An Interview with Tara, Owner of Tingalls Graphic Design
By Krista Steele, student
My interview with Tara was wonderful. She was very informative about the ins and outs of her firm, which consists of her, 2 designers (soon to be 3), a marketing specialist, and project manager. It may sound like a small firm, but they manage to do big things with an unheard of 5-day design turnover.
Her firm specializes in logo design, business branding, and website design, with small business and non-profit work making up 80% of the business’s client base. Tara and her team work with clients such as Klinke Cleaners, Schmitt Technical Services and the Dane County Cytology Center and do non-profit work through the “giving tree” for places like the Heartland Farm Sanctuary and The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute.
History of Tingalls Graphic Design
Tara graduated from the UW Madison (1997) with a degree in Communication Arts and Journalism. Her first job was as an Assistant Account Executive, which she describes as being “nothing more than a glorified secretary”. She hated it, so she decided that she wanted to go to MATC to get into the Graphic Design program. By lucky circumstance, she landed a job at WPS Health Insurance instead. During the three years she worked there, she self-taught herself design, QuarkXPress, Illustrator, and Photoshop and perfected her talent for page layout.
She started freelancing in 2000 when she did her wedding brochures and programs. The prefix of her email changed from thallam to tingalls and she came up with an interesting twist on the spelling of design and … voila! Tingalls Graphic Design was born. The actual company came into existence in 2001. She is celebrating 10 years this year.
How the Company Works
The typical day is a busy one! Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday starts with a Project meeting where the team talks about what’s new, what projects they have for the week, and then work is delegated to the designers. The designers then work independently on multiple projects throughout the day. One exception is when the designer is working on a website design, because the job can be an 8-10 hour project in itself. Tara spends a lot of time during the day networking, working on proposals, and her favorite part of her job, the “giving tree” volunteer work.
What a New Graduate can Expect
Tara wants friendly, outgoing, cooperative people who are willing to speak up and speak what’s on their mind. She looks for individuals who are self-motivated and able to work independently, someone who is wiling to jump all in and doesn’t need a lot of handholding. She also wants someone who is passionate about design. One way she can see this passion is in the interviewing process, through the portfolios, and in the team builders her team members participate in.
Tara expects more than just a resume and cover letter from her interviewees. She’s not so concerned about where you worked or went to school, but she’d rather know about internships and freelance work that shows your passion for design. She likes a confident designer who can speak about their work and why they made the design choices they did. One thing she really likes to see is what she called the “Before-and-Afters” – things that you’ve noticed that could use a redesign and have taken liberties to do so. She also suggests that you ask what is expected of you when you set up an interview so that you can be prepared.
Tara wants to see at least 10 samples of your work, and wants it to be a broad sample. Not just a bunch of logos, but how you’ve used them in the branding identity process from logos to stationary to page layouts. She’d also like to be able to touch and feel the piece. She finds it’s easier to see how the piece works, how it folds, how it feels in the hand, the weight of the stock, the inner workings of the die-cut, etc… Tara says she’s seen all kinds of physical portfolios and it really doesn’t matter what it looks like, as long as it’s got good content.
New employees in the firm can expect to go through a training process in which they shadow a designer, tour the print shop house, get a headshot and business card, and go through a Tingalls Teambuilder seminar. Through the team builder, Tara is able to get a sense of how the team works and how well they can work together. Her and her team often go to team workshops to improve the dynamic. It is at such events that she can get the input from her members on how they can improve together as individuals, as a team, and as a company.
Tara was very giving of her time. She is a very busy lady with a successful and booming firm. I was honored to be able to meet such a motivated and talented person.*