Mike Birkett, Calico

We recently did some work with Calico, and Mike Birkett, the Chief Executive kindly gave us an account of how we did.

Mike Birkett

I have known Val for over 10 years and was very fortunate to be able to use her first rate skills and experience as a member of my Executive Team until 2010.

Val’s presence and leadership at Calico led to numerous successes – one of the most notable being the achievement of the accolade of becoming a Top 100 ‘Best Companies to work for ‘in 2009.

At an Executive level, Val made a huge contribution to our strategic direction, organisational development and business planning. She also provided sound superb guidance, advice and support during complex and challenging times – the foundation and levelheadedness that every Chief Executive needs.

As a leader of people and teams she is able to motivate, challenge, support and guide individuals so that they work together and achieve excellent results.  Val’s excellent interpersonal skills means that she can communicate with people at all levels and is therefore at home building relationships with the Board and front line staff and has great rapport with customers.  People listen to Val and she can deliver the most difficult and challenging of messages in a way that supports them and empathises with their position.

With such a wide range of abilities we knew she would be sorely missed for her professional expertise and as a valued colleague.

Here are just a few examples of the difference Val made here:

  • Turned a struggling organisation (rated as ‘poor prospects for improvement’) into Top 100 company
  • Led culture change which resulted in staff feeling engaged, motivated and ultimately high performing – by making it a great place to work
  • Put in place systems that supported the drive for excellence and performance improvement – so that employees want to contribute and make services better for customers
  • Made sure that Equality and Diversity mattered and laid the foundations to enable us to achieve ‘Leaders in Diversity’ status
  • Tackled a range of very difficult and complex employment issues and yet was always able to provide a solution that supported the business and preserved its values
  • Provided the vision and leadership for our new social enterprise to ensure a successful turnover of £3million in its first 2 years.

As a result of these achievements and Val’s qualities, I have been keen to commission her to support the organisation in a consultancy role since leaving Calico.

As HR Business Partner she helped to make sure that we maintained our Supporting People contracts for the future, safeguarding both jobs and a quality service for customers.

More recently Val has played a key role in designing and delivering our strategic board sessions.  She has great facilitation skills and uses her creativity to deliver innovative activities that captures people’s interest and keeps them engaged, whilst deploying a real business focus.

Val has the innate ability to understand a brief, interpret what is required and deliver an intervention that exactly meets your requirements and the outcomes you desire.  Val doesn’t provide an off the shelf approach – it will be bespoke and full of new ideas, tailored to the audience who will learn and laugh at the same time.

I cannot praise Val too highly – her professional approach, consistent delivery and interpersonal skills are second to none.  I would recommend her to any Chief Executive who is looking for help to resolve complex issues, is in need of executive team support, or simply wants to develop and grow their organisation.Mike Birkett
CE of Calico


Hundreds of tools may be available for interaction designers, but there is still no industry standard for interaction design the way Photoshop and Illustrator are to graphic design. Popular programs are out there, but many of them have considerable drawbacks, which has led me to explore alternative apps.

I eventually chose Adobe InDesign for much of my preliminary interaction design work. Yes, you read that correctly: InDesign, a desktop publishing app originally created for designing books and magazines, is currently my tool of choice for designing low- to medium-fidelity wireframes and interactive prototypes.

Slowly but surely, InDesign has evolved from a print-only tool into an application that can produce interactive media for the iPad and eReaders, too. Surprisingly, it has built-in tools for creating interactivity and animation within your spreads. Though it may sound crazy at first, hundreds of thousands of designers have adopted InDesign as their go-to application for eBooks.

We’ll take InDesign one step further than these authors to produce fully interactive wireframes and prototypes. As you will soon see, InDesign has a unique set of tools and features that are perfectly suited to designing wireframes and interactive prototypes in a more intuitive way than you ever thought possible!

This content is taken from Smashing magazine and published here as content styling demonstration only.
You can read full article here: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/03/07/creating-wireframes-and-prototypes-with-indesign/


Earlier this year, I was in the beginning stages of a redesign for our company’s website. We had already been planning to use a straightforward responsive approach to Web design, which is our preferred solution for multi-device support. After hearing some frank discussions at An Event Apart conference in Boston about the limitations and challenges of responsive Web design, I realized that our solution needed a bit of adjustment.

Thankfully, the project before us was the ideal opportunity to experiment and push ourselves to improve our responsive workflow. In this article, I will detail the process we took, including some of the changes we made along the way, as we worked to build a better responsive website.

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