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An Interview with Isobar’s Tess Braden

We love bringing the best-of-the-best into Shillington campuses for guest lectures, and recently our Melbourne students were lucky enough to hear from Tess Braden, an experienced digital designer at Isobar and speaker liaison for Creative Mornings Melbourne. Tess shared a fascinating case study on working the UI and UX of the new Jetstar website and gave insights into working at a large digital agency.

We followed up with Tess to ask a few more questions, and she definitely delivered the goods with practical advice and inspiration. Have a read!

Tell us about your creative journey. Your passion for your work and how you discovered or nurtured it.

Wow, this is a big question. I suppose I have always been creative, only when I to high school and had awesome teachers did I start to nurture it though. From high school and TAFE and then university I have always had really great teachers and mentors that I could always confide in and in turn they offered me great advice and the strength to believe in myself and my own ideas.

At university I got involved in the AGDA Student Council which was a great grounds for meeting likeminded people that I still know to this day and also landed me my first job. From volunteering my time with AGDA I got to mix my love of running and organising events but ultimately being able to celebrate great design and the great people who make it. This has been something that I still love doing and now it has evolved into other events and generally my friendship groups which keeps me inspired.

On my passion in regards to my work it was a mentor that I was lucky enough to meet when I just finished uni that opened my eyes to consider digital as path to pursue and why I first considered applying for a internship at Reactive, which in turn became my first grown up job.

Tell us about a typical day at Isobar. What do you love about working at a big agency?

I have worked at Isobar for 1 year and 6 months. The office hours at Isobar are from 9:30 am to 6:00pm I like to get in a little early and make myself a coffee and some breakfast before the 200 other people arrive and the coffee machine becomes hot property. Every day at 9:30 the team I work in have a daily stand up where we chat about what we did yesterday, what we will do that day and if there are any challenges or anything that is blocking us. This is a great way to get an understanding of what everyone else is working on and it encourages us to work in a team instead of getting caught up in just what you are working on.

After that it’s back to my desk and it’s this bit that can vary a lot day to day. I might be working on a small task or starting a new project which calls for a kick off workshop. We work really closely with the client I work on so we quite often will be at their offices working with them or having some sort of review or catch up.

That aside, the rest of the day will either be a bunch of meetings, or dedicated focus time at my desk. One thing that happens sporadically and on a daily basis is peer reviews. The team that I work in is made up of a combination of Experience Designers and User Interface designers in total we are 8 people sometimes 9. And throughout the day we have what we call peer reviews where we get one or two designers from either discipline to come to our desk and talk about what you have been working on, get their thoughts and feedback on whatever it might be. I think this process is really awesome because it means you get to sense check something you have been working on and see if makes sense or if you have missed anything. Which is often the case if you have been looking at something so closely. Another reason why peer reviews are so great is because once we get a few reviews in the process of completing a project or a task we then send it off to the client. So it really encourages a great work flow and doesn’t slow things done, waiting to get something signed off.

I love working in a big agency because I get to work with so many talented people.

There are also so many other people that I don’t work with day to day but I still get to learn from their skills and expertise. The culture at Isobar is also very important working with likeminded people who all want to create great work but also have a good work life balance.

You’re also a speaker liaison for CreativeMornings Melbourne. How’d you get involved with that, and why should people attend?

I got involved with Creative Mornings from going to the events and loving the vibe, but also when a friend who was one of the dedicated volunteers that help put the monthly events on asked me if I wanted to take on her role as Speaker Liaison I jumped at the chance.

Everyone one should attend CreativeMornings because they awesome and free!

They started my a very amazing human called Tina Roth Eisenberg in New York and have now expanded to over 150 worldwide chapters. Tina’s visions and it still applies to this day was to offer a little bit of inspiration to peoples day before they went off to work and a great place to meet and chat with other creative people. We have a different theme each month and we ask a speaker to come and share their take on the chosen theme. I love it not only because its great on the day to be able to see so many smiling faces and to be inspired, I love hearing people share their stories. But I have also been very lucky to be able to meet some people that I really admire and look up to and I get to email them and meet them in person which I love. 

What’s your proudest career achievement to date?

I got to work on the mobile site (back when mobile sites were a thing and not just what a website looks like on your device) for the Bureau of Meteorology. Firstly I love checking the weather, knowing what the weather is going to be like for the day. Not to mention I am from Melbourne so it is even more important to know what the hell the weather is going to do for the day. And working on this project still sticks in my mind because we presented a concept to the client that they didn’t really as for but we thought was a better option and they loved it and went with it! 

In your guest lecture at Shillington Melbourne, you walked the class through a case study of redesigning the Jetstar website. That’s a huge task! What did you learn from the experience?

It is huge and it continues to be! A few things that I learnt from the experience is that

A. Nothing is ever finished. It continues to grow and be refined over time.

Especially with digital design, it’s not like you export, send to print and it’s done and dusted.

B. In some cases working with external developers for some of our development work and understanding that not only do developers have a different perspective and way at looking at things, they also work different to how I do and being able to communicate with them in a way that we end up with an awesome end product is so crucial. 

And lastly, that things are never as simple as you think they are going to be especially working on a big brand like Jetstar and an airline company there is always 1000 things to consider from legal text that is required to how a price point will look in a different cultures currency. 

During your guest lecture, you also shared some recommended design tools. What were they? (Adobe Xd, Sketch, Invision, Zeplin)

Yes on the Jetstar design studio we use Adobe XD, which is great for wireframes and creating interactive prototypes that give the client a great understanding of a design solution.

On a daily basis I live in Sketch—it has changed my life for the better. I love using it, it’s so considered and well thought out for example the interface is contextual so it only offers you the tools that are relevant to what you are doing at that particular time instead of showing you every tool bar at the same time.

Following on from Sketch, Zeplin is super handy, it is great to use for developers as they are able to inspect your designs and see all the finer details about them. From what typeface a heading might be to what how much spacing is in between elements.

We also use Invision to be able to present designs to the client, is a great way to be able talk them through the designs and then them be able to share them with the wider business.

What other designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?

Like I said earlier I have always be very inspired by Tina Roth Eisenberg and everything she touches what I love about her is says when something bothers you enough you need to do something about it instead of such complaining about it. 

I am loving the colourful work of Nadia Hernández (Editor’s Note: Nadia is a Shillington graduate!) And I have always loved Kylie Zerbst, the founder of Melbourne clothing label Obus.

What was the biggest mistake you made as a junior designer? 

Technically I wasn’t a junior at the time but I think this still applies because a similar thing happened to me recently where I lost all my files. My biggest mistake is not backing up my files correctly or having a good system in place where things up backed up and synced without me having to think about it. On the plus I have just gotten better at this though. 

Any tips or advice for design graduates hoping to land a job at a large digital agency like Isobar?

Networking, but not networking for the sake of networking.

I like making new friends and they just happen to work in the same industry as me. I think that is so much better than approaching someone and asking them for a job straight off the bat.

Following on from that I think it is great to surround yourself with people who are doing great things and things that you admire. I have some great friends who work in the same field and as me and I am able to ask their advice when we are out for dinner or catching up over a beer.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I am learning to surf as well as continuing to make the online experience for Jetstar smoother and more transparent.

Thanks so much, Tess! You can follow more of her work and day-to-day on Twitter or Instagram.

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