Part 2 of 3

In the previous post I looked at how GDS’s original ‘Trust, Users, Delivery’ motto was used to communicate concisely the collective direction and culture of the organisation. The sum of the words were stronger than their individual messages, but in effect formed the constraints within which transformation could successfully happen.

Taken together, the words make up the three elements of a formula for GDS’s digital transformation effort. If the focus is on meeting users’ needs, trusting our methods and delivering value, digital transformation can occur.

But what is it about the phrase that makes it so memorable and understandable?

It might be its echoes of Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle of appeal, which speechwriters use to make their writing really land with an audience.


Pathos is the appeal to people’s emotions. Writing deals with pathos when it has an emotional impact, and you can stir people’s emotions when you remind them that all their work is for the benefit of users. Everyone cared (and still care) about making things better for users.


Logos is the appeal to logic, presenting logical reasons to your case. At the time, agile methods and disruptive innovation were causing huge change in the tech sector. GDS set about to prove that you could apply the same techniques to transforming government. Hence, the strategy was delivery. Everyone had used these methods before.


Ethos is the appeal to authority and reputation of the speaker or writer, which can be transferred in tone. To present oneself as empathetic and understanding, speak about others and their needs – which inspires trust. Everyone was aiming for the same goal.

So, when it was uttered, the phrase would remind you

  • we’re making change happen for the benefit of the country
  • we’re making change happen with methods we know will work, and
  • we’re making change happen together.

It tells both the why and the how. Short, memorable phrases like this are easy to recall in tense, high-risk moments, making it an effective communication. It not only makes sense, it works too.

Next I’ll talk about how short memorable phrases make excellent propaganda.

Read part 3.