Tegan Mierle, Graphic Designer
Co-owner and Creative Director, Pilot Interactive
Tegan is the creative director and junior programmer at a hip, young digital agency she co-founded!
Tegan bravely left a cushy corporate job a year after graduating from art school to start her own design and development business – Pilot Interactive - with developer David Di Biase. “We started as two and have built up to a team of 10 people. It was very scary at first but good because we grew slowly.” Pilot Interactive has been in business since 2009 and now has clients across the world!
Tegan is a graphic designer by trade and a programmer by choice. As managing partner and creative director, Tegan oversees Pilot Interactive’s design side. She meets with clients, then brainstorms ways to turn their ideas into beautiful digital designs that her team brings to life. “I have a fair amount of knowledge in technology so I’m able to guide the designers in what is, and isn’t possible, in terms of creative execution.”
A day in the life
Tegan’s days are pretty hectic so it’s a good thing her stylish office is chill. Located in downtown Toronto, Tegan works with both ad agencies and small to medium-sized businesses. She helps them come up with new designs for entire websites and brands, then works with her partner David to get the ideas online. While most of her clients are in the Toronto area, some of her biggest projects come from the U.S. and Switzerland.
Tegan worked closely with a Swiss-based medical company to come up with a design for a new online inventory and training system for pacemakers. “The client was very forward thinking in what they wanted for a user interface design. It was a challenge working with them but it turned out to be a great product and accomplishment”
In the past, medical professionals would travel across the world to train doctors and nurses on pacemakers. The software Tegan helped design does this for them digitally. It eliminates travel costs, which in turn lowers the costs of the pacemakers, making them accessible to smaller hospitals that can’t afford costly medical equipment. Instructional videos can be watched online and the software easily tracks inventory.
Tegan also helps with sales and oversees the entire design and illustration team.
Why this job rocks
“I didn’t want to just do graphic design. I wanted to run a business and that’s why I started it. I like the challenge of finding new clients and new ways to make our office more efficient. It’s a continuous learning process, which is something I didn’t get before when I worked as an in-house designer. We also always like working with new technologies like HTML5 and iPad apps because there are a lot of frameworks you can use for iPad and Android development now.”
- Tegan graduated from OCAD’s graphic design program in 2008.
- She got a corporate job as an in-house designer but left because she felt limited and unhappy due to lack of creative freedom.
- In 2009, Tegan and her business partner, David, started doing freelance work together. It exploded and led to the launch of Pilot Interactive.
“When we started the business we were really young. I was 23 and sometimes we had trouble getting new clients to take us seriously. They thought we were just kids running a business. It’s less of an issue now because we’re a bigger team and way more established as a company and a brand. The other challenge was finding a really good team. It’s hard to find good talent that fits in with your corporate culture.”
Tips for success
- Try as many things as possible. Tegan loved science and math but wishes she took more tech classes in high school to better prepare for university.
- Try university. “You don’t necessarily need to finish but I think experimenting to learn what you do and don’t like is important.”
- Embrace your womanhood. “It’s exciting being a girl in technology because there aren't a lot of women. When people learn you’re a programmer, it’s something new and exciting to them.”