A day in the life of a Design Director featuring Cassie Bird at Blueprint Partners

I’m the Design Director at Blueprint Partners, we’re a multi-discipline strategic marketing agency. Together with the Studio Director, Mark, I lead the design team, reporting into me are artworkers, graphic designers, art directors, motion graphics artists, all the people who take a creative concept and make it a reality.

As an agency we specialise in automotive and technology, but no matter the industry, our client’s needs are always individual, so our responses have to be too. Dedicated account teams work closely with each client to understand their objectives and devise the best strategic approach, and together with our experiential, digital, event and design teams, see it through to fulfilment.

Being able to mix and match the skills of specialist teams gives us the opportunity for exciting and very varied work, from sparkling product launches to fulfilling the marketing requirements for a whole dealer network, training, incentives, promotions and everything in between.

As Design Director, my role is to understand the strategic approach and use it to shape our creative output. Guiding each project to not only make sure it communicates the message in the most appealing way but, importantly, stays true to the voice of the brand.

A typical day starts at 07:00. My morning routine is very simple, switch on the radio, jump in the shower, stretch, strong tea, light breakfast and go.

I live and work in South London, so my 5 mile commute takes about 45 minutes. Travelling in London at rush hour isn’t always fun but there is something awesome about being part such a huge daily migration. Listening to music always helps to create a calm, happy mood.

On the train, I check my emails and calendar and start focussing on the day ahead. I’m an avid user of social media, it’s an incredible source of inspiration that lets me follow trends, brands and people I admire.

By 09:00 I’m at my desk. I’m based in our London office, a beautiful old building in leafy Putney. The design team share the first floor with a mix of people from accounts and digital teams. It’s can be quite a lively atmosphere which helps us keep our energy levels bubbling throughout the day.

At 09:20 we have a team meeting to run through current and upcoming jobs. There are usually around 60-70 live projects in the Studio, so planning and communication are crucial.

Spending this time together at the start of the day is vital. It gives the whole team oversight of the aims and objectives of the day ahead, but also provides a forum to share ideas that can help to shape future projects or just get our creative juices flowing. A short and snappy catch up is also a fantastic way to shake off those troublesome commutes and level up focus and energy.

09:40, Mark and I have a quick get together to plan resources; we know what we need to do, now we are going to make sure we have the right people to do it.

We have a versatile, in-house team which we support with specialist freelancers, this allows us to be extremely flexible, accommodating fluctuating workloads and skill sets. Supporting individual development has always been a particular focus at Blueprint, so we always try to structure work to build on our in-house team’s skills.

09:50 Our days are always different as they are built around deadlines, there isn’t a set structure. We produce a huge variety of work, from high concept creative through to fast moving production items, so on any given day we could be developing a brand identity, a digital experience, collateral for an event or a suite of multi-media assets.

They all start with a brief. For us, the brief is the foundation for everything we do. It gives us the opportunity to really understand what we’re trying to achieve, ask any questions, put forward initial ideas. The bad brief doesn’t affect the quality of work but it may affect the budget!

Around 10:00 Fruit snack! Blueprint keeps our vitamins topped up by making sure there are always bowls of fruit in the kitchens.

For the next couple of hours we all have our heads down. An important part of any project is research, sketching and creating mood boards. Sometimes it’s hard to describe a concept, so I use these tools to create a visual language, making it easier to communicate how a pencil sketch will look as a final polished design.

12:00 Quality control. We use a workflow system that logs all documents, updates, proofs and amends against the initial brief. This gives us a centralised way to handle quality control. No work is presented to the accounts teams without at least one quality review.

For some of our clients we have SLAs in place from request to final artwork. This is for marketing materials, advertising, eDMs, stationery. Our workflow and quality process makes that possible.

By mid-morning, the list of proofs to check is usually quite long! I check the artwork against brand, brief and our own design standards. Any amends I mark up are automatically logged in the to do list or if the artwork is good to go the accounts team will be notified.

13:00 Lunch! Step away from the screen! Sometimes it can seem counterproductive to take a break when you’re absorbed in a project, but it’s a necessity.

Apart from eating, I spend this time doing anything that takes my mind off the projects at hand. Having a complete break helps me to reset, take a step back and see things from a fresh perspective.

14:00 I spend a large part of my day reviewing work with and advising members of the team. This is probably the most rewarding part of my role, sitting together and discussing the project they’re working on, helping to guide it and work through options. Watching a wonderful, creative design, (and designer!), develop is very satisfying.

Every Friday at 17:00 the whole company gets together to share news from the week, both business and personal. We share a drink, sometimes we play games and it’s always lovely to have a little time at the end of a busy week to reflect on what we have achieved.

The working day finishes at 17:30… but not always! The nature of our business is that there can often be last minute changes or tight deadlines, and with offices on three continents that can sometimes be amplified. We do work late, sometimes all night but we try and make sure it’s only when we plan to.

Once my working day is done I make a real effort to try and find things to do that don’t involve looking at a screen. Not always easy as I’m a little screen obsessed! At least one evening a week I try to do something cultural, something that’s a little bit different to my usual interests. At the moment I’m a little obsessed with attending talks or lectures, the more obscure the better!

As cliched as it sounds, the most rewarding aspect of my role is a job done well. I love design, it affords infinite opportunity for creative thought. For me, it’s not just a lovely imagery and well set type, design is in a beautifully efficient process or well-thought out plan, it underpins every part of life and can always be made just a little bit more beautiful.

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