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Belfast design firm recognised for key role in delivering Children’s code design guidance

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17th December 2021

Belfast design firm recognised for key role in delivering Children’s code design guidance

Big Motive wins awards for creating ICO design resources to help make apps and online services safer

A Belfast design company has been recognised for the key role it has played in helping designers and product teams understand new rules aimed at making sure apps and internet services keep children safe online.

Big Motive has won two awards in the Irish Design Institute (IDI) Awards 2021 for its work creating design guidance for a new statutory code of practice launched by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) called the Children’s code, which sets out how apps, and online services likely to be accessed by children should protect them in the digital world. The Children’s code has already led to changes from Google, Facebook and TikTok.

The ICO is the independent UK authority that upholds information rights and data privacy for individuals. Its code says that children’s personal data should be given special treatment when using apps, games, social media platforms, marketplaces and websites and applies to any firm that processes the personal data of children in the UK. It sets out 15 standards organisations must meet to ensure children’s data is protected, such as providing high privacy settings by default, switching off geo-location services and not using nudge techniques or notifications that encourage children to share personal data.

The ICO engaged Big Motive to develop resources that would show how to apply the standards in practice and design services with children’s privacy in mind.

After collaborating with designers, data privacy experts and technology advisors, Big Motive realised every team creates distinct experiences for children in different genres in different ways. Working with the ICO, its response was to create a ‘design guidance service’ with a comprehensive toolkit, comprising do’s and don’ts, checklists, videos and tools that any digital team can use in their design process. Its resources focus on transparency, a common challenge for online services and a key standard within the Children’s code.

The Children’s code design guidance was shared with designers and product teams working on products and services used by children at the ICO’s first design and data protection conference. The event included panellists from a number of the biggest global digital brands, including Google, Facebook and TikTok.

Big Motive was recognised for its work with two awards from the IDI, the first for Service Design and the second in the Design for Good category.

Ali Shah, Head of Technology Policy at the ICO, said: “Big Motive has worked seamlessly with the ICO’s team to deliver the Children's code UX guidance and we’re delighted that the value of the work has been recognised by the design community. It is gratifying that the judges acknowledged that the work will deliver lasting change that will serve the public interest by creating an open, transparent and safe place for children online.”

Rebecca Walsh, director of Big Motive, said: “One in five people who use the internet is a child but the internet was never designed with them in mind. Product teams now have an opportunity to reset how they design online services placing children’s privacy at the centre. The Big Motive team who worked with the ICO are really proud to have created resources that will support those responsible for designing better apps and services.”

Stephen Shaw, director of Big Motive, added: “Designers make important decisions that shape children’s interactions with online services. Applying the code opens up opportunities to design better experiences for children and create safe spaces for children to learn and grow in the digital world. With so much of life now lived online, it is important those who create apps and digital services approach this with an appropriate mindset.”

The Children’s code is viewed as a transformative code of practice that aims to better protect children in the digital world. Technology companies that don’t design services for children in line with new code can face enforcement action from the ICO.


PHOTO CAPTION: Pictured at Big Motive’s office in the Flat Iron building in Belfast are the team who worked on the ICO project (L-R): Maíra Rahme, Jonathan Willis, Carol McHugh, Rebecca Walsh, Rachel Orr & Stephen Shaw.


Big Motive is an award-winning service design and innovation studio that creates future-ready digital services in the areas of health, government, sustainability and social impact. A member of the Global Service Design Network, Big Motive is a Corporate Partner of the UK Design Council and was recently awarded 'best in show' at the UK National Design Week Awards for its work on Northern Ireland’s Covid Response Service for Northern Ireland's Department of Health.


  • The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  • The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018, the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  • The Government included provisions in the Data Protection Act 2018 to create world-leading standards that provide proper safeguards for children when they are online.
  • The 15 standards in the Children’s Code are backed by existing data protection laws that are legally enforceable and regulated by the ICO.