Maggie Tang is somewhat of an Australian legend. Find me someone who doesn’t love Maggie and we’ll buy you a beer. After heading up projects at Frost* and Houston, Maggie made her way across the oceans to Berlin (okay, via plane) to step out of traditional studio roles into an in-house position. Now Head of Brand Design at a music-tech company Ableton, we’re fascinated more about Maggie’s day-to-day and what type of creative she gets to work on. To find out more, read on…
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?
I always loved the arts and grew up wanting to be a journalist or writer of some sort, but made the switch-a-roo from media to design after a year of study. Tell-tail sign: caring more about the typeface, leading and layout of my essays rather than what the words said. One of my earliest, most difficult and important creative memories is when I was a graduate, being told bluntly by a notable design recruitment agent I wasn’t good enough and that I should really reconsider if this is the right thing for me. It broke and devastated me, but then I sucked it up and did everything in my power to not let anyone make me feel that way again. I used the feedback, put together the best portfolio I could with what I had, and with that, got my first design job.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
I’m a CoFA (College of Fine Arts, UNSW) design graduate and my first job was in-house designer at UTS (University of Technology Sydney). I got my design studio foot-in-the-door at Deuce Design, followed by Moon Communications which sadly no longer exists.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.
I’m a graphic designer, creative director, design manager and sometimes illustrator by day; wannabe cook and karaoke superstar by night. Berlin is home and Sydney used to be, and I’m currently the Head of Brand Design at a music-tech company called Ableton.
I took the harsh feedback from the recruiter to heart (see early creative memory above), so getting my first design studio gig was a fist-pump breakthrough moment and it really spurred everything else.
What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate?
In no particular order: motivation, talent, opinion, curiosity and potential. I look for that spark or ‘aha’ moment in a portfolio, email or conversation. It doesn’t have to be mega obvious, anything that even slightly raises my eyebrow and gets me interested and excited to find out more. I tend to gravitate towards thoughtful, open-minded and humble people. Good taste, hard work, LOLs and kindness also go a long way. And snacks. Snack appreciation is very important.
What has been your highlights since you started out?
I took the harsh feedback from the recruiter to heart (see early creative memory above), so getting my first design studio gig was a fist-pump breakthrough moment and it really spurred everything else. I’ve been super lucky and there are many highlights, but honourable mentions would be working with Linda Jukic, designing signage for a university, designing a book, screwing up an AGDA talk and then redeeming myself with another one, moving to Berlin, working at Ableton and getting the opportunity to collaborate with Made Thought.
What does your job look like day-to-day, compared to that of a traditional studio? I reckon it’s pretty on par with what a CD would be doing except there’s more meetings and you get more insight into the product and business and you get to go deeper. My time is also more divided between strategy and design management. I get to write the briefs and drive the design as I’m a stakeholder in the design with the agency and internally.
2017 for you in a sentence.
Joyful, painful and rewarding.