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October 2014

We interviewed the director of Brisbane's JOLT studio, Tanja Hall! JOLT is turning 20 this year (wow!), and currently working on projects with Queensland Symphony Orchestra, BIGSOUND and many others.  Tanja's motivation for starting a studio back in the day was as simple as PC vs Mac and she's still going strong.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I studied as one of the very first CATC Design College students way back in 1986 (oh so long ago!). I first worked in an advertising agency, then travelled overseas for a year at 21. When I returned I decided to move away from the advertising environment and worked in a design studio for four years. I then made a decision to start my own business. It was at a time of change within the design profession… we moved from marker rendered concepts, typesetting galleys and layout on grid boards to developing design digitally. My employer at the time wanted to buy an IBM computer rather than Apple so that was really the catalyst for me going out on my own, I figured I didn't have anything to lose. This year I'm celebrating 20 years in business so it all worked out well.

What do you love creatively about where you live and work?

In January this year we moved the studio to a new space in Newstead… a heritage listed cottage which we renovated last year. We are all loving the space! We really wanted the studio to be a collaborative space so we also have other like minded creatives sharing and working in the space with us. It's great to be able to inspire each other and share new ideas and learnings.

I live closeby in New Farm and it never disappoints in delivering inspiration creatively – there's always new bars, cafes and restaurants. The Brisbane Powerhouse always has exhibitions, performances, festivals… quite spoilt really! And then there's the great open spaces… the boardwalks, the river, New Farm Park. Mind space is really important for me creatively – the time to just 'be' and think, to relax the mind – so I definitely make the most of what's around me to do that.

Where do you go online to be inspired?

We use some regular online resources for inspiration… Swiss Miss, Designspiration, Baubauhaus,Site Inspire,Good Design Makes Me Happy,Design You Trust,Letterheady, We Love Typography,Artificial intelligence,The Cool Hunter, The Daily Smudge. Personally people and travel inspire me most. Travel always allows the ability to see things in a different way, from a different perspective. Being surrounded by like minded, positive and active people is probably my greatest inspiration.

What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate?

While skills, talent and a great folio are valuable qualities, it's important they are supported by a positive work attitude. I personally look for someone who is a great communicator, someone who can express their design thinking and intent and provide rationale for the decisions in their work. I look for evidence of the process rather than just the outcome… what research was done, what provided the inspiration, what are the reasons behind the solution, how does it address the need. Taking accountability for the work is also really important... thinking about the solution from a user's perspective will always provide a greater outcome. And I look for a 'doing' designer, someone who will be proactive in making things happen. Seeking opportunities to add more value, be it to a client project, or to the environment they work in, is also a great advantage. Many design studios are small so cultural fit plays a large part within the creative team.

Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

We are working on several branding projects over the next 12 months, some ongoing and some new, including work on a fashion and homewares brand. We have some projects we work on annually including the seasonal identity for the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the visual identity for the BIGSOUND music event so as soon as we complete those projects this year, we begin on the identities for next year.

Our work with clients is approached from a strategic and holistic perspective. We are aiming to build our service design work over the next 12 months which involves designing customer experiences. I attended the 'This is Service Design Doing' Executive Summer School hosted by the Design Thinkers Academy in Berlin last year, and since that time we have been looking for more opportunity to enhance our brand design work with service design. It's a really exciting and rewarding space to work in.

And other work… we should probably also design our own website!



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