Press Release - Crack the code for digital design
Published in the Edinburgh Evening News, printed on March 24, 2016.
Article written by Anna Doyle
Crack the code for digital design
There is much more to a website than good looks
FROM traditional design to coding, problem solving is the key to the creative industry. For anyone hoping to pursue a career in digital design and communications, the ability to find solutions to problems and a flair for art are essential skills.
It was when Graham Stewart, senior digital designer at Edinburgh-based 20/20 Productions discovered a passion for art that he realised there were plenty of different paths he could follow.
“I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to be; plumber, postman, magician and astronaut were all on the list,” says Stewart.
“After leaving school with a keen interest in art and design, I went to Edinburgh’s then Telford College to study graphic and digital design.”
Stewart got his foot on the first rung of the ladder with a job in pre-press department of The Edinburgh Evening News.
His next move came when an old college friend put him forward for a job with his current employer, creative communications agency 20/20 Productions.
“They always say it’s about who you know, and being in the right place at the right time,” he says. “He vouched for me and the rest is history.”
Aside from drinking vast quantities of tea, an average day as head of digital involves managing a team that delivers digital services such as websites, CMS (content management) systems and email campaigns.
“We have also developed three innovative products,” explains Stewart. “Control Tower is a bespoke CMS product, Smoke Signal is a digital signage platform for the events industry and DelegateManager is our event registration system.
“If I’m not working on client- specific projects, my team is continuously developing our products.
“When I’m not at my desk, you’ll find me dominating the foosball table.”
Head of digital is Stewart’s first senior role in the industry but it hasn’t been plain sailing.
“During the last recession, I was made redundant and, as the job market was so competitive, I decided I needed to add more strings to my bow,” he says.
“I am self-taught in web development and website coding. Had I not explored these avenues, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“I was never trained in computer science or coding. Over the last few years, I’ve adapted and expanded my skills so I can now confidently lead a team and successfully deliver product design and website development projects for a wide range of clients.
“I’ve also found learning on the job a great benefit. I’m a big believer in self-development, however this needs to stem from a learned route of knowledge.
“As a trained designer, it was an easy step to understand web design and, from there, development and coding.”
Stewart says that keeping up to date with new products, apps and events is almost a full-time job in itself.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to keep my ear to the ground about what’s happening in the industry, concentrating only on trends and technology that’s useful and connected to keeping our clients at the forefront in this technological age.”
But for career success, independent learning should be supplemented by support from senior figures in the workplace and Stewart has had no shortage of great mentors.
“There have been several people that have helped me in my career,” he says. “My predecessor for the job I currently hold really helped me find my feet in the world of digital.
“As well as teaching me some key lessons and setting me on the right path during the recession, he also gave me my first break on a vast project that kick-started my career
“I’ve also taken a lot of inspiration from big web companies that produce their own software.”
While certain skills are essential for certain roles, it is equally important to enjoy what you do.
“I genuinely love making websites,” says Stewart.
“As a trained designer, I can take a project from start to finish, which is extremely satisfying.
“I am also very passionate about the innovations we develop. I’ve invested deeply in them and our breakthroughs have been a highlight of my career so far.”
The next step on the ladder for Stewart will be to expand the 20/20 Productions team and add more talent to the mix.
“I’d also love to create and develop more apps,” he says.
“It’s every developer’s dream to create something that’s genuinely useful to people – and I don’t mean the next social media app.”