‘Chronicles of a Head of Digital’ – 16

Following up from my last Chronicle, the launch of the website, I thought I’d expand upon a certain part of the project. The design bit – or more accurately, the concepts bit.


Having sat through hours of strategy and planning, we entered the design stages of the project. And we opened this up to the client’s design team as an agency/client working party. Often a recipe for disaster. But to be brutally honest, I was blown away by my client’s team’s response.


My brief was deliberately woolly, and was the usual forget about the end assets, forget about what is possible (to an extent), and forget about Shutterstock/iStock. I don’t want any of that.

I want ideas, thoughts, spaces and emotions; I want to know who you are visually. Do it with pens, pasta, PVA glue and board, Stickle Bricks, however you want. Just do something that says who you are to me, from your insider’s view.


My opening creative briefs are always designed to deliberately challenge and combat the approach. I am a massive fan of starting afresh, and not designing from a stock photo search. Anyone can do that. I want you to pull it apart and then rebuild. How you rebuild at this point is unimportant, I just need to know what and who YOU are.

They are supposed to help designers design, not search. There is enough science in the wings to then bring sense and order back to the creative to make it work as end things. That next phase, the bringing a concept into an order, is supposed to be – should be – tricky. It should challenge as much as the creation of the concept. And low and behold, this time it worked out beautifully. Passion was everywhere.

The concept was presented with cardboard frames, acetate and a backdrop of sunlight. There was a flip book at one point, and not a stock image in sight. WOW I thought, the first time I had worked with this creative team and it’s usually hard to get a me brief first time, but this time they hit the nail on the head.

They got the idea, they got everyone to see how it worked, and how it said what it’s supposed to say and to whom. And like all great concepts, having pushed it through enough of my science, many mangles to flatten it out into web pages, applied enough UX and wireframes too and all the usual bits that designers usually hate me for in distilling their ideas, but this time… not wishing to speak on their behalf but I think the power of the concept has won out and the end result uses it well.

Moral of the tale: throw away preconceptions, forget about the end placement, and trust what you feel. Oh and use the right people in the right place. This for me is a very important process, start with ideas every time, and work them upwards and through. You need a concept to grow from, not a royalty-free image.


Anyways, I’m not connected to all the team over at Barton Willmore on LinkedIn (faux pas), so to show them off why not go to their page and that relational data we built in should show you who they are.

Keep ‘em peeled for Aaron, Ady and Jon.

Anyhow, hats off peeps for trusting in my ways and hoping you are still happy with it after all this time in development.