A day in the life of…


The title isn’t very descriptive, did I leave you guessing? Probably not. Anyway, on Tuesday I spent my day in White October, an incredible web design company based in Oxford. They have served customers such as Foyles, Medicine Africa and Oxford University Press. I still can’t believe they let me come in, but I’m very glad they did.


Mum: Hurry up, you’re going to be late for White October!

Me: I’m just coming.

Mum: We need to leave now…

*2 mins later*

Me: I’m ready!!


Receptionist: Hello, welcome to White October!

Me: Hi I’m here for work experience.

Everyone: Oh welcome, welcome. How are you? Can I get you anything? Here’s a desk, here’s some water, here’s a laptop.

IT WAS great, I felt like I was being pampered! Once I’d been allocated a desk, a laptop and various other fancy gadgets, I set to work on some coding exercises from Carl who is currently working on a secret project.

It wasn’t long before the lovely Sarah Plant whisked me away to view some of the work being done on Digital Oxford‘s new website. It still hadn’t been launched at the time, and there was a sense of urgency around the place. I must say, I was very impressed by their work. Taking into account that this organisation is entirely volunteer-led, the work they had done was beyond… beyond… I don’t know, beyond how amazing waffles taste (which is a lot). Behind all the coding was Tomi, who graciously answered all the questions I had about the process. I got to see how they had coded a WordPress theme to edit the style and suit them and also how they had the blog running on an internal server for everyone to break the website on (and then fix it of course). By this, I mean that they de-buged the software. It was pretty cool! After that, I resorted back to my laptop and continued on working through the code exercises, while listening in on a meeting.

I also took some time to evaluate how White October worked as a company, what was different about them and what aspects I really enjoyed. Here’s the list I came up with:

  • I got to sleep until 8:40am, I might actually get some sleep with this job!
  • it only took me 15 minutes to get here, not to bad for a commute!
  • there is a lot more men here than women. Is it hard for women to get into this job?
  • the atmosphere here is so relaxed but still productive. Just having a dog trotting around makes everyone feel calm even when they came in stressed.
  • It’s such a positive place to work where everyone is so kind and helpful and there is a real sense of team effort.
  • I wonder how they manage to get power for so many computers. I might as well mistake this place for Bletchley park!
  • Everyone had an equal say in the project decisions. There was no dictator (thankfully).
  • The head of design is actually a girl! I think I might have to do a happy dance o/
  • There were definitely no ethnic issues in the work place. There were people from all over the world and sometimes I couldn’t even recognise where they were from!
  • Everyone dressed really casual and you managed to feel at home. No one judged you!
  • There were lots of different types of jobs, but they all seemed to be necessary and slot in together to form a perfect environment.

Now is the time to applaud me for my thorough investigation :P. After that analysis, I felt really hungry. Or maybe it was just a coincidence, since it was lunch break. This time, it was a lovely lady called Anna who came to my rescue, whisking me away for a short walk through the streets until Sainsbury’s. Suddenly, this shop seemed like my saviour. I will now take the time to thank White October, who insisted on putting my lunch ‘on the company’. When we got back to the office, I ate my delicious hoisin duck wrap and helped my self to some apple from Abel & Cole, which I thought was a nice touch just to make you feel more at home.

Crash-course-on-design-time! After a really nice, long lunch break, Anna came down and sat with me explaining everything there is to know about design. Let me see what I can remember…

  1. We looked at mood boards and how they were essential for all aspects of design. Before any design could be commenced, you had to look at ideas. Anna explained to me that it helped you develop your idea further, so you could look at the project from different angles. Sometimes, you also didn’t know how to approach things, and mood boards helped you decide how to confront a task. Anna suggested I should try this website called Niice which is a really helpful tool for creating and sharing mood boards on your computer.
  2. Next, Anna took me through Style Tiles, the most Major thing you needed for design. Style tiles help you develop all sorts of ideas about how what you are trying to create might look like. Say you wanted to create a logo. With style tiles, you could explore the types of colours you might use and the various shapes. You might even experiment with the typography of any wording you might have in your logo. With style tiles, you could also play around with various designs for the full logo, and test them out in VECTOR format (very important point in the world of design). Also, using style tiles helps you plan the various aspects of, let’s say, a website. Anna mentioned buttons, links and titles, to name a few.
  3. Anna also suggested to me some very useful websites, such as Colour Scheme Designer, which helps you find colours that go well together, whether contrasting or complementing. She also mentioned Vector Magic that helped you transform bad quality bitmap images to vector quality, for free! For help with logo design, it was Hipster Logo Generator at the top of Anna’s list, with loads of cool features to design a simple but effective logo. If you want to make your own logo, be sure to download Adobe Illustrator, it actually looks amazing! If you want help creating Style Tiles, make sure you don’t forget to stop by this website.

I certainly found these tips very useful. Once Anna had gone, I had a quick look at the links she suggested and finished off the code exercise (yay). I also went up with Anna to see how Xcode works (coding language for OS X – that’s Apple, by the way). It was really interesting because I never knew how designers managed to get their ideas into the actual code, and get it to look as planned. It was so interesting! I was looking at how they had developed a health action app, and comparing the design to the outcome. It looked incredibly similar!

Finally, I got to check out some of their Arduino material, and finalise a demo for the Digital Oxford Launch (it was a very exciting event). I am so thankful for the day! It was an incredible experience I will never forget. I had a lot much fun and learnt so much from the day, and I think it also persuaded me to consider digital agencies for my future career. The day was definitely not what I had expected: It turned out to be so much better and a whole lot more exciting. I also learnt a lot about the skills required to work in a digital agency, such as being able to work as a team or expressing your ideas clearly. You also have to be able to react quickly and get things done, because you often have deadlines to complete projects. You also have to be extremely good at problem solving and finding your way around problems and glitches.

Once again, I really want to thank everyone who made my day possible, especially Jo Lankester who I haven’t mentioned before, who helped make the day possible. I had so much fun and everyone was so nice. If I get another chance, I will definitely head over there again! Thank you to Sarah, Tomi, Carl and Anna who helped me through and also Dave Fletcher, the founder of White October who allowed me into it’s facilities. Thank you White October!!!

– Jo who blogs