Meet Matilda Wilson: Founder of MW Creative Studio and CoTheory Brand Designer

This week, we sat down with our incredible brand designer, Matilda Wilson to chat all things creative business, routine and workspaces…
Matilda Wilson

Q. So Matilda – tell us, how and why did you start Matilda Wilson Creative?

A. Matilda Wilson Creative started as a part-time freelance offering for branding services - this was an area of design that I was heavily interested in but didn’t get to explore within my role at a publishing agency when I first finished uni. Freelancing also piqued my interest throughout my university years, I was keenly drawn towards the business-oriented subjects. So, this avenue was a great way for me to wear a few different hats beyond designing without taking the full-time leap - yet.

Jump forward a few years and it was becoming increasingly obvious that this was a viable path for me career-wise, which also allowed for a great deal of autonomy. We’re a family of self-employed people (my partner and I) so flexibility is of utmost importance. Starting my own studio has allowed for this, along with the added benefit of being a great passion of mine.

Q. What does a typical day look like for you?

If only there were such a thing! MWC offers a broad range of services and is heavily collaborative, so with that comes a variety of differing 9-5s. This could involve anything from packaging development, print testing, research or copywriting right through to web development and content creation. The most consistent attributes of every day though are how I break the day up. I love periods of quiet where I can delve into the more analytical areas of what I do, then it’s switched into creative mode; music on, a fresh coffee and off we go.

Q. What’s the most important part of what you do?

The most important part of what I do regardless of the service being explored is the client orientation. Everything must serve a purpose and ultimately enrich what they’re setting out to do in all spheres of their structure - not just from a profitability sense. The ability to rationalise decisions and show the tangible link between design and a business’ goals is integral and taking the time to fully understand our clients is what matters most.

Home & Office Products

Q. How do you stay organised and manage your time?

I LOVE organisation. When my office or home is clean and tidy, my mind is clear and I thrive off it! Through a lot of fine tuning and finding the right programs and processes that work for me, I can stay on track. I use Dubsado with Xero integrated for CRM and accounting, Figma for collaborating with our designers, Asana for our larger projects and ol’ faithful calendars are my go-tos – and not just one on the computer. The handwritten diary or whiteboard is also a must have for me. Since CoTheory launched, I’ve also been using the Visionary Pinboard as a bit of a moodboard, and a few of the other stone pieces have really elevated and organised my space. I definitely believe it’s important to have the right décor and organisational elements in a workspace.

Additionally, assigning levels of priority to tasks and segmenting them into separate areas such as ‘work’ and ‘admin’ mean I can ‘chunk’ a period of the day for them. This helps to avoid jumping between tasks and is a great way to maximise your time spent creating meaningful work.

Q. While building your business, what has surprised you?

The greatest surprise has probably been the realisation of how in control we can be of our ideal work structure. We have the tools to build businesses, the educational outlets to upskill and the flexibility to do it on our own terms. It’s quite easy to fall into the trap of believing you need to be in a rigid work environment and sacrificing other areas of your life to progress through your career. Once I realised this through some great reads from Seth Godin and Paul Jarvis, I started to be selfish with my time and look after myself more. This in turn created a more refined focus on my strengths, and generated a lot more energy in what I did; when you show up for yourself you can show up for your work and others.

Q. If you could give your younger self any piece of advice, what would it be?

I’d probably tell myself to spend more time doing what I loved and stop worrying about what others are doing. Your early 20s are formidable years; the mistakes are just as important as the triumphs and let’s be honest - they make for some funny stories anyway! I wouldn’t be too hard on myself, it sounds a bit cliché but the journey is more important than the destination. I think younger me needed to fall down a few times, and I’m now glad I did.

Q. What is your view on the importance of good relationships?

Good relationships and having respect for others is integral. I’ve found that this comes naturally when you align your businesses values with others and can also be a great driver for community. When you’re out of alignment in any area of life, it invites turmoil. This is why consistently nurturing the right relationships (emphasis on right) is of utmost importance.

Q. Can you think of an ‘ah ha’ moment in the duration of your career? How did it impact you?

There was a period where I was kind of unsure on what my specialism was – my point of difference. There wasn’t really a great difference between what I was doing and other studios, and I also wasn’t the strongest designer technically! This was a skill I really had to work on and still do today. My ‘ah ha’ moment was when I realised my strength is in strategy and the ability to rationalise a concept. Once I started designing strictly from a research standpoint and backing these choices up, the process just flowed and had a huge impact on the type of client I was attracting as well as the confidence I had in myself.

Q. Now that you have that clarity, what is your vision for Matilda Wilson Creative Studio?

This has greatly shifted in the past year as we had our baby boy, Banks. My vision currently is to build a business that is intrapersonal, autonomous, and enriching. A business that allows my passions for design and business to flow freely while also allowing myself the time and space to be present with my family and put them first. Of course, there will be times where this equilibrium is thrown out, but ultimately my vision is a balanced work lifestyle with strong impact for my clients.

Q. Obviously here at CoTheory, we love to focus on creating a great workspace. What’s the most important thing about yours?

Cleanliness - clutter hurts my head and is distracting. I need headphones, purposeful office equipment and that is about it! No stacks of messy paper or coffee cups here!

Q. In your opinion, how important is a space for a person’s state of mind and wellbeing?

Ha – of the utmost importance! I’m a visual person who is a bit OCD and loves the calmness and clarity that a clean environment can bring. For me personally, this allows for mental space. There’s some great research behind the ability of architecture and interior design to enrich the mental stability of its inhabitants. One of our clients and dear friends, Haptic Studio, specialise in this kind of work – I’d highly recommend looking them up if the intersection between design and psychology is of interest .

Q. What would you consider to be your primary and secondary workspace? E.g. do you have an office but like to sometimes work outside in the sunshine?

Currently, my primary space is our home, this is where I work from 99% of the time. I love that in my breaks, I can reset in the sun or get some quick home tasks out of the way (is this not every WFH Mum – ha!). I thrive with a routine so a set workspace is a great mental cue for me to get into the mode of working. If I had multiple spaces, I don’t think I would be able to find my rhythm as quickly as I do from home.

Q. If you work from home, what does that look like from a teams perspective? How many people work within Matilda Wilson Creative Studio?

This varies from project to project - MWC’s business structure has been designed around this. I have a contract-based team of nine people who I call on when needed and two set designers. Our contractors’ expertise are singular and each are incredible at their specialism. What this means is that I can engage my absolute best of the best for clients and leave out the rest. In turn, this allows the contractors to enjoy the same flexibility and remote style work that I value in my working day and increases the business’ profitability as it involves less overheads for the studio. Furthermore, our clients benefit heavily as they’re only quoted for the services they specifically need (a big yes for start-ups) and receive a highly personalised experience when engaging MWC. This team is collaborative, and no one outranks the other, myself included. It all comes back to is the client orientation and ensuring each business gets the absolute best out of their time with us.

Q. Time to get a little personal. You were obviously the brain behind our brand design – so finally, what did you enjoy the most about working on the CoTheory brand and visual design?

CoTheory was an awesome project as there was a strong focus on processes, it was relative to my own business and from the outset we were able to neatly mirror up between identity and usability. I fondly remember the research phase of CoTheory. We went through multiple potential directions firstly in naming, and then within the strategy of the brand and visual side as well. We knew that the identity was going to be minimal and clean, but also needed personality. This led us down the path of exploring typographic design, the theory behind grammar and punctuation as a potential identity marker, as well as the use of grids and the link with experimental data and problem solving – the list goes on! It was an enriching project and seeing it come into fruition now and how easily the content is working with the physical products and marketing strategy – ultimate work satisfaction!

To learn more about Matilda and her work, you can visit Matilda Wilson Creative online here.

Photography by @amyhunterstudio / Words by Jacqueline O'Neill, Inneka Agency.