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A day in the life of a creative director

Team

A day in the life of a creative director

Meetings, thinking, designing, mentoring and laughing – Creative Director James Dellar describes his role and gives us some insights into what a typical day looks like at Cambridge web design agency Onespacemedia.


Describe your role at Onespacemedia
First of all I’m a designer but in my role as creative director I provide direction, support and guidance to the design department. Whether it’s storyboarding a 3D animation or designing a corporate brochure, I work with my team to ensure that what we deliver to our clients is of the highest standard. With digital projects I also assist our other departments such as the development team by overseeing micro-interactions and how our designs are implemented in the code. As well as my management role I still like to spend time designing and experimenting.

We run an internship programme at Onespacemedia which allows students to take their first steps into the world of design. I'm responsible for mentoring design candidates and ensuring that they’re armed with as much industry experience as we can possibly give.

What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
As you can imagine it’s very busy! My day normally starts before I'm in the office; once I’m up and ready, I make a coffee and I’m straight onto laptop to check for any new emails, catch up on my go-to design feeds and inspiration galleries - then I’m ready for the day. It’s obviously essential for me to be up to date with all the latest trends and technologies so that we can produce the best, forward-thinking work for our clients.

Once I’ve made my way into work my day can vary significantly, but I always start off catching up with the rest of the teams in our ‘daily sprint’ meeting. This is when we discuss the status of all our live projects, upcoming meetings, impending deadlines and go over the plan for the day. Once the designers and developers are briefed I get on with my own design projects.

There’s usually at least one client meeting every day, and as Creative Director I tend to be involved in a wide range of meetings and phone calls. This evolves into managing multiple projects for my team and delegating tasks to the relevant team members.

What values do you need to be a Creative Director?
Patience, passion, humility, and drive. Without these, I don’t think I’d be where I am today! These virtues keep the design team and myself grounded as we strive to push project boundaries further. Good communication is vital too. The design process can involve a large team of people, both internal and external; communication plays a huge part in directing and motivating the team and is essential in conveying the ‘grand vision’ to all stakeholders. It also helps to build great and long-lasting client relationships. 

A Creative Director needs to be organised! Project and time management are essential to keep projects on track and on budget. We all track our time through the Harvest application and use 37Signal’s Basecamp to share milestones, project files, and share message feeds so that the project lead can see exactly where we are within the process and plan accordingly. We also use an instant messaging system called Slack which is extremely helpful.

It’s more of an approach than a value, but you need to be able look at every project holistically and be able to envisage from the outset how the creative idea will translate across a wide range of mediums and formats. For example, a website can behave differently on a mobile device compared to a large monitor. It’s my job to ensure that there is uniformity from the start.

What tools do you use to help you do your job?
At Onespacemedia we all use Apple computers and there are some fantastic creative apps available to assist designers of all levels. We use Adobe’s Creative Cloud for all of our creative work. We also use tools like Marvel, invision and Slicy to assist us in the creative process. My daily tools can vary from using the Adobe Creative Cloud suite to wireframe and design an international money transfer application, to discussing a new branding project with a client in San Francisco using Skype, or using Marvel to talk through an interactive prototype with a client. 

What’s the secret to developers and designers working well together?
There isn’t necessarily a secret. There’s a great relationship between all the teams at Onespace. We work in an open plan office so there is a lot of osmosis. From a designer’s perspective regular iteration rounds are vital to ensure that we design what’s necessary for the development team to complete their work as efficiently as possible. We work together as a team from the start, so we all have an understanding of the client, the targeted audiences, related sector knowledge, the project and its objectives. This helps to ensure that there are no surprises later in the project cycle and it also means that a developer would never be handed a bunch of design files and told to build it without having met the client.   

What do you like most about your job?
They say that variety is the spice of life and my job has it in abundance! We work with a wide range of clients, across different sectors and on projects of different sizes and I like the way that no two days are the same. 

For me job satisfaction comes from hearing great feedback from clients, users and our peers. One of the best parts of the job is pushing a client out of their comfort zone and achieving a sector-leading outcome they’ve been a part of and are happy with it. That’s worth coming to work for every day. 

Which project are you most proud of?
I tend not to dwell after a project is complete — it’s important to maintain momentum and keep the drive and push forward on to the next project. However, we go for a celebratory lunch or drinks when a project is complete. 

If I had to choose one project I'd say Camfed's website redesign because of the client's dedication and passion for the project. This enthusiasm was shared at Onespacemedia and we all wanted to deliver a site of exceptional quality that would have a direct impact on the lives of girls and women in Africa. It was also great to see that the site dramatically increased donation revenues, one of the core aims of the new site.

I’m proud of every project that leaves the Onespacemedia office. I see first hand the amount of hard work that goes into each project from all my colleagues in all departments. Everybody wants to deliver a high quality product for the client, whatever its size. 

What’s it like working at Onespacemedia?
The company has grown dramatically over the last few years and it’s great to see that some things haven't changed: we work on complex projects for serious clients but we still enjoy what we do. There's a lot of laughter in the studio which helps to pull the team together. We have a great culture here and that’s matched by a great team - I think that’s obvious when you walk into the studio. Everybody gets on so well that it really doesn’t feel like work. We’re all invested in pushing our work as far as we can and giving the client a great experience. So why not have some laughs along the way?