Team Profile: Judd Madden

Visual DesignUser ExperienceCulture16 February 2024Judd Madden
Judd Cover

How did you get into design and development?

I always loved drawing. My brother and I spent our childhood inventing characters and stories, drawing animals and copying cartoons. We lived in the bush, far from Ballarat, so we made our own entertainment. Mum was a primary-school art teacher - she taught us to value creativity and expression. Dad worked for Telecom (now Telstra) so we always had a ‘modern’ computer - he taught us how they worked. I loved the computer too.


Texta drawings - 1995

When Windows 3.0 arrived with Paintbrush (later Microsoft Paint), I could draw on the computer. It was new and exciting. The computers and programs kept evolving: Hypercard on Mac, Photoshop, Illustrator, Bryce 3D, FutureSplash (later Flash). All throughout school I was interested in the newest tools for creativity. In year 9, Visual Communication and Information Technology were my favourite electives, and I realised that graphic design could be my career. It seemed a sensible way to use my creativity. I enjoyed making things that had a purpose, a story - something other than pure art.


I studied Graphic Design at Uni in 2002, and was drawn to the technical disciplines: animation, digital interaction, vector illustration, digital typography, and coding primitive websites. I didn’t like getting my hands dirty with painting, screen printing or collage.

My folio landed me a Web Design job in Melbourne in 2005, at a small agency called Go4. From there I moved to Evolution7, where I was the lead designer and frontend developer for five years, then the same at Swear Words for four years. In 2015 I moved to my current design and user experience role at Calico.


Uni project: R Magazine 2004

What do you enjoy about your role?

The pursuit of simplicity. Drawing on a computer. Debating with colleagues. Understanding client needs. Understanding user needs. Changing someone’s mind. Having my mind changed.

What does a typical day look like for you at Calico?

My days vary greatly. It’s a mix of:

  • Internal project meetings: discussing projects candidly and concretely
  • Client meetings: gathering information, discussing scope, approach, and possibilities.
  • Client presentations: explaining research, wireframes or designs.
  • Design meetings: reviewing and refining the design team’s work in progress, ideas, and schedules.
  • Research: various types of user research and project research so that we understand the problems and possibilities.
  • Pre-design activities: planning project activities, creating user flows, developing information architecture, client and user interviews etc.
  • Pitching: creating our design approach for pitches.
  • Design: actually designing websites! Still my favourite thing.

What’s been your favourite project to build/work on?

In recent years, the Zoos Victoria website project was enjoyable; great imagery, deep functionality and high public visibility made for a good challenge. The Melbourne Comedy Festival has also been rewarding, with many hearty design debates both internally and with the Comedy team!


Zoos Victoria website design - 2019

Back when Flash websites were popular I had many favourites. The web was wild and experimental, and we were deliberately trying to be obtuse and different. The user experience was not as streamlined and considered as it is today - there were less web standards. It was a fun time for creatives!


McDonagh consultancy Flash website design - 2007

In your opinion, what is “good” website design?

Good website design is a delicate balancing act. Different sites have vastly different purposes, and each site has unique success variables that determine if it is “good”:

  • A complex site or new idea should guide and explain.
  • A marketing site should convert, concisely and convincingly, and there are many measures of conversion.
  • An ecommerce site should sell, and upsell, and promote brand loyalty.
  • A ‘repeat-visit’ highly functional site should be almost invisible to the user, so they are able to perform tasks seamlessly and without distraction.
  • A content platform should allow the content to form the structure, and users to shape their own experience.

Ultimately a good website must balance user needs with business needs.

Good visual design should add meaning, subtract noise, be legible, be direct, be flexible, be responsive, embody the brand, and follow function.

Where do you see web design going in the next few years?

For small companies and simple websites, they will use templated builders (like Squarespace or Wordpress). That’s actually been the case for a while, but I also see more complex sites moving to those types of systems; they’re low risk and fulfil their purpose.

For larger companies and complex websites, there will always be a place for deep thought and carefully customised solutions.

Websites also have a much longer lifespan these days - instead of redesigning every 2-4 years (as the web standards and devices were evolving), the web ecosystem is stable, and sites can live for 7+ years. Now, the key to improvement is constant evaluation and iteration: look at the traffic and conversion statistics, test A/B variations, see which performs better, and repeat.

I see a trend toward simplicity in presentation, but intelligence in function. Smarter components and interactions that appear simple but have many different states based on user intent or action.

AI will also have a huge impact on how we work. Stay tuned for an upcoming article featuring the Calico team’s thoughts on AI!

What do you do and enjoy outside of work?

Making Music

I’ve been in bands my whole life: punk, rock, metal, and in 2010 I started a solo journey at It’s mostly instrumental metal, slow and crushing. Attempting to find new melodies, structures and sounds. I play drums, guitar, bass, piano and cello.

Albums Waterfall Ii
Ablums Cbwdhl
Albums Eiw
Albums Artesian
Albums Jitc

Album art: Waterfall II - 2015

Seeing Live Music

I’ve been lucky enough to see dozens of my favourite bands over the years: Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Tool, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Conan, Isis(the band), Meshuggah, Animals as Leaders, Devin Townsend, Sunn O))), Sleep, Om, Yaeji, Amon Tobin, and countless Melbourne metal bands!

Family & Friends

I love my wife and two young daughters; playing and sharing the world with them is amazing. Many of my close friends also have young children so we’re all sharing the journey together! I also have a podcast of interviews with family and friends about their lives.

Board Games

I’m obsessed with chess and try to play a couple of serious games every day. I play Dungeons & Dragons - as a player with one group, and as the dungeon master with another group. My wife and I also made our own card game, Duel 52, which is free and uses a standard deck of cards.

Duel 52

Duel 52 card game website - 2016

In your opinion, what makes a good workplace and what does Calico offer you that meets this?

Before I had kids, I valued a fun workplace culture and freedom for creativity. Now that I have kids, I additionally value flexibility and stability. Calico offers all of these things, which is why I’ve been a part of the team since 2015!

Judd Madden
Judd Madden

Judd has been designing websites of all shapes and sizes for over 18 years. He is insightful, decisive, creative and pragmatic. Judd strives for simplicity and creating great user experiences. His creativity extends beyond his design credentials, with a keen interest in music production.


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