I refined the brand identity
and built
 design culture
at a small studio by creating
a design system and managing
our team.


Portal A is a digital advertising and film studio that creates branded and original entertainment.

I was hired as the company's first designer, and over the course of almost five years, helped define the role and identity of design at the company.

Role: Senior Designer
Team: Angela Chang
Timeline: January 2015 - August 2019



While articulating these challenges is far easier in hindsight than it was at the time, I believe these were the key issues I faced:

1. Lack of infrastructure
Portal A had no established processes for how design functioned at the company. I needed to work with every department to integrate design into key processes, and pitch to change these processes when necessary.

2. Inconsistent and limited brand identity
The brand identity consisted mostly of mixed assets from a logo exploration and the website. I needed to refine the brand and expand it into a working system.

3. Lack of awareness and inclusion
Video production is Portal A's bread and butter. At best, producers were familiar with how to work with designers, and at worst, they were skeptical of the value design could add. I needed to be an advocate and educator of design.

How can I integrate design into the DNA of a young studio, in order to increase the quality and value of it's work?



I refreshed the existing Portal A logo and extended it into a working design system that included stationary, deck templates, swag, and more. I documented and supported the system with style guides.



I worked with leadership across departments (Production, Talent, Business Operations, Post-Production) to integrate design into key processes. I created the Portal A Designer Handbook to onboard and support future designers. 



I helped hire our second full-time designer, and managed our team along with a rotating cast of one to three freelance creatives at any given point.


Select Projects

So what actually came from all these processes and people? Some really cool work, if you ask me.

Please contact me at for additional inquiries about these projects.

Brand identity, motion graphics, and art direction for Stephen Curry's YouTube channel relaunch and first web series, 5 Minutes From Home.


Art direction, graphics support, photography coordination for award-winning YouTube Originals documentary, State of Pride.


Art and photo direction, brand identity for Olympic ice skater Adam Rippon's web series, Break The Ice.


Results + Reflection

— Portal A grew from 10 to 60 employees

— I helped hire our second full-time designer and managed our team

— Design became a critical part of processes in every department, documented and replicated through the Portal A Designer Handbook

— Over 30 projects completed with clients like Google, HBO, and YouTube Originals

Building a design practice at a small studio from scratch was not exactly what I thought I'd be doing at my second job. But it taught me one of the most valuable lessons I've learned as a designer: the hardest challenges are often not about the work itself, but about the people and processes responsible for getting the work into the world.

I realized I thrive when solving challenges around people and process, and am grateful to take the lessons I learned at Portal A with me as I continue to learn how to be a leader and manager in design.

"At Portal A, Tess’s impact extended far beyond her visual design skills — she has an innate command of the content business, along with a copywriter’s pen and an intrinsic understanding of unique user needs. Simply put, she’s a triple threat."

Emma White
Vice President and Associate Partner
© Tess Hannel 2021