Bringing non-digital experience into the digital team. It’s an advantage

I’m Gail. I’ve been a graphic designer for over 20 years and up to now I’ve worked predominantly in pedestrian signage systems, exhibition and information design projects.

These projects have mostly involved the ordering and arrangement of words (typography) and mapping systems on physical products to help orientate and direct people around cities and spaces.

A picture of Gail Mellows
Gail Mellows

But at the Co-op in the digital team I’m developing typographic guidance for designers and helping them create clear typographic hierarchies without using lots of different sizes and weights (which creates visual noise and makes things harder to read and understand).

In past projects this is what I’ve done in the context of displaying information on physical products in physical environments. Now I’m applying it to information on-screen.

Why am I now working in digital?

Just over 2 years ago I moved from London to Manchester with my partner and daughter. After looking at the design industry in Manchester, I wondered where I fitted into this young, predominantly male, techie and advertising-led industry in which I had few established professional relationships.

I decided to explore other ways of applying what I’d spent years doing

I came across the Ladies that UX group. The first meet-up I went to happened to be at the Co-op in Angel Square. A number of women from the digital team at the Co-op were speaking about their roles and how they had come to be there.

The panel were really encouraging about trying new things career-wise and taking a chance. Ben Terrett was also there and described the principles behind the development of Co-op digital products and services.

There were lots of parallels with my approach and ethos. At the end of the event, feeling pretty nervous, I approached Andrew Travers to talk to him about what I’d been doing.

I’ve now been at Co-op Digital for 2 months

I started by looking at how typography is being used across various products and services and using this information to develop specific typographic guidance for the use of Co-op’s new typeface, Avenir Next. The size, position, colour, juxtaposition, vertical and horizontal spacing of type has a very practical job to do as well as fundamentally conveying the character of Co-op.

For the team that work on our brand I’ve been developing ways of sharing information and best practice for using type, imagery and colour across digital and non-digital applications.

I’ve also had the opportunity to work on the Wills digital service.

It’s a steep learning curve for me

I spend a lot of my time moving bits of type up and down so that they look good as well as make sense as content (familiar ground) and wrestling with things like ‘the fold’, ‘screen real estate’ and CSS modules (unfamiliar ground).

I like the fact that the Digital team at the Co-op is actively encouraging women to work with them and offers flexibility around work and family commitments.

There’s been an open and positive reaction to me bringing my non-digital experience into the digital team. It’s seen as being an advantage.

Gail Mellows

We’re looking for user researchers.

We’re recruiting user researchers to join our growing CoopDigital team in Manchester. These new, permanent roles are critical to our ability to deliver brand new digital services for The Co-op, its customers and members.

Our user researchers play a pivotal role in our multidisciplinary agile teams, working with product managers, designers, developers and more to develop and share our understanding of user needs; managing, facilitating and analysing continuous research throughout the phases of service delivery, from discovery to live. We do research the right way.

It’s a chance to join a team at the beginning of its journey, helping to shape CoopDigital as a team and research as a community of practice just as much as the services you’ll lead our research work on. It’s not just the opportunity to deliver services at scale across the UK, but to embed the value of research in The Co-op and bring it ever closer to the needs of its users.

We’re looking for people with a range of experience using qualitative and quantitative research skills; really strong communication skills; and – ideally – experience of an agile environment. An interest or past experience of user experience, design and content roles can help too. If that sounds like you, we’d love to talk.

The Co-op is a special organisation with distinctive values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. On equality, we want a team that is representative of the customers and members we serve and know that we’re not there yet. We believe in diversity and inclusion, not just because it’s the right thing to do but because we know it makes us better at what we do. We welcome applications from those traditionally under-represented in design, research, digital and technology roles. If that’s you, or someone you know, we’d really encourage you to think about joining us.

You can apply for our user researcher roles now. The closing date is 31st May 2016.

Andrew Travers
Head of Digital Design



Design and Research Team field trip.

The design and research team at CoopDigital took a field trip recently to Manchester Metropolitan University’s Special Collections to see Projecting British Design: the Design Council’s slide collection. 
Bringing together a mix of product, graphic and industrial design from the post-war period, the exhibition reflects on Britain’s changing design aesthetic and its evolving understanding and appreciation of what constitutes ‘good design’.

We’re lucky in Manchester to have exhibitions as good as this one on our doorstep, and it gives us an opportunity to be an active part of Manchester’s design community. But these field trips serve a bigger purpose for us, helping us to sharpen our critical skills as designers and to see our own work in its wider context. A part of how we, as designers at the Co-op, stay curious, deepen our own learning and apply that to what the Co-op is building now and in the future.

The exhibition at MMU’s Special Collections runs until 28 May. It’s well worth a visit.

Andrew Travers joins CoopDigital as Head of Digital Design.

I’m really pleased to say Andrew Travers has joined CoopDigital as Head of Digital Design.

Andrew Travers
Andrew Travers – Head of Digital Design
At The Co-op we’re building an in-house design team relentlessly focused on user needs. Andrew will work with me and all the designers here, both digital and in other areas, to define The Co-op’s design direction and standards; establishing a really strong design practice. We need more talent in this area, so look out for us posting job opportunities here very soon.

Over the last ten years Andrew has been leading design teams and working on high profile projects with well-known names including Pearson Education, Method, Cern and the BBC – you can find more out about Andrew on his blog. Most recently he was Interim Head of Design at HMRC. There he led the largest departmental design team in government; setting direction and managing design standards across 25 parallel service delivery projects; establishing HMRC’s design practice and agile design approach.

Andrew is really passionate about working to bring great design jobs to the north west, to give talented designers the opportunity to stay or to return, or to discover the north for the first time.

He’s also written a book about the crucial role of research to the design process.

It’s great to have him here – welcome Andrew.

Ben Terrett

Group Design Director