WinWin Magazine Edition Two WinWin Magazine Edition Two

The graphic designers.

It is empowering to see people doing it ahead of you. We chat to seven very different kinds of designers — about their own paths to success, the mentors who’ve guided them along the way, and what they’d tell their teenage self.

Share this article


~ the niche finders ~

Cath Leach
Designer / ocean warrior

“There are things I have found out that have changed my perspective and changed my life, there are things that I can’t “un-see” and I feel I need to do something about through my work.”
~ Cath Leach

What do you do? 
I am a graphic designer and illustrator with a passion for change projects, strongly focusing on protecting our oceans and the natural world. 

A typical week starts with “mindful Monday” when I work on and set up these projects. A typical working day starts at sunrise with a short morning meditation, a delicious coffee to fuel my gratitude and some form of exercise (a simple stretch, yoga, laps at the pool or sometimes a kayak on the harbour if I have time). I work smart for a few focused hours in my sunroom at home (the “fish-tank”) overlooking Sydney Harbour. I allocate my contact hours for calls or client meetings to a couple of points in the day only; I’m secretly an introvert and work better in isolation without interruption or dialogue (apart from conversations with my cat, Adrian — usually telling him to get off my CAPS LOCK). I wrap my day whenever it feels natural to finish, sometimes it’s 3pm, sometimes it’s 9pm, depending on how I feel about the current project.

Working for yourself brings you the flexibility to listen to what feels right for you, and wrap your deadlines in with that where possible!

Tell us about running your own business, Cath.
I run a small design agency called Catfish Creative, nearly 12 years old now. It is an intimate business. I want to do good work, do it with passion and purpose and be the designer not the manager of designers (who never gets to design). This offers me freedom — I love to be able to take up an opportunity at short notice, be an extra pair of hands on a citizen science project, go to a launch, a beach clean or spontaneously take a dive trip if a last-minute spot comes up.

It’s important when you work on ocean projects to reconnect with the big WHY and the big blue. Jumping into the ocean at any opportunity and not being tied to the iMac allows me to stay clear on the reasons I do what I do. Every ten hours I work for my clients, I set aside one hour for community work, beach cleans and pro bono design work. 

A big opportunity?
A defining project at Catfishwas in 2010, designing the app, printed book and pocket reference for the Australian Sustainable Seafood Guide, produced by the Australian Marine Conservation Society. After many creative workshops and negotiations we decided we needed an app. It is still going strong today as the bible for making the most informed choices at restaurants and fish markets. 

Working alongside, designing for, and floating about with experts in a niche like ocean conservation, I’ve happily collided with scientists and researchers, change-makers, design-thinkers, campaigners and people who exhibit so much passion that I can’t help but get swept along on their journeys with them. It’s self-propelling; working in such a small but growing sector wasn’t planned but has been an amazing business decision.

Something fun about your work?
There are some epic perks — I get invited on cool excursions and launches all the time. I wish I had more time for them actually. Way back early in my career we were accompanied by media, scientists and crew from the Sydney SeaLife Trust to release baby seahorses into the wild at Clifton Gardens. They had recently been bred in captivity at the Aquarium. It was an amazing occasion and I ended up meeting people I still work and dive with today. 

I have worked on education resources for the eco-resort Lady Elliot Island at the south end of our Great Barrier Reef, which means annual visits to review and plan work projects… oh, and swim with mantas and dolphins, and dive amongst some of the most incredible coral formations we have in Australia (mercifully saved from recent climate change bleaching events on the reef). 

Something challenging?
The marine conservation and social / positive change sector is, by its very nature reactive, sensitive to change and resource-poor. My clients have to be agile, often reacting to changing circumstances in their field with limited time, people and funding. Designers are one of the last touch-points in the project process, jobs can often feel rushed and frenetic. 

To help clients (and myself!) deal with these limitations I am in the process of writing a book called Tighten Your Briefs, into which I have distilled over a decade of personal learnings. This guide — a playbook of ideas for clients, designers and creatives — has tips, tricks and little bits of wisdom drawn from making mistakes and learning from them.

Are your goals firm, or fluid?
It’s a fine balance, indeed it’s in my nature — like the ocean itself — to be fluid, and I think that’s an asset. I love deadlines but mostly I love the sound they make as they go whooshing by! 

I accept that certain things are not in my control. I think that creatives (right-brain thinkers) tend to be more intuitive, flexible and less structured.

One piece of advice for teen-Cath?
You have everything you need to be the best you can be, embrace your curious self and be confident. Don’t follow the herd; they actually don’t know where they’re going. Follow your heart. 

A mantra?
This is not my line but I love “Alone we are a drop, together an ocean”. Collaboration is key for change, and we need each other! The important thing is to recognise all the other drops and what we can create together. 

Any mentors?
“Her Deepness” Sylvia Earle is my hero. She was an absolute pioneer for both women and ocean research in the ‘60s and the first female Chief Scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In her TED Wish in 2009 she called for collaboration globally to increase marine protected areas from less than 0.1% as it was then, which lead to the Mission Blue project as well as inspiring me to completely pivot my design business to focus on marine causes.

I met Jayne Jenkins on the seahorse release project and she is from my hometown in Swansea (Wales). She inspires me through her photography and writing but mostly though her balance of lifestyle, diving adventures and passion for the underwater world. I want to be like her when I grow up.

I’m sure many people feel the same way; Brené Brown’s talks and writings inspire me to be more courageous and help me to open up and welcome in the vulnerability, in order to be my best and most creatively “flawsome” self!

My dear friends and ocean activists Laura Wells and Harriet Spark (Grumpy Turtle) have been instrumental on a daily basis for keeping up the Catfish energy and can do attitude, for being my dive buddies, for sharing and solving challenges together and showing me what’s possible.

Cath, how do you think design makes change? 
We create designs and experiences that pass through the hands, minds and hearts of people. We have an opportunity to weave positive messages and behaviours into the broader fabric of culture and to shift consumption and lifestyle aspirations to a more mindful and abundant basis for living.

A recent lesson?
I have recently learned about overwork and stress by taking on too much.

It’s only “on your plate” if you put it there. So be careful what you say yes to.
It’s ok to say NO. 

People respect you for honouring your own boundaries, the only people you p*** off are the ones that stood to benefit from you not having any.

How do you deal with tricky decisions?
My advice here is check in with how your gut feels and follow your heart. You know better than anyone what is right for you. We often get swept off our path by what I call the “dragons” — it could be the “shoulds” you hear from others, or the pull of cash — that cause you to say yes to things that are not right for you. Listen to the “must” and see the “shoulds” for what they are. Occasionally you do have take on some bigger jobs for the money and experience, just don’t get sucked into the system. 

What are you working on in 2019?
Some key areas for me at the moment are mapping the effects of single-use plastics on human health, the transition to a circular economy for businesses, and setting up websites and resources for citizen science projects that can monitor changes in marine ecosystems brought about by climate change — mostly on coral spawning and growth of underwater sea grass and seaweed forests. 

If it wasn’t a career in design, what would it be?
Good question! It would be related to either oceans and wellbeing or both, perhaps yoga and freediving.

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s all that ever has.”
~ Margaret Meade 

Evi O
Designer / painter

“Don’t try hard to ‘be’ something, as it will be the same you at the end of the day. Enjoy the present, and look forward to what’s to come.”
~ Evi O

What do you do?
I think I’ve become one of those types who do all sorts of projects that pique their interest and simply call themselves ‘creatives’. These days my design practice covers different strands of graphic design: books, branding, products, illustrations and so on – both print and digital, together with my art practice that is mainly painting, mixed with some rare collaborations on other mediums.

An average day starts pretty early, I hit the park with my whippet Henri around 7am and I reward myself with a cup of coffee on the way to the studio. On quieter studio days, it’s often heads down doing work with my funny team Susan, Rosie and Nicole: blaring music – a good mix of old and new jazz, afro funk, indie and everything else – and snacking and sipping tea with a few dog-pat sessions in between. I share the floor with clever people, namely photographer Daniel Shipp and publisher Paulina DeLaveaux. On busier days, I would run around to meetings and do phone calls in between.

A big opportunity?
My first and only job as a book designer for Penguin Books – I started young and stayed there for almost a decade. It pretty much taught me all I know in life. Not just design, as I came across the most inspiring people through my time in the company. The other opportunity was when my curator friend Amber Creswell Bell found that I’ve been secretly painting abstract landscapes and asked me to join her group show back in 2011. It gave me a lot of confidence to start sharing work with the world.

Something fun about your work?

As a graphic designer, no job is ever the same: a book or brand always has a unique message. Because of that I have never lost my passion, not once, from day one to now.

I won’t lie, I can get exhausted but I still love it. The most fun and always an unexpected part of a gig is meeting new people (read: authors, clients, publishers), listening to their stories and helping communicate their vision.

Something challenging?
That in a day there are only 24 hours! So much I want to do, so little time.

Are your goals firm, or fluid?
Both. When I’m not sure about what to do, I would put fluid mode on until it leads me to somewhere good, then set goals, big ones, and try to tick at least half of them. 

One piece of advice for teen-Evi?
That being an adult feels the same as when you were a child, so don’t think that adult life is different. Things do get much more flavoursome as you grow up.

You have to love what you do. 

A recent lesson?
In the last two years I’ve been through a lot big shifts career-wise: from leaving a company where I worked for almost my whole 20s, to starting a company with a business partner, ending that company after a year, and setting up a new one. I can go on about what was entailed in all these ‘activities’ and sure, I learnt a lot of practical stuff, but the most important thing I’ve learned is to embrace change. I now celebrate change, as often it’s good.

An approach to tricky decisions?

For me it’s usually a decision whether to listen to your head or your heart. But once a decision is made, you just gotta stick to it.

If head and heart don’t work, toss a coin, or let someone decide for you. You make so many decisions in life you have to have a few approaches, I think.

If it wasn’t art and design, what would it be?
I always wanted to be a rockstar, but I’m not cool enough. Or an astronaut, but unfortunately I’m four-eyed! 😉


~ thoughtful practitioners ~

Tarni O’Shea and Jenna Lee
Design connects with culture

“It’s okay to get overwhelmed, to have so much going on that you need to run to the other side of the planet! Especially as women, we try so hard to always be strong. Give yourself time!”
~ Tarni O’Shea

“I cannot encourage people enough to enter awards of their chosen field. It’s how you get your name and work seen by amazing professionals and peers. Even if you don’t win or aren’t chosen, the work has still been seen.”
~ Jenna Lee 

What do you do? 
Tarni: I’m a graphic designer at an Indigenous creative agency, Gilimbaa, based in Brisbane. My day usually starts off with a coffee, I’ll jump into some work, have lunch with the team, and then get back into work. 
Jenna: I work alongside Tarni at Gilimbaa. I actually moved to London in 2018, and work remotely with the Brisbane studio. Working in a different time zone means I can generally work very flexible hours. I usually leave my house at 10am to walk to the studio I rent in London, where I work on design projects in the morning and my art practice in the evening. 

How does your background influence your work?
Tarni: I’m a Butchulla and Southsea Islander woman and for me I always reflect on my family when approaching certain work, especially my mum and grandmother. 
Jenna: I am Larrakia, Wardaman and Karijarri with mixed Japanese, Chinese and Filipino heritage on my father’s side and my mother’s side is European Australian. I also identify as Queer.

I draw on all of these identities in my personal work and draw very strongly on the richness of my Aboriginal heritage in my commercial work.

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we have such a long history of art making, and it is such an honour to be continuing our culture in this way.

A big opportunity?
Tarni: I would say working at Gilimbaa has really opened up a lot of opportunities for me creatively, but has also allowed me to connect with my culture through art and storytelling and I think it’s going to take me in an interesting direction
Jenna: Commercially, I felt myself flourish for the first time when I was working on the QANTAS artwork commission for their Brisbane lounges. 
In my art practice I started entering awards and prizes, mostly to give myself a deadline to work towards. I began to get traction: the first major opportunity was being a finalist in the 2018 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award.

Something fun about your work?

Tarni: I suppose the great thing about the design industry is that there are so many different pathways you can take, and it keeps changing.

Jenna: I agree with Tarni, I think we are both really lucky to work in an agency where we are both designers and artists; we are even involved in built environment design projects. 

Something challenging?
Tarni: Keeping up with new technology and programs has always been tricky to keep on top of. 
Jenna: I think it’s so important to take care of your creative brain! Five days a week we are being paid to think creatively and produce creative outcomes.

Finding time each day to clear your mind is so important. My personal art practice came about as a form of creative self-care, and I now critically rely on it. 

Are your goals firm, or fluid?
Tarni: I definitely try and set goals for myself but sometimes it doesn’t work out the way I planned and that’s ok.
Jenna: I am a notorious plan maker! Each year I would write my aspirations and goals into a document and work towards achieving them, continuously checking my progress. Since relocating to the UK I have made a conscious effort to be more fluid and see what opportunities come my way.

One piece of advice for teen-Tarni?
Tarni: Go out there and try a bit of everything!

One piece of advice for teen-Jenna?
Jenna: Sit down and write a list of the things you love; they can be anything and everything that brings you happiness (even if they don’t seem related to your profession). It’s surprising how much clarity this can give and helps focus the goals you set or even inform the work you create. 

How do you keep motivated?
Tarni: I love going to design and community events to meet new creatives and to keep motivated.

A mantra?
Jenna: Something I learned at art college was “Notice what you notice” … which means pay attention to the things you are drawn into, but equally pay attention to things that repel you. Ask, “why I am feeling this way?”

A mentor?
Tarni: I’m surrounded by amazing women that have given me advice and have helped put things into perspective along the way.  

Jenna: The list of women who inspire me is endless! Women who spring to mind are Imelda Miller, the curator of Torres Strait Islander Stories at the Queensland Museum; Amanda Hayman, one half of Blaklash Projects and an amazing curator/arts worker, and sisters Freja and Leecee Carmichael, curator and artist (respectively).

All of these women have encouraged and supported me over the last decade as well as inspired me creatively and culturally.

An approach to tricky decisions?
Jenna:
About four years ago I was feeling a little unsure about the design career I had chosen. Looking back, what I really missed was learning new things. So I made the call to return to university and did a year part-time of a fine art degree. I still felt like it wasn’t where I needed to be, and so deferred that course and decided to do my Post-Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies. This was really challenging as my undergraduate experience had been practical, whereas now I was suddenly writing academic essays! Returning to further study was a huge decision and for about a year I was working two jobs and studying. It was the most stressful time in my life, but I grew so much, and these decisions have paved the way for some incredible opportunities now. 

So, if there is something drawing your attention, I say pursue it! Who knows where it will lead?

What’s on at the moment?
Tarni: Jenna and I are actually about to attend a strategy session of an artwork commission with Gilimbaa. It’s a huge company and we will be discussing their goals for reconciliation in Australia.
Jenna: I am back in Brisbane at the moment as I was recently announced as the recipient of The Young and Emerging Dreaming award at the National Indigenous Art Awards. This opportunity means I’ll be spending the next year or so working on a new major body of work, involving working with collections of Aboriginal objects in museums in the UK as well as curating and collaborating with other incredible First Nations Artists. At the end of this month there’s the opening of the John Fries Award in Sydney for which I am one of ten finalists. It is such an honour to be shown alongside artists I have admired for so long. 

If it wasn’t a career in design, what would it be?
Tarni:  Maybe something in tech or business. Who knows?
Jenna: If it wasn’t art or design then maybe it would be something involving plants or horticulture, maybe a florist. Environmental sciences were always the back up if I didn’t get into art college.

Erin Turner
Design practitioner / researcher

“Designers are increasingly being recognised for their unique problem-solving abilities and research can help explore the potential of this. ”
~ Erin Turner

What do you do? 
I work in both design and research in the field of graphic design. I started out as a designer, but have undertaken PhD research to expand my practice, and now describe myself as a visual communication design practitioner-researcher.

I’m lucky that there is no such thing as an average day with my work.

Currently, my typical day is research focused, otherwise I am usually working on a variety of design jobs including publication design, branding projects and information design. I could be meeting with clients, strategising, researching and conceptualising ideas, developing proposals, designing concepts, collaborating with other creatives, liaising with printers and so on. My day might also involve investigation, laying the foundations for further research (reading, experimenting, writing). I often work collaboratively with other creatives on various commercial and self-initiated projects. During the semester, I teach visual communication design at the University of Technology Sydney.

Can you explain a bit about how research works in a field like design?
Like any field, research expands our knowledge and understanding. Research calls attention to design’s contribution to the world: socially, culturally, politically.

My research is about the unique ways that designers make sense of visual material, particularly designed, cultural media such as magazines and posters.

A big opportunity?
I worked as an art director for a niche art publication almost straight out of uni. I was really lucky to have an editorial team that was young, enthusiastic, and open to my ideas, despite the fact that I lacked experience. 

The opportunity to go back to uni as a design researcher has also been significant. I have been able to learn from creatives from all over the world who are working outside the traditional commercial world of graphic design, or who have practices which cut across multiple fields such as art, architecture, writing and publishing.  

Something fun about your work?
Design is very changeable and the roles and opportunities for designers are constantly evolving.

There are opportunities for designers that didn’t exist ten years ago. It is exciting to see how the industry is expanding and diversifying. 

Are your goals firm, or fluid?
I tend to set long term goals but embrace the organic process of achieving them. I am happy to digress a little bit along the way or let the goals evolve.

One piece of advice for teen-Erin?
Just one? I could write a whole book on advice for my teenage self! Hmmmm… acknowledge and embrace the unique (and sometimes weird) ways in which you think, work and engage with the world.

A mantra?
I am constantly guided by the very wise mantra: “if they give you ruled paper, write the other way” (Juan Ramón Jiménez / Ray Bradbury). 

Also… take unusual opportunities. Go down that creative rabbit hole!

Any mentors?
I have a strong community of women who I can call upon for advice: I can bounce off ideas and collaborate with them. I am thankful that they share their wisdom with me. I am always inspired by women in design who have interesting practices. Zuzana Licko, Irma Boom and Anne Burdick immediately come to mind. More broadly, I think Greta Thunberg is phenomenal. 

A recent lesson?
I tend to work better outside the studio environment, but it took me a number of years to figure that out. I need to go for walks, make a mess, work on the floor, embrace creative detours and conceptualise at 2am! 

Managing my design practice as a business is difficult. I find things like finance, tax and contracts pretty boring. But staying organised and developing systems to manage the ‘boring bits’ helps the overwhelm. I can bounce ideas off peers and ask their advice which has been critical in this respect. 

Your focus for 2019?
I am in the final stages of my PhD, so all my focus is directed to research at the moment. I have some exciting projects in the pipeline, which I am eager to start work on. I am moving to Reykjavik [Iceland] at the end of the year so I am excited to see how my practice adapts and evolves. 

If it wasn’t a career in design, what would it be?
I have so many interests other than design! I was never even planning to become a designer until just before I started my visual communication design degree. I would have loved a career in journalism, politics, science, architecture, history or in documentary film-making. 

Sometimes I dream of establishing an independent publishing house for art and design publications or of becoming a novelist.

I have also been obsessed with volcanoes since childhood, and I’ve always wanted to become a volcanologist!


~ experience creators ~

Bec Paton
Designer and leader

“As a designer, given you’re always operating in someone else’s problem space, it’s a life-long learning experience. A side benefit is that as you learn, you become a better teacher, which people really value, and I think is why designers are such good facilitators.”
~ Bec Paton

What do you do? 
Being a designer has been an incredible journey! From book designer to academic design researcher –  running a design agency to leading design for Westpac’s largest transformation program. And next up, to Facebook to be a design leader for the newly formed Privacy and Data Usage team, where we will be working to create trustworthy, empowering experiences for billions of people across the globe.

One thing I have always loved about being a designer is that there is so much variety from day-to-day. Some days are meetings heavy, other days will be facilitating, researching and generating concepts. Others will be spent visualising complexity, making those patterns simple, sense-making and generating concepts. Usually, it’s a real mixture.

A big opportunity?
My design agency was a bit of an accident… It started inadvertently, from gaining increasingly more design contract opportunities. I put this down to doing my academic research which really levelled me up as a design practitioner. I couldn’t keep up with the projects and so I hired my two best students. Then we needed a studio space… then accountants… then lawyers… then voila! Equilibrium Design was born.

It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I have ever had, an incredible seven years.

Something challenging?
Design is a really vague title. People always wonder if I’m a fashion designer or architect. It’s a broad term and a rapidly evolving field with lots of emergent new roles (e.g. Experience Designer or Service Designer). It can sometimes wear a little thin, trying to describe “what I do”. The upside, though, is that I can always be evolving and shifting that definition for myself as I grow as a designer.

Are your goals firm, or fluid?
Admittedly, I am a “go with the flow” kind of person. That said, I am a very reflective designer, which means that as opportunities arise, I am nudging them and responding to them in line with my tastes, interests and capabilities.

One piece of advice for teen-Bec? You don’t have to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer to make it – there are lots of other incredible paths.

A mantra?
I have two. “Laughter, beauty and nudges in perception” + “ Nothing is impossible, only difficult”.

Bec, can you explain UX and UI design a little to us?
User experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design take the unique design thinking, visual thinking, pattern making and empathy of visual communication and harness these to create human-centred interactions. This can be anything from a website to an exhibition space and can be hugely technical or border on fine art practice.

UX and UI design are really sought-after skills, with lots of incredible opportunities. This is one of the fastest evolving areas of design.

A recent lesson?
It’s ok to say no. It can be daunting if you think you might miss out by saying no, but there will always be other opportunities and if something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not.

How do you deal with tricky decisions?
When I was thinking about closing my company and getting some enterprise experience, I was very nervous that I would be shutting a door and wouldn’t be able to go back. That said, the attraction to have peers, to work in a cross-functional team and on a project that touches millions of lives was a real pull. I decided to  “go towards” rather than “shy away”. I haven’t looked back, so my learning from this was “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

What’s something you’re focussed on in 2019?
It is really important to me to make contributions through design outside of work, as well as nurture my craft creatively. I always do a couple of not-for-profit freelance gigs and a creative project or two each year to fulfill my soul.

If it wasn’t a career in design, what would it be?
Possibly an engineer or artist… thankfully for the world I found my true passion and path!

Jennifer Nunez
Designer of digital experiences

“It’s okay to say ‘no’ to certain opportunities, when they don’t contribute to the direction you see yourself moving. You want to make sure that the decisions you make are leading you towards the top of your mountain.”
~ Jennifer Nunez

What do you do? 
I’m a Senior Product Designer at Deloitte Digital (a creative consultancy). I work as part of a broader cross-functional team that helps clients imagine, deliver and run large-scale digital projects. My role is to help clients unpack the problem they are trying to solve and design the digital experience.

Day-to-day I’m collaborating with a range of people from product owners, business stakeholders, developers, testers, solution architects, business analysts, service designers, creative designers and end-users. This could be anything from facilitating a workshop, design jamming on a problem, discussing product strategy, testing concepts with end users or sketching up design ideas. 

A big opportunity?
The shift to consulting has been a challenging but rewarding experience. Operating in a professional services environment requires you to stretch yourself beyond your core skill-set. Half of your role is about developing strong client relationships, managing risks, coaching other members on your team and coming to the table with a point of view. 

I moved to Deloitte after a short stint of teaching at tertiary institutions, and working for Google’s Creative Lab. At the time, I was looking for an experience that would be wildly different to what I had previously done, so that I could challenge myself to learn more outside of design. I found the opportunity through a person I used to study with. We caught up for lunch to talk more about what she did at Deloitte — I didn’t even know that Deloitte had a Digital team! 

Something fun about your work?
I love being in testing sessions with end-users, from exploratory interviews to usability testing.

There is nothing quite like putting your designs in front of real users and getting their honest feedback.

You get to learn about their lives, motivations and the unexpected ways they would interact with your product, and sometimes they have brilliant ideas!

Something challenging?
I’m able to work across a range of clients and industries. However, organisations all have different levels of design maturity. 
Design is most effective when it is a skill-set that is brought in at the beginning of a project. This might involve helping to form a problem statement and conduct research activities to validate or invalidate the problem. However, the value of this isn’t always well understood by some clients, so part of our role as consultants is to help coach our clients.

Are your goals firm, or fluid?
A bit of both. I set career goals every six months. For every project that I am placed on, I also set project goals that will help me work towards my career goals. I do think it’s also important to be somewhat fluid in your approach to your goals. I’ve been in situations where I’ve thought that a particular project wasn’t going to yield the kind of technical learning that I wanted at the time, but I knew it was going to grow my softer skills exponentially, and am thankful to have had the opportunity.

One piece of advice for teen-Jen?

Take time off after your HSC! Go and travel, meet new people, be exposed to new cultures and work out what you really want to do.

Any mentors?
Most definitely! My sister has always been a mentor to me. She has the wildest career path: starting out as a behavioural therapist, then running away to join the circus, coming back to be a photographer and now she is a firefighter and a mother. She’s been able to do so much in such a short time frame and has been exceedingly successful at all of those things. I admire her determination to do what she wants to do with a laser-like focus.  

My career coaches at Deloitte have been hugely influential. They’ve helped me develop my confidence and provided me with opportunities to work on projects that they know will be good for my development.

A mantra? Your career is a marathon not a sprint.

Who do you look up to?
I’m currently reading Julie Zhou’s book Making a manager, she is the Vice President of Product Design at Facebook. Being good at your role is quite different to being a good people leader (at all levels), and Julie Zhou expertly weaves her own experiences of her journey to manager in this book. I love her humility and her design prowess.

Tell us a little bit about user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design.

When I moved from visual design into UX, the biggest shift for me was realising that you are not always designing things to your taste. You are actually designing them for other people.

This hit me like a lightning bolt when I was in a usability testing session. I had designed a prototype and loved every bit of it. But during the session, the user couldn’t move through the interface and was confused by some of the UI choices I had made. I found myself wanting to explain my design choices to the user but had to bite my tongue!

To me, UX design is not all about what the interface looks like, but rather it’s about crafting: appropriate mental models for your users; a navigation pattern that is usable; and a sustainable product strategy.

UX designers come from a range of backgrounds including psychology, anthropology, graphic design, content writing, business analysis, and even front-end-developers. I find that UX designers sit on a spectrum, from being research-focussed through to UI to delivery- focussed, and that usually just depends on the person’s background. 

A recent lesson?
Sometimes our biggest battle is ourselves – I’ve got a serious case of ‘imposter syndrome’. Imposter syndrome is likely to affect more women than men and is prevalent in the creative industry. It stems from an unrealistic assessment of one’s own competencies and from only listening to negative feedback. I’ve had to learn to graciously accept and celebrate positive feedback and to not be so hard on myself. For me, there’s also been an element of loosening my ‘vice-like grip’ on what I deem to be perfect.

The reality is, that you don’t have to be perfect. No-one is perfect. Instead, we should be celebrating how our strengths come together in a team.

How do you deal with tricky decisions?
After two years of contracting at Google’s Creative Lab, I was given the option of (potentially) becoming a full-time employee. At first, I said ‘Yes!’. But after mulling over it, I felt that it would have been the comfortable option — I knew the people, I knew the kind of work they did and I knew my place in that team. It was my first role out of university, and I felt I needed to get more exposure to life outside the Google bubble. Lots of people thought I was crazy, because I also didn’t have a plan for where I would go next. I just trusted my gut, and have not regretted it. So my advice for tricky career decisions — own them! Don’t let anyone else make decisions for you. 

Your focus for 2019?
The ‘attention economy’ — technology should be working towards wellness outcomes rather than jostling for our attention. On a personal level, I’m focussed on a calm mind, meaningful interactions, and as little distraction as possible, so I’ve eliminated Facebook, Instagram and Twitter from my life.

If it wasn’t a career in design, what would it be?
Probably a career in psychology or sociology. The world and the people in it are just so interesting and irrational!