportunities, tools and prompts to include the climate at key project stages. From project scoping to addressing known causes of environmental concern.
  • Sustainable digital design
    Practical tips and methods from the Snook digital team’s experience of sustainable UX and interaction design. Including examples, challenges and lessons learnt. 
  • Designing sustainable behaviours
    Key principles and frameworks of behavioural science, to understand whether and how to nudge users into adopting sustainable behaviours.
  • Building a community of practice
    Exploring how the team might build a community of practice to maintain momentum and continue learning and working together.

Each module included a practical exercise and participants were encouraged to discuss topics and reflect on how they could be applied in their current or recent projects. 

The modules were designed for multi-disciplinary teams and tailored to Defra’s needs.



The Defra team started applying learnings in their work and projects immediately after the training. For example, some had conversations with technology partners in order to choose more sustainable tools and platforms, and are also collaboratively working with GDS to review the Service Standards in order to include environment-related targets.

They also shared learnings and methods with other government departments, and are gathering case studies and examples of planet-centred design in action to share best practice more widely, with the aim of making it become common practice across government.

If you’d like to find out about how to get planet-centred design training where you work, read more here

A screengrab of a workshop activity about the 8 qualities of planet-centred design, showing lots of digital post it notes clustered under each heading