Design Tips & Inspiration from H&W Design & Production Manager, Maddison

Design Tips & Inspiration from H&W Design & Production Manager, Maddison

Behind every brand is the wonderful people that makes our hearts beat and creatively thrive. We’ve been so lucky to have really passionate people who genuinely want to support our mission and help us be a success.

From the beginning our mission has been simple – create exceptional pieces, while doing what we love, and make people happy along the way.

Around two years ago I was racing around like a headless chicken doing everything myself. I was being a founder, designer, content creator, balancing my books and trying to remain creative at the same time. I started to put the feelers out for help (you have to put it out into the universe right!) and my friends recommended a fabulous all-rounder who they knew was looking for some extra hours.

Well, Mads came to the Paddington studio and after a cup of tea and a couple of hours chatting we were excited to get started.

Now, we have been sooo busy working, we can’t believe it has taken soooo long to introduce her… but better late than never we say!

So, meet Maddison, the first member of the Hills & West family and wow has it been an amazing almost two years!

Casually brainstorming in the Hills & West studio


5 things you can’t live without…

  • Coffee (Mads has at least 2 a day, which is great as I am a coffee lover too)

  • Music (Mads is always introducing us to her latest fav music finds)

  • My friends and family (Hope that means the Hills & West family too 😉

  • Cheese and red wine (Now this was a massive connection point as I could live on cheese and red wine)

  • A hot water bottle… but that might change come summer (The heaters are always firing in the studio!!!)

There is more to Mads than meets the eye…

Directly after high school I was enrolled in a Medical Science degree at The University of Technology Sydney. I studied this for a year (not very well admittedly) and after a good chat on the roof of student housing with a friend of mine (who was topping the cohort) I asked myself what I can do for 8hrs straight without feeling like I wanted to slam an organic chemistry book in my face.

I landed on ‘something creative’ as my answer, as I had always been interested in visual art. But I also needed something to appease my analytical side. After some soul searching, travelling, a few diplomas and a little trial and error; in 2015 I started working as a freelance designer. Within this small window of experience I found my passion and have had the pleasure to work on projects alongside many influential people and for brands such as Woollworths, Suncorp, Cumberland Council, Web Directions, Blink Republic, SOMA, Stedmans Hospitality and more. I constantly take on projects that I believe would make me a better designer, enhance user experiences and assist in the creation of a more ethical and equitable world.

I look to companies like IDEO for using design thinking and human-centred design as methods for creative problem solving. In 2018, I was awarded an NCP scholarship that allowed me to partake in a global studio based in Surabaya where myself and a small team of transdisciplinary designers developed an anti-tobacco campaign for Vital Strategies Indonesia.

As well as running my own business as a freelancer, I am currently studying full time and will soon complete a Bachelors degree in Visual Communication at The University of Technology Sydney.

And of course, working closely with Hills & West who are fantastic.

Design tips…

  • Design is an iterative process. It’s near impossible that your first idea or produced bit of work is going to be the final product.

  • There’s a lot of research and strategy involved and its really multifaceted. I guess there’s still a common misconception that designers just make things ‘look good’. In my experience as well as what I’ve been taught both at university and from talking to other creatives, is how it influences and intersects with pretty much everything you see and interact with. So basically – do more research and develop more MVP’s than you think you need to.

  • People work differently, but I find collaborating with others as the best way to ideate.

  • Write down and draw everything you think and every idea you have even if you think it’s stupid. This has been drilled into me since I started and everywhere I’ve gone since. I’ll admit it wasn’t something I was quick to adopt but its incredibly useful. So don’t be stubborn like I was.

  • There’s a lot of really useful websites that both creatives and non-creatives can use. is fantastic for up-skilling or if you’d just like to learn something new. Knowing of the really good stock websites for mock-ups, icons, photos, videos and sound effects etc is incredibly useful. graphicburger, unsplash, pixabay, behance are a few of the good freebies off the top of my head.

  • Developing a good rapport with the people you outsource from such as printers. If they like you and you need something quickly often they’ll do you a favour and put you ahead of the queue. Or even sometimes give you a great discount.

  • Do the ‘big chuncks’ / foundational parts of a project first, then be a perfectionist.

  • This ties into the above. Know the difference between ‘finished’ and perfect.

  • Get second opinions from people you trust.

  • If you’re stuck on something walk away from it for a bit. Give yourself some space and completely clear your head. You can still be productive by focusing on another task. Just do yourself a favour and don’t agonise for 30mins over it when you can put that 30mins either to something else or by focusing on your health (have a cup of tea or meditate or whatever floats your boat).

  • Proof read again and again. Sometimes a client will send you copy/content with spelling or grammatical errors. Or more importantly, if you’re writing it – especially since the adobe creative softwares don’t spell check on the go like other softwares do.

Who inspires you…

The women I am surrounded by on a day to day basis but especially the women in my family. My mother, grandmother, aunties and cousins (no offence to the Boys!). They’re all ‘boss’ women in their own right. Whether they have flourishing careers within industry giants, running their own business or being great mums.

  • Clare Waight Keller – First female artistic director for Givenchy. Formerly the artistic director for Chloé.

  • Tim Brown – (soon-to-be) former CEO of IDEO.

  • Sandy Spiecher – Designer and incoming CEO of IDEO.

  • Scott Dadich – Former editor and chief of WIRED, Co-CEO of Godfrey and Dadich Partners.

  • Dean Baquet – Executive editor of The New York Times.

  • Ezra Klein – Editor-at-Large, Co-Founder of Vox and voice behind the ‘Ezra Klein Show’ Podcast

  • Emily Weiss – Founder/CEO of Glossier/Into the Gloss

  • Melanie Perkins – Co-founder and CEO of Canva

  • Dany Milham and Mitch Taylor – Co CEO’s of Koala

5 things on your bucket list…

  • To live and work overseas.

  • Travel more than I can dream of… and have experiential holidays – Things like hiking in Nepal or doing a road trip through Patagonia.

  • Make multiple and positive impacts for people and the environment

  • Create and influence positive change

  • Learn how to speak another language – although I think we are pretty close to that skill being less useful due to instant-translation tech. However I’d still like to regardless.

If you could change one thing in the world…

The industry standards for plastic as well as developing more plastic alternatives. I believe there’s a lot of change that can be made with regards to how things are packaged, stored and made. There’s definitely a lot of effort individuals can make with regards to their contribution in how they use plastic; such as reducing how much they use single-use i.e. takeaway coffee cups. But I also strongly believe that the issue is systemic and that industries need to make drastic changes to their manufacturing materials. For instance, the amount of plastic that is used in clothing – polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic fibers.

Secret talent?

Trivia sometimes?..  I tend to remember the most random stuff, every now and then it comes in handy.

Why Hills & West…

Aisha (Hills & West’s founder/creative director) and I were referred to one another through a mutual friend in late 2017. I hadn’t heard of the brand beforehand but I was really intrigued as a lot of enthusiasm was followed by her name, brand and story. I did a little more research into the business and found that it ticked all my boxes.

What’s unique about Hills & West is how much the customer and wider community is considered when designing the products. There’s an emphasis on being more than just beautiful handbags and accessories – versatility, durability, ethics and accessibility are just as important. Aisha really cares that her pieces are delivering multiple benefits to the user as well the environment. Hills & West regularly collaborates with local artisans, businesses and charities.

Outside of having a fantastic Australian made brand under her name with huge growth potential, I was really drawn to the idea of working closely with Aisha. She’s had a lot of experience in her career journey which includes working as a communications director for a global tech company as well as being a successful photographer and DJ. I saw someone who I could not only work alongside and assist in building their business, but someone I could have as a mentor.

*Aww… Mads you’re such a doll!

Getting inspiration…

Favourite H&W bag…

There’s a lot of beautiful bags in H&W’s collections so its hard to pick just one. Buuuuuuuuttttt the Lunar Max 3-Way’s would be a favourite of mine for versatility. And I am going to cheat and pick two, The Morgan Backpacks.

What would you like to see H&W do next…

At Hills & West we’ve been generating a few ideas to launch in the next season/later in the year. Aisha has some really great stuff in the pipeline but what I am really keen on is the ‘upcycling’ initiative! But you might just have to wait to find out more about it.

So as you can see Mads too has such an interesting past and many exciting things ahead. I am so grateful she is part of the Hills & West family and love creating together.

Big love.


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