James has six years' experience as a Content Marketer, bylines on Left Foot Forward, Submittable, and INOMICS, and a Master's in History. In his free time he likes to read, play guitar, and write for his personal blog.
Angela Roche is the creative director and cofounder of Design By Day, an independent design and digital agency based in Manchester, UK. Their projects span across industries and also charitable causes, including both local and global organisations such as NHS, Brother, The Rivers Trust, The Great British Butcher…
In this interview, Angela shared with us tips on leveraging team communication, using digital for meaningful causes, and her favourite Mailbutler features for the ultimate email workflow!
Hi Angela! Please tell us a little bit more about what you do. What’s the story behind ‘Design by Day’?
Design By Day is a brand and digital agency based in sunny (at the moment), musical & creative Manchester, UK. We specialise in creating brands with personality, websites with clarity & animations with character! We’ve been around since 2009 and just about to enter our 10th year which is pretty damn exciting!
DBD sprung to life after an impromptu conversation with a friend, over few summertime beers in Sackville park in Manchester — 6 months later we set up in business together. I use the term ‘business’ loosely as that really wasn’t our focus or priority back then — we were fuelled purely by passion for our craft and the excitement of working together.
Walk us through an average work day at the DBD studio. How much planning is involved?
There is no ‘real’ average day I guess. Major planning is carried out at the start of each project — we roughly map out the next few weeks ahead to give us an idea of availability/capacity.
Some tasks are planned either weekly or daily depending on project stage. Work crits also tend to be pretty impromptu depending on project phase!
How do you maintain close communication with clients and also within the team?
Collaboration & communication is key, and having the right tools to do so is essential — both internally and ensuring that clients are always kept in the loop and up to date. A strong process also helps: before and during each project, we educate our clients on the processes involved and what to expect at each stage.
I’m a big fan of meeting face to face — I get a much better sense of the client, their needs and the project if we’re sat in the same room together.
Regular team catch-ups are a must. Not just about projects — but as a way of knowledge sharing, a forum to share ideas and address issues and to focus the direction.
Even in a small team, things can get miscommunicated or lost in translation — which can have obvious impacts on productivity and client satisfaction.
Tools and apps are great and all — but ultimately communication is about relationships and human interaction.
How is the work culture in Manchester, and at DBD?
We’re based in the Northern Quarter, the heart of Manchester’s creative scene. There’s creative / tech events going on all the time — there’s also a heck of a lot of coffee shops and bars around here — so we’re spoilt for choice if we need a change of scenery or a beer after work.
Admittedly I’m not the best when it comes to my own work life balance — but culture-wise we promote a healthy work / life balance amongst the team!
Of course there’s always those occasions when a big push is needed to get a project across the line and there’s no other option than to work late — but there is no culture of staying late ‘just because’ here!
How do you overcome a creative block?
Without a doubt, the best tip I have is to just put it down for a while. Honestly, ideas come when you least expect them. If possible after a team brief, let it settle, get on with something else, and sleep on it — you’ll be surprised how good a trick this is!
Please share with us some tools that are absolutely essential in your workflow.
There are certain tools that help us out for all projects, the key ones being Teamwork Projects, Slack, Harvest, Forecast and of course Mailbutler.
For websites, InVision and Bugherd are great for collaboration and sharing of contextual feedback both between the team and our clients. We use Boords, Wipster and Vimeo for animation projects.
What do digital, technology and time mean to you at this day and age?
Over the years we’ve realised that as a team we get the most satisfaction on working for worthwhile causes and businesses we buy into as individuals. These tend to be charities, education, local businesses, arts organisations and brands with a similar ethos to our own.
Where focus goes, energy flows. It’s up to us to use our creative and digital superpowers for good or evil.
Let’s talk about emails — how many do you receive a day? Do you follow an email routine?
A lot! There’s quite a bit of time spent in my inbox. Mailbutler is an important part of my email workflow. I use SaneBox to prioritize emails by breaking them down into ‘Important’ and ‘Later’, and use Mailbutler for composing and scheduling.
Some of my colleagues open their inbox twice a day: once in the morning and once after lunch, so that they can fully focus on the project or task they are working on — I think this is a healthy habit!
How do you use Mailbutler to leverage your workflow?
There are a lot of great features with Mailbutler — and they keep growing.
My favourite feature is the Undo Send, which is now its own standalone plugin - it’s literally a lifesaver. You know that feeling when you’ve just hit send and you realise that you have spelt someone’s name wrong, half finished a sentence or copied in the wrong person? Well it’s like a second chance to put that right!
Another big favorite is Email Templates. This is why I started using Mailbutler in the first place. I wanted to extend Mac Mail’s capability so that I could quickly insert snippets of text that I tend to use over and over again, such as info requests/instructions / general replies … A great time saver Send Later is a biggie for my work/life balance. It’s inevitable that I’m going to write emails at evenings and weekends, but I want to keep my communication with in work hours and not set unreal expectations with my clients. I’ll normally schedule it for the next working day.
Lastly — What’s one important advice that made a significant change to your workflow?
Balance. It makes you a better person, better colleague and better creative!
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