We're kicking off our LWD Features with our host and Nashville founder Lindsey Laseter. She's a Designer & Art Director with Perky Brothers, a kickass leader and your new best friend.
Interview by Jess Nelson, Photography by Brooke Dainty
How long have you been in your current role?
I've enjoyed just over three years working at Perky Brothers.
How long have you been in Nashville?
I’ve been 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 and originally was going into psychology. I was going to be a psychologist or a counselor. Specifically, my goal was to specialize in marriage and family and ultimately got through a few years of school for that. I realized after talking to people who were actually in that industry that I really had a naïve idea of what that job really was; talking to people and getting better understanding of what that emotional responsibility is was really eye opening. It made me take a big step back and say, “What is it that I really want?”
I spent a year just not knowing, and trying a few different things. The only reason I even thought of considering design was because I was always interested in art. I loved to create things and I took a painting class in college when I was living in Charleston. My professor was like, “You have a great eye, you’d be a good graphic designer” and at the time I was still like, “I know what I’m doing with my life, thanks!” That was the first time I had even heard the term graphic design.
Later I thought “Oh yeah, that guy said I’d be good at it.” So I took community classes, my dad at the time had a small ad agency and he was like, “If you can learn how to use Photoshop you could work for me as an intern.” and so I got really good at drop shadows. 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, going to Watkins to get my degree.
Since biscuit cutting out, what’s a project you’re really proud of?
It really varies because I started in the agency world. I feel really proud of all the growth I experienced at redpepper because I never expected to or wanted 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 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 Bros. because I really admired their branding work and the quality of work that Jeff (my boss) did. I’m really 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 really awesome 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, probably because I love diving in and getting to know the client and what they’re most excited about; finding the opportunities and where they can be different. The actual work of the work is really challenging and kind of like a brutal process if I’m honest, at least emotionally for me. I really enjoy the beginning, push through the resistance in the middle and of course enjoy the end when it’s done.
Do you typically do competitive analysis sort of work? What does your research look like?
We always have a discovery session and do that sort of 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 this is reinforcement that this was the right direction to go. Design is communication and that’s what I was most fascinated with; understanding a person or situation through psychology and being able to move around it and through it and how you can evolve it. It felt like design was a perfect element of that. That’s why I think it was awesome to have been a part of establishing Ladies, Wine & Design here; we’re able to dive in on a more personal, emotional level that’s not directly work related but is deeply connected.
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 incredibly family at redpepper and when I left it was 40 people, and I felt like everyone there was my friend. Moving to working with just one other person was more challenging than I expected, because being around others and fostering relationships is so important to me. I don’t think I even realized that until this year and 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 myself. 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 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. 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 never 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. I think that’s a common misconception. If you can do the thing you’re most excited about and show you’re good at it, put it out there and someone probably wants to hire you for it. I wish I had known that earlier.
Did you ever have a mentor?
Jeff is definitely a mentor to me, and I’m really thankful for that. He is like Coach Taylor if you’ve ever watched Friday Night Lights — tough and direct, while kind and obviously cares deeply. It’s something I really appreciate and needed when I came here. I really 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 can feel a serious difference now in how I handle a job that’s difficult. 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 naturally for women we’re 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 emotions in a way that’s professional. 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 struggle with that a lot, it is incredibly subjective. I think I’m more drawn to design because you can give yourself constraints, like what is the problem we’re trying to solve? But even with that people would disagree, and we disagree internally on the right way to handle it. It does help me to have a creative director who can just essentially make the final decision. I’ve had to learn about balancing when you and I think different things are better, and not that either is necessarily “wrong” or “right”. I still struggle with wanting something to just be the “right” thing so I can feel better and confident.
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. Me being an Art Director at redpepper is really different than me being an Art Director here. It’s a lot of different responsibilities just because we’re smaller as a 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 they don’t seem directly related to your role at first. That’s what makes you invaluable.
What’s the future look like?
I definitely want to make sure I’m growing in my work. I really want to grow LWD to be more so people can dive deeper than just conversations, whether that’s workshops or teaching or creating some sort of 1:1 coaching program. I think that’s what I’m really excited about, pushing myself personally to be able to have more speaking engagements and just essentially being 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.
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 I think LWD is also about sharing the things we deal with as creative females — the issues we really struggle with and how to deal with them.
Kinda like drop your ego at the door?
Exactly, I really think that is what differentiates it. 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 and I want to create that space for anyone who attends.
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.
Find Lindsey on Instagram and Twitter