A Day in the Life of a Design Manager.

26 June 2024 by Leanne Hughes

Paul Walker, Design Manager at Catalyst IT Europe, isn’t your typical graphic designer. His role goes beyond crafting beautiful visuals; it’s a blend of collaboration, technical skills, and a passion for creating user-friendly interfaces. 

In this blog post, we give you a glimpse into Paul’s day: collaborating with clients and developers, crafting design concepts, and overseeing Catawesome, Catalyst’s bespoke theme offering for our hosted clients. He’ll also share his design triumphs, including themes for humanitarian organisations, and offer valuable advice for aspiring design managers in the software world.

What does your role involve?

My role as Design Manager is to oversee and ensure the delivery of high-quality visual content, for all aspects of design in Catalyst IT Europe. This includes branding for online and print, conferences, social media and LMS/VLE theming for our software offerings.

I work closely with the Sales and Marketing team to develop and execute a variety of visual materials that align with our brand standards and business objectives. I also work closely with the development team, to produce bespoke theme designs for our Moodle, Totara, and Mahara clients.

This means my role sees me working across multiple platforms, software, and languages, including Photoshop, Illustrator, HTML/CSS, and Git to name a few.

Describe your typical working day?

My day is most often spent writing theme code for Moodle or Totara, thinking up design solutions for our clients, or whipping up design concepts or assets for our Sales and Marketing team.

Being involved in several projects for different clients at a time means working to multiple specs, so collaboration between colleagues and clients is a vital part of my day.

Establishing the demands and goals of a project is a key factor, so I will spend a lot of time discussing with clients their requirements, and also engaging with the development team to gauge what is possible, timings etc. This will also help me to provide quotes for the design aspect of our client’s projects.

Another part of my day is overseeing our bespoke theme offering called Catawesome, which is a fully designed theme available to our hosted clients. Keeping Catawesome in step with core Moodle upgrades is also a large part of my work at Catalyst during certain periods.

Tell us about the last piece of work you were proud of?

At Catalyst we do a lot of work with organisations in the humanitarian sector, such as Unicef with their “Agora” portal, and The Humanitarian Leadership Academy with “Kaya”. Designing the themes for these two platforms is something I am very proud of, as the vital training it provides to the workers and volunteers of these organisations is so incredibly important.

Right from the beginning, I have worked in partnership with the Catalyst development team, to provide bespoke UX solutions to their problems, and produce clean, intuitive design interfaces, that work to engage its users while providing essential learning.

A main focus of both clients during the design and development phases of their themes was on accessibility, ensuring the learning experience was inclusive for all.

It has been a real pleasure working on both themes for these two clients.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in a career in your role?

Learning to be versatile, and practising skills that push the boundaries of a typical Graphic Designer, would put you in good stead for a role in the software development industry. Whether that be learning how to turn your beautiful designs into code using modern design languages and frameworks, or being able to show solutions to tricky UX/UI problems, these are great strings to have in your bow.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I think the above advice is the most pertinent to my career. Having spent my earlier years in print design doing corporate branding to strict guidelines, being able to work with code as well has allowed me to keep busy and flourish, especially within a software development company where I otherwise might not have.