Featured Designer

Tabitha Swanson

October 2018

We chat with multidisciplinary designer/researcher Tabitha Swanson about 3D rendering, math homework, mentoring — yes! mentoring, we're all about that! — plus she shares some mistakes from early on in her career and what she learned from them.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I’m a Berlin-based multidisciplinary designer, and researcher. I have a pretty varied background and have worked in design, fashion, and marketing. In 2015, I co-founded a creative strategy agency (Forte Marketing) which we ran for just under two years and then I continued working for myself as a freelancer.

At the moment, I work for Zalando as a UX/UI designer, and as an art director at Daddy Magazine. In my spare time, I try to learn and work on as much personal work as I can. Right now, I’m working to improve my 3d rendering and coding skills as to make a foray into more VR and AR related things.

What are some of your earliest creative memories and what led you into design?

As a child, literally all of my school notebooks were covered in drawings; I’d hand in a sheet of math homework with illustrations covering all of the previously white margins. It helps me think. I still catch myself doing it, sometimes I’ll zone out in a meeting and end up drawing all over my notepad. I’m a very visual person and design always seemed to be the most natural step forward.

What do you look for in a great portfolio?

Attention to detail, curiosity, creativity, and awareness.

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A common feature I’ve found in my mistakes has been being too much of a people-pleaser.

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Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if so how it shapes your practice?

I am, I’m mentoring two people and actually have two mentors myself. I love it when communities share knowledge and bring new perspectives into your realm of understanding. I’ve noticed that when people get to a certain stage in their career, they sometimes stop seeking out as many opportunities to learn. I think that’s truly a shame. My belief is that you can never grow or learn too much.

What career advice would you give your 16yr old self?

We’re all going to die soon enough, so you may as well just go for it. In 150 years from now, everyone you’ve ever met will be dead and no one will care that you did or made something that wasn’t perfect. Is that too morbid?…

Biggest mistake?

Oh, I’ve definitely made a few, I try to look at it as just part of the growing process. A common feature I’ve found in my mistakes has been being too much of a people-pleaser. Sometimes clients would send me elements weeks late, or ask for things that were really pushing the limits of the project scope. Especially earlier on in my career, I’d often try to compromise or meet their demands, even if they were ridiculous. After some situations like these, I’d feel taken advantage of, or the work wouldn’t be my best because I’d been pulling all-nighters to finish it on time. Listen to your needs and acknowledge your capacity. Communicate if something isn’t working on your end and empower yourself to make change. Generally people are pretty understanding.

Website: tabithaswanson.de

Instagram: @tabithaswanson_

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/tabitha-swanson

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