We're kicking off our LWD Features with our host and Nashville founder Lindsey Laseter. Here, she shares her personal journey from studying Psychology to her career as an Art Director and Designer, advice she'd give her younger self, what led her to establish LWD and where she wants to go next.
How long have you been in your current role?
I've enjoyed three great years working at Perky Brothers.
How long have you been in Nashville?
I’ve lived here for 10 years. It really feels like home, which is something that’s special when you can leave your actual home and find that in another city.
So how did you end up in design?
I didn’t know what design was for the longest time. I was going to be a psychologist or a counselor and originally studied Psychology. Specifically, my goal was to specialize in marriage and family, and I ultimately went through a few years of school with that focus. I realized after talking to people who were actually in that industry that I had a naïve idea of what that job was. Talking to people and getting a better understanding of what that emotional responsibility would be was really eye opening. It made me take a big step back and ask What is it that I actually want?
I spent a year just not knowing, and trying a few different things. The only reason I eventually considered design was because I was always interested in art. I loved to create things and took a painting class in college when I was living in Charleston. My professor said, “You have a great eye, you’d be a good graphic designer” and at the time I was still thinking I know what I’m doing with my life, thanks! That was the first time I had even heard the term graphic design.
Later when I was trying to find a new path, I thought back on the comment my professor had made and looked into it. I took community classes, and my dad at the time had a small ad agency and said, “If you can learn how to use Photoshop you could work for me as an intern.” I got really good at drop shadows (laughing). I think my dad is still more proud of the work I did cutting out photos of biscuits back then than what I’m doing now. That’s how I ended up in Nashville, moving from South Carolina and going to Watkins to get my degree.
Since biscuit cutting out, what’s a project you’re really proud of?
I feel really proud of all the growth I experienced at redpepper because I never expected to want to work in the ad world, but it was a really unique place. They certainly were a huge part in my growth, just like anyone’s first job is teaching you how to be a professional, how things work and how to work with people.
In terms of projects, one of the most fun projects I ever did there was a stop motion Christmas card. We made yetis and trees and all these things out of paper for a trucking company. Our clients weren’t always sexy but it was a great opportunity to learn how to make them fun and do great work no matter what.
It was always a dream to come work at Perky Brothers because I admired their branding work and the quality of work that Jeff (my boss) did. I’m proud of everything I’ve been able to do here. I’m really proud of the work for January Moon for Jenny Luckett which is one I got to be the Art Director on. It’s also really special to be able to create something you’re proud of and find a friend in your client.
What’s your favorite part of the process?
My favorite part is the research and inspiration, because I love diving in and getting to know the client and what they’re most excited about, finding opportunities for them and where they can be different. The actual work of the work is the most challenging and where I have to push myself the hardest. And of course I enjoy the end when it’s complete.
Do you typically do competitive analysis sort of work? What does your research look like?
Always. We have an in-depth discovery session and do intensive research. We look at their key competition and what they’re doing to know where can we set them apart.
It sounds a bit like you forced the things you were passionate about together in a way that makes sense for you. Did you ever think you’d be mixing your love of psychology into another field?
It feels like all this is reinforcement that this was the right direction to go. Design is communication and that’s what I was most fascinated with early on. Understanding a person or situation through how they think and communicate, and being able to move around it and through it and seeing how you can evolve it is fascinating. It felt like design was a perfect element of that. That’s why it's so special to have been a part of establishing Ladies, Wine & Design here. We’re able to dive in on a more personal, emotional level.
What made you want to start LWD here in Nashville?
It was because I wanted to have something like it for myself. I had such an incredible work family at redpepper, and when I left it was 40 people who I really loved being connected to. Moving to working with just one other person was more challenging than I expected it to be because being around others and fostering relationships is so important to me. My boss and our small studio crew is wonderful, but I missed the wider circle and especially strong females. I don’t think I even realized that until starting the chapter that there was a hole I hadn’t quite filled yet. As soon as I got up the courage to start LWD in Nashville I knew this was exactly what I was craving. Seeing the excitement people have for it and the response has been incredible. The number one purpose of Ladies, Wine and Design is so that creative women in any point in their career and their journey can feel supported and connected to the community at large.
Obviously you’re not all work and LWD so what else is going on in your life?
My husband Allen is an illustrator and animator in town, and we spend a lot of time together along with our pup Margot. We’re both passionate about art and creating things so that’s a blessing to share that. I’ve been traveling a lot lately. I recently got asked to judge a design competition which was really fun. It was one of those things I want to be able to do more, to be connected to design communities outside of Nashville. I think it’s awesome to be a part of that.
What would you tell a younger version of yourself?
I would definitely tell the younger version of me in school to do the kind of work that was interesting to me vs. the kind of work that I thought would get me a job. I did a lot of projects that were executed just fine, but not the kind of work that I was most excited about. I feel like I didn’t learn that until 2 years or so into actually working and feeling like I missed out even though no one had told me to play it safe. If you can do the things you’re most excited about, show you’re good at it, and put it out there, someone probably wants to hire you for it. I wish I had known that earlier.
Did you ever have a mentor?
My boss Jeff is definitely a mentor to me, and I’m really thankful for that. He's like Coach Taylor if you’ve ever watched Friday Night Lights — tough and direct, while remaining kind and caring deeply. It’s something I appreciate and needed when I came here. I honestly needed someone to just kick me in the ass. It was more intense than I'd previously experienced in terms of someone pushing me and my work, but it’s been so worth it. I was pretty sensitive and took things too personally in the beginning. I hadn't learned how to receive constructive feedback well and separate myself from what I made. I can feel a serious difference now in how I handle my work and even everyday situations. It’s been something that’s given me a tougher skin in a really good way.
One of the biggest inside jokes we have now is you just can’t wear your sensitive pants when you come to work. I think women are considered more emotional, and I think that’s often thought of as a negative word. I don’t think it is negative at all, but I do think it’s important to learn how to control your emotions in how it relates to your professional life. So, no sensitive pants.
He’s also taught me about healthy competition, which is not something that comes naturally to me. I see it more as competition with myself. I push myself to be better and compete with myself all the time.
Design is so subjective. How do you define "better" and balance the fact that someone will always hate or love your work?
I think I’m more drawn to working in design than art because you can give yourself constraints and ask "What is the problem we’re trying to solve?" But even with that, people will always disagree, and we disagree internally all the time on the right way to handle problems and jobs. It does help me to have a Creative Director who can just essentially make the final decision and we can move on. I’ve had to learn about balancing when I disagree with someone. It's okay to think different things are better, and not that either person is necessarily “wrong” or “right”. I still struggle with wanting something to just be the so called “right” thing so I can 110% confident, but have gotten more comfortable with the subjectivity.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions you had when you first got into design?
I think understanding terms, responsibilities and role expectations in design. What really helped me, and advice I’d give to other people is: It’s up to you to ask whoever it is you’re working for to set expectations up, and clearly define what your responsibilities are. Being an Art Director at an agency is really different than being an Art Director at a small studio. Just make sure you’re asking questions and figure out what’s right for you and the place you’re working. You can bring in your strengths, even if the ones don’t seem directly related to your role at first. That’s what makes you invaluable. Get a clear picture of what is expected of you, and then be better than your boss ever expected.
What’s the future look like?
I want to make sure I’m growing in my work. I want to grow LWD so people can dive deeper, whether that’s workshops or teaching or creating some sort of 1:1 coaching program. That’s what I’m really excited about, pushing myself personally to be able to give more, have more speaking engagements and just essentially being more supportive of the community.
What are some ways other people could get involved in LWD?
I’d love for women to stay connected with one another and even plan their own ways to connect beyond the events. It doesn’t have to be a big planned group thing every time. If you could find people you connect with or find a mentor naturally that’s amazing. The Slack Channel has been great for that.
A lot of other networking groups are more focused on people touting their success. Do you think LWD is different?
I think at every networking event people should be able to share what they are proud of and what they’re doing, but LWD is about sharing the things we deal with as humans and creative women — the issues we really struggle with and how to deal with them. It's a community far more than a networking group. Some women have told me it feels like therapy...a place where everyone can say "I've felt that way too" and "Here's how I dealt with that."
Kinda like drop your ego at the door?
Exactly. It’s a place to be vulnerable and to lift each other up. It’s supposed to be a place to make connections and grow. With so many networking events you don’t really get to have an actual, memorable conversation with people or if you do meet, it's so brief. I want to create a space for anyone who attends to actually feel supported.
What’s your favorite kind of wine?
It depends on the day but I'll give anything a try. If I wasn’t drinking wine, it would definitely be whiskey.