THE STORY OF MCRGREATER
MCR Greater is a free, collaborative listings website for Creative, Digital and Tech learning events across Greater Manchester.
The aim is to provide an easily searchable resource for Schools, Colleges, Universities, Families and anyone else interested in developing their digital skills at free to attend events.
MCR Greater was created by a development team composing of apprentices, juniors, managers and directors from SharpFutures.
Meet The Team
MCR Greater has been developed by three key individuals from SharpFutures. Aleena Sharif; project and social media manager, Ihtezaz Anwar; the website developer and technical lead and Lewis Marsh; the graphic designer and branding consultant. Together, we are MCR Greater.
This is a story from the perspective of the three creative individuals who made this idea a reality. The team detail their challenges faced and their experiences along the way.
Lewis - The Design Story
Where did the design idea come from?
The design idea came from the brief which was to represent the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester in one skyline. This led me to researching iconic buildings from each borough that I could recreate as a 2D flat vector, yet still look recognisable to the familiar eye.
What design challenges did you face?
I started by creating an individual skyline for each borough but putting them side by side took up too much space and realistically it just didn’t work. So, I then worked on overlaying them in a way to not obscure any of the boroughs but still make it look appealing and not cluttered.
Now the skyline looked great, but it terms of a logo it was unusable – which then brought me into the circle version of the logo where I wrapped the skylines side by side around the circle. The reason for using a circle was to represent the idea of unity and bringing everyone together. At first, I picked colours for each borough I thought looked nice together but then I realised that each boroughs respective council has its own colour…
So I implemented them to help distinguish which borough is which. Luckily the borough colours are bright which represent a positive, creative and diverse mood towards the exciting opportunity of Greater Manchester.
The actual typography on the MCR Greater logo is #MCRGreater which helps tie in with technology and social media – with the use of the hashtag.
What are you most proud of on this project and why?
One of the main reasons I was excited about working on this project is that I got to create an entire brand from scratch, and knowing that it is going to be distributed into schools to inspire young creatives to get into the sector is amazing.
Ihtezaz - The Development Process
How did you create the website from just an idea?
The basic concept of the MCR Greater website came from the idea that there wasn’t a single resource online that listed events within greater Manchester that focuses solely on developing creative digital skills for new entrants.
So, the team set out to develop this idea and I started by building a basic website. Once the template was developed, the team then developed the idea of using the 10 boroughs of Manchester as the foundation for the website. The boroughs would be used to represent the location of the events listed on the website and the idea of developing creative digital skills, became a part of our strapline.
How did you develop the website?
The platform used to develop the site on was WordPress due to its easy user interface and maintenance. Once the team picked a theme, I started to develop it based on our idea.
To incorporate the boroughs onto the website, I used the ‘10 boroughs graphic’ designed by Lewis as the main banner for the site. The site colours were extracted from the logo design using the blue as the background and dark grey for the header. Using various plugins and custom code, I then put the events page together and added the custom filter options. The boroughs were also used in the filter function for the website, allowing users to find events that were around their area.
What are you most proud of on this project and why?
I am most proud of that fact that we managed to develop the website from scratch and knowing that It can help a lot of students/new entrants learn new creative skills is a huge bonus.
Aleena - First Time Project & Social Media Manager
What sparked the idea that led to the website?
The idea came from us apprentices and graduates having a general discussion about how we got into the sector. We realised that there isn’t a single resource that lists all events and opportunities within the Creative, Digital and Tech sector across Greater Manchester.
Although we had some advice and learned some skills through School, College (and some of us; University too), we chose our own career paths and how to get ourselves into the sector. Through often our own research, we found new training courses such as Apprenticeships, events and online resources that helped us get to where we are today…
But what if other young people like ourselves want to get into the creative, digital and tech industry? Where do they go to find the right opportunities, Apprenticeships, courses and events? What if they don’t know want to – or don’t have the funds to go to University? Where do you go if you want to meet like-minded individuals and find out the latest in tech? That’s where we came up with the idea of MCR Greater.
After a discussion had arisen about how each of us began pursuing a creative career, then gained entry-level positions in the creative and digital sector; the ultimate question was asked. Is it easy for people such as ourselves to gain experience, professional connections or a job within the sector we currently work in?
We concluded that there was no single resource that lists creative, digital and tech events, apprenticeships and opportunities taking place in Greater Manchester – specifically for new entrants and students. We decided that something needed to be done about this; a resource needed creating to gather all of this in one, single place. There needed to be an easier way for the generations to coe.
Our Account Director, Rose Marley, pitched the idea to the Manchester City Council as part of the talent pipeline project with ITV and BBC. This then lead to the SharpFutures team bringing the idea to life and our work commenced. I was honoured to have been given the opportunity to work on MCR Greater working alongside team members Lewis and Ihtezaz.
Did you enjoy being project manager?
It was exciting to be given the role of a project manager; considering this is something I had no previous experience in doing. Working within the creative, digital and tech sector, project management is such a fundamental, key skill to have. It’s not just about creating, but how do people know what to create and when?
You need structure, someone to pull the team together and problem solve; whilst taking on tasks as well. Also to be able to set up and direct in meetings, feedback to your client and keep them happy, whilst being proactive, using your initiative and sometimes making those decisions on behalf of your client – as they aren’t always able to take that urgent phone call.
On this project, I used some Agile methodology and techniques – but I believe that since I have been given such a great, creative and hardworking team; we’ve all been able to get on with tasks without those unwanted conversations as to why something hasn’t been done. The team really have just got on with things and without them, MCR Greater would not have been formed to be what it is today.
How did you reach over 700 followers?
As I help cover social media at SharpFutures, I was excited to launch and manage MCR Greater on Twitter. I started off by retweeting events I found in Greater Manchester, using our hashtag #MCRGreater. I then began building up lists of people and places that have regular events and followed many of them.
MCR Greater has began to gain more and more followers and continues to do so. You will find a wide range of creative and digital events on our Twitter feed; and on occasion, also job opportunities, guides/resources, competitions and schemes to help young people into the sector. Anything we think may help entrants upskill or pursue a career within the creative, digital and tech sectors.
What are you most proud of on this project and Why?
That only a few apprentices, graduates and myself have managed to create everything from the disclaimer, guidelines, content and copy to the branding and visuals. Also the amazing website that contains all of this. I’m proud of the team, their vision and skills. I’m proud that we’ve all managed to pull everything together by effectively and efficiently solving issues we’ve never encountered before.
What technical challenges did you face?
With any project, you will often encounter various technical difficulties and challenges along the way. We certainly did considering we had limited knowledge and experience of how to manage a project ourselves, source everything we needed, keep costs low, and effectively put together a customized website from nothing. We were (and still are) responsible for everything such as the maintenance of the website, social media feed(s), dealing with enquiries, copywriting and the creation of new assets.
At first, I didn’t know what an SSL certificate was and how one works! Sometimes the Web Developer; Ihtezaz would tell me about a technical problem that I had never have heard of and how to fix it. Often, as a team, we would come together to research and discuss potential solutions, explaining technicalities and jargon in ways that each of us would understand easily. We also met with our client weekly to discuss and demonstrate any issues or potential issues we were having, as well as our solutions we had come up with in order to fix them.
If we were still having a difficulty or the problem was not an area of expertise that we had, we used our network of connections, often based at The Sharp Project, to discuss and find solutions for areas we had limited knowledge of.
We would like to take this as an opportunity to thank fellow tenants at The Sharp Project Planet Amazing, Inspyro, 8 Networks and Silverchip for voluntarily giving up their time to help us find solutions, give us invaluable feedback, help and assistance where needed.
I’m glad to say that due to our communications, problem solving skills and collaboration, I now have more technical knowledge and the ability to magically come up with solutions that may help us fix any errors that arise. Ihtezaz has the ability to swiftly put plans into action; and together, we’re able to think ahead.
Some of the tools I use in my daily role are Hootsuite, WordPress, Adobe Photoshop, Outlook and Microsoft Word.
Want To Get Involved?
If you would like to be involved with working on MCR Greater, SharpFutures Discover offer a work experience programme in which pupils are given the chance to work on our live website. Find out how you can get involved in MCR Greater via work experience by clicking here.
Help us make Manchester Greater for Creative, Digital and Tech learning!