By now you probably know that I’m the person responsible for all design work produced here at Illustrate – just looking at a picture of me should show that I’m the expressive and creative one amongst us!
I feel lucky that my years of working with developers as a freelancer on my own, paired with my attempt at learning to code, are being put to great use at Illustrate.
Being a designer at a development agency means spending half of my time communicating with the development team… and the other half designing the things for them to build (and for clients to love, of course)…
My everyday work really varies according to what phase of the projects we’re at, so here’s a little breakdown of the type of things I get up to in a typical day.
This can vary, but usually comes in the form of face-to-face meetings or video calls with clients. There are two main phases of our design & build projects where I’m in touch with our clients:
- The initial introduction to the project, or the briefing stage. This is where I have the pleasure of getting to know the client and their business, what their needs and challenges are as a business, and what they’re expecting to achieve with their project. This can be anything from figuring out their positioning in the marketplace, to hitting some pretty specific performance targets like lowering bounce rates or getting more visitors to see specific content that drives sales.
- Presentations and concepts, the delivery stage. This is the biiiig meeting for me – it’s when I get to see a client’s eyes light up with all the wonderful things they think about our designs and what an amazing impact they’re going to have on their brand. It’s a nerve-wrecking time for any designer because your heart and soul is poured into this concept and someone’s business and reputation ultimately hangs in the balance. I don’t take this lightly.
Beyond those two main stages we’ll then deliver wireframes and rapid prototypes, mockups and live website demos, all allowing the client to feed into their project and experience it at different stages throughout. It’s super important that they feel a core part of the decision making process, taking in any ideas, concerns and moments of pure joy!
The job of a Digital Designer has plenty of variety and I think it’s a key to staying on your toes and being creative. As well as this, Illustrate have a strong culture of self-management amongst our team, so everyone is expected to be well organised with their own work, rather than forcing someone else to worry about how out of touch you may be with something. So I guess this is where the project management side of my daily work comes in.
On projects that require design, not to blow my own bassoon, I’m pretty central to everything that’s going on. A client either does or doesn’t like something, is or isn’t concerned about something and a developer either has or hasn’t translated the idea into a living version of that functionality properly. There’s a lot going on in the world of web and since a lot of ideas come from the design side of the business, part of my job working alongside Kyle is to make sure everything’s getting done and is on time.
As a team we lean on each other in a really good way, so it’s pretty normal for one of our dev team to check in with me on something they’re working on to make sure it’s something we want to send out to the customer. We call it peer review and it’s a really important part of what we do.
Of course, within project management, it goes back to client communication. We constantly need to make sure the client is up-to-date with timings, deadlines, etc and can rest knowing that everything is on track.
Together the ‘Ginger Ninja’ and I, plan and put the whole project into action. Whilst Kyle takes care of most things technical and the individual task management, I take care of the design side of things; because everything deserves to be pretty!
And, last but not least, I do a lot of actual design work!
Once we have a clear understating of what a client needs, I research, dream, play lots of music from the 80s and come up with a concept that’s thrashed out with the team.
When we know the concept will work and the client agrees that it’s a great idea, we can move onto putting together wireframes for the whole site. It’s like creating the skeleton of the site and helps us pull together something simple pretty quickly, to help show off the structure.
From there I move onto creating the mockups; a coloured-in version of the wireframes where the site comes to life. This is the stage where we decide the highlight colours, image styles, button styles, typeface preferences, icon styles etc. This part really makes me smile, getting to bring a concept to life that for the first time is a real representation of the finished product.
And after this it’s over to our superstar developers to make the rest happen, waiting for me to be picky about the fine details at a later stage! 🙂
For more in this series, check out:
A day in the life of a WordPress Specialist
A day in the life of an Account Manager