A design week with California College of the Arts

A week on a project is a luxury for me. Running an agency and overseeing creative is great, it's a challenging, varied and rewarding job, but I still love doing what got me here, working intensely on exciting design projects. And when that week is in soft, sunny, hazy San Francisco and the project is for one of the world’s top art colleges, well, so much the better.

We’re enjoying halcyon days in our relationship with our new client, California College of the Arts and we’ve just spent a design focused week at their campuses in San Francisco and Oakland: part project immersion, part design briefing, part design sprint. 

Working with them has its pros and cons: it’s wonderfully inspiring to be around such a body of creative people doing such exciting work, but I can't help wanting to quit the day job and study furniture design (or an almost infinite number of equally appealing alternatives) for a couple of years.

Diary of the week


  • Research presentation - Our research report from the last month's UX research work
  • Brand room - CCA has an exciting and evolving new brand. We’re going to be setting the standard for online implementation of the brand, so we needed to get to know it a bit better.
  • Creative positioning (Marketing and Faculty) - A session with faculty members and our direct clients in marketing to discuss visual tone, design direction, and design patterns
CCA Student in Workshop

CCA student in discussion in one of our workshops


  • Creative positioning (Students) - The same session, but with students. They proxied for the key prospective student audience. We wanted to see if they were aligned with the staff. Mostly they were.
  • Digest and plan - We needed to decide what to focus the design sprint on and what were we going to aim to achieve by the end of the week.


  • Tour - A guided tour of the relaxed, leafy Oakland campus with its studios, glass furnaces, metalworking, and ceramics ‘shops’.
  • Prototyping - Heads down for a few hours planning and prototyping in the corner of a stolen office on campus
  • R&R - The team split in the evening, half heading off to watch the San Jose Sharks against the Philly Fliers in the NHL, while the others took in some freestyle story-telling at Berkeley.
Test trolley

The user testing trolley


  • Tour - A guided tour of the San Francisco campus from the man responsible for the design of the existing building and the big plans they have for the next few years, Director of Campus Planning, David Meckel.
  • User testing - We'd been developing an idea through paper prototyping so we set up a test trolley (thanks Eli) in the main thoroughfare to do some testing, we managed a quick iteration and a second test. We also did some prioritisation with our testers to help identify top tasks.
  • Prototyping - Get some stuff done for tomorrow. Where’s the week gone? Late night!


  • 9:00 am, the big presentation - We’ve condensed what we've learnt into 8 design principles. These are illustrated with brand interpretation and layouts designed to spark conversation and debate, and prototypes showing animations, transitions, and other ‘delightful’ micro-interactions - a feature of what we hope to bring to the site. We also demoed a couple of technical features we’d prototyped including zoomable, high-resolution photos (good for seeing detail of artwork or architectural drawings).
  • Wrap-up, next steps and a well-earned drink.
The big room

Pretty good space for our presentation!

In amongst all this, Tom managed to talk Wagtail with Google, Netlify, and Huge. And, we spent our final day with friends and oldest clients Ralph and Lisa Lazar of Last Lemon. Ralph took us mountain biking in Marin County, where the sport started, on the world famous Tamarancho trail. It was epic, sadly my typing is going to be a bit slower for six weeks. Great trip though.

Broken hand

Six weeks in this...

Does your digital offer need some creative input?

We've delivered intranets and websites for Oxford University and The Royal College of Art among others. If you're interested in how we could help you, why not take a look at our experience. If you'd like to speak to a friendly and knowledgeable person, then contact Will who'll be happy to talk things through.