Kerning from the best — 5 minutes with Kate Hoolahan

Luis Ouriach
Sep 18 · 5 min read

Kerning From the Best is an article series where I’m having quick chats with remote designers from around the world to learn more about what makes them tick.

This month’s edition features Kate Hoolahan, a designer based in Sydney, Australia. Kate is an independent product designer, illustrator and creative producing some delightful pieces from her home office.


What does a typical morning look like for you?

I (try) to start the day off right by going to the gym but realistically that ends up happening 3 times a week. The reason I do this is because I end up less anxious, more confident and like I have achieved something early in the morning.

When I get back I have coffee, then go through all the Slack messages from the previous night and try to prioritise what I will do that day in Trello (but again, to be honest I rely on the notes app a lot more then I’d like to say). I also go through emails at the same time.

I then start to timetable my day as best I can in 1 hour chunks — I feel this really helps to keep me on track. I try and do the super urgent tasks first, followed by easy wins (checking things off my list gives me momentum and makes me feel like I’m getting places, if I struggle to get anything done before 12 I start to feel frustrated).

I reserve the afternoon for ‘deep work’ aka the major projects I am working on at that point in time.

How did you arrive here?

When I was younger, I knew I wanted to work as a designer but didn’t believe there were viable opportunities in the city I grew up in — Perth — I was wrong.

Instead I studied architecture and while I like appreciating nice architecture, I hated studying it; it was a painful 4 years.

I quit architecture with 1 year to go, and moved to a digital design degree. I immediately felt way more comfortable and in my element.

Admittedly the jobs I got straight out of uni were pretty terrible, but great opportunities to learn. The first job I worked at was as a designer for a printing company where I barely got to design, but it taught me a lot about scheduling and standing up for myself. It also lead to getting my next job at a uni where I learned a ton.

After that, I moved to Sydney and grew my design network, and from there my opportunities have grown each year.

What do you find yourself having to repeatedly convince others of?

Probably timeframes, and that includes convincing myself to allow more time.

I often think to myself ‘that will only take 2 hours’, and sure, the ideal route might be only 2 hours, but realistically there are roadblocks in the way and things get delayed.

Same goes for my clients, I feel I have made the mistake in the past of getting things done so quickly that it then becomes expected every time! So I try and allow at least double the time for everything.

I’m lucky though that most of my clients are great to work for, and most seem to agree with my point of view on UX or UI once I explain it.

Illustration work can be harder to convince people of the ‘right’ option because it’s so subjective, maybe that’s why I have been working on more product design lately.

Do you have a mantra?

I had to think about this, but I suppose I would say don’t avoid failure.

Failure allows you to learn and through that, grows confidence.

Where do you want to go?

I like to (and want to continue to) work on projects that have a greater purpose, for example I’m working with an agriculture startup who are doing really cool things like helping farmers and agronomists test the nutrient levels and chemical balance of their soil and crop to help them make the right decisions.

Who do you look up to?

Not a designer, but I think Greta Thunberg is amazing.

To be 16 years old and standing up for something so important is really inspiring and makes me want to put my work towards projects that I truly believe in, not just work on things that are ‘pretty’ or have no real impact.

What’s your remote setup?

I live in a 2 bedroom apartment, but I’ve converted the second bedroom to an office.

It’s pretty simple, but it works, although I probably will move to a co-working space soon, as while I do not miss commuting, the lack of distinction between work and home can be a negative.

I use a 15’’ Macbook Pro with a monitor, and also do a lot of illustration work on my iPad.

P.s. we’ve teamed up with DesignLab to offer out their courses to 8px readers. Want to learn UX from some of the industry masters? They offer both short and long courses, where you’re teamed up with mentors from Github, Dropbox and the BBC.

8px Magazine

Life, by designers.

Luis Ouriach

Written by

Design honcho @UpgradePack. Newsletter writer, co-host @thenoisepod, creator of @8pxmag, @juniordesignjob, @LondonIsYours. Sarcastic.

8px Magazine

Life, by designers.

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