Trust me, you’ve never met anyone as infectiously confident as creative mastermind Laci Jordan. The Huntsville, Alabama native moved to Los Angeles four years ago, and has since built a career that includes creative directing, graphic design, accessory-brand launching, and strategic thinking. She does it all, because she CAN do it all. From designing for one of the coolest companies in the country – Saint Heron – to her full-time role at Creative Artists Agency, Jordan gives us the impression that she works ‘round the clock and wouldn’t have it any other way. Her signature poppy color palette stands apart from the rest, and matter-of-fact messages let us know she’s not here to play. But, there’s more than meets the eye with the woman who once set out to be an FBI agent. (Yes. For real.) After our first encounter at Nike’s THE FORCE IS FEMALE event in Los Angeles last January, Jordan and I quickly linked up and I wanted to know everything there was to know about her. Here’s what she told me…
You’re a graphic designer for Creative Artists Agency, a coveted company that works with entertainment royalty. What has working there taught you?
Whew! Loaded question, haha. I’ve learned so much from CAA! One big thing that comes to mind is the art of politics. Everything in Hollywood is transactional and usually based off relationships. Knowing how to handle yourself in political situations is like a game of chess – you need to know how to develop organic relationships, be smart about your moves, and utilize the tools you have to achieve your goals. It’s also taught me to be stronger at strategic thinking and business development. I run into a lot of creatives who lack general business skills, or who are not being able to market and pitch themselves. If you can think like a business woman while being a creative, you’re the best. You always have to be one step ahead, and always ready to shoot your shot.
What does an average day include, work-wise?
From 9:30 to 6:30/7ish I’m at my corporate gig. That work can include anything from presentation designs to creating invites for movie screenings. After work is when the real fun starts. Depending on the week, projects can range from pulling imagery for a freelance shoot to creating illustrations or even shipping off pins from my collection. I’m also making sure to squeeze in personal activities on the weekdays so that after work, I can go meet up with someone for drinks or attend an event. Right now I’m super busy, so every day is different and I’m wearing a lot of hats from creative directing to designing. It’s a good time.
There’s such a carefree and happy feeling you get from looking at your work’s signature color palette. Can you tell us how you decided on the color scheme and the meaning behind it?
Thank you! Honestly, it just happened! For freelance projects, I give clients an assignment to create a Pinterest mood board and pin everything that represents their brand. This can range from logos to architecture. The assignment gives me the opportunity to tie together similarities that the client may not recognize. I decided to do that for myself and everything was super colorful, even the architecture photos. I remember looking at my own board like, "dang! I obviously love color!" I’m just naturally drawn to it. Colors can easily create a vibe for a piece, and I notice in the design world (and even in streetwear) people tend to lean towards no colors or muted colors, so I think the use of color makes my work and style different.
Originally, you went to school for law. Talk about a 180! When did you realize that you had a gift in the creative world that you wanted to pursue?
I was studying Criminal Justice and needed to complete an internship to graduate. There were a ton of options ranging from the local police department to the FBI. So I figured, go big or go home, and aimed for the FBI. I remember my advisor telling me to be sure, because you must go through the same steps as if you were working there permanently – this included a polygraph, background check, and no previous drug use. Let’s be honest, most kids in college are kicking it hard, so there weren't a lot of people who would be able to pass the entire process. I went for it and got in! During my internship, I rotated around different departments. At some point, I was introduced to someone in communications who put me on game to the Adobe suite. I was always into technology (I had a double minor in Computer and Political Science) so the idea of creating whatever I wanted to on a computer was interesting to me. Two of my roommates were design minors, so I was able to get a little inside scoop into the profession. After my internship, I found out I had enough credits to graduate early. I wasn’t excited because I had ZERO plans, but I knew I needed an elective so I took a clothing textile design course. Not only was it one of my easiest classes, but I loved the creative element and working with different mediums. After graduating a year early, I reenrolled to pursue design and the rest is history.
“If you can think like a business woman while being a creative, you’re the best. You always have to be one step ahead, and always ready to shoot your shot."
Social media has become this imperative life force for connecting with other like-minded people. What’s your relationship with social media, and what are your thoughts on the message it sends to everyone?
I love social media but it has its pros and cons. I love it for the social aspect. You can reach and engage with people who share similar interests. I’ve always been a tomboy and I remember not seeing anyone I could relate to back in the day. Now, I can curate a whole community of like-minded people in minutes! It’s also easier to reach people (even potential employers) if you play your cards right. I was able to work with one of my favorite brands, Saint Heron, though IG, and I’m a huge fan. Looking at the cons, everything on social media looks staged and trends spread so fast. I’m rethinking how I blog now because everything is flat lays and ice cream cones (no shade) but it is what it is. Social media leads to constant comparisons (which I’m guilty of) and seemingly fairytale lives. I think people and brands are realizing that authenticity is key, no matter the number of followers. Like any other creative, I want my feed to look nice, but I also want it to feel real. So I incorporate my voice into captions and things like IG Stories where you can catch me blasting Future at my corporate job. That’s the real Laci.
What are some of your projects that you’re most proud of?
I have a couple! I moved to California for an internship with Walt Disney Imagineering. My first project was an exhibit called the Kinsey Collection – a national touring exhibit of authentic and rare art, artifacts, books, documents and manuscripts that tell the often untold story of African-American achievement and contribution. I couldn’t even believe I moved to California, let alone designed assets for an exhibit that now lives in the Epcot park in Walt Disney World. So many people work at Imagineering and never see projects come to life, and I was able to do that immediately. Plus, it was all about black culture, which was a win-win for me. Freelance-wise I’m really proud of my enamel pins and packaging. I’ve wanted to design pins for a few years now and didn’t do it. So to see everything come to life is a proud moment for me. I hate designing for myself so when I sat down to do the packaging, I made myself commit to a certain design because if not, I still wouldn’t have packaging to this day. The responses to both the pins and presentation of it has been really good. It was a reminder to trust my gut and just put myself out there.
How do you hope to be a positive influence for women of color, and what message do you want to send to them, personally and creatively?
I want women of color, especially young women of color, to look at me and know that anything is possible and remember that you’re the author of your own life. You have it under control and can do whatever you want. In my mind, nothing is impossible. I know that’s cliché but it’s true. I would’ve never thought that I would move to California on my own merit and work as a designer for some of the best brands in the world. I say things like “I’m going to work for Beyoncé one day” because I really believe that will happen, and there's nothing anyone could tell me to make me think otherwise. Over the last year and a half, I’ve come into myself – I’m still growing but my confidence has grown so much and I want other women to have this feeling. Right now, I’m seeing so much confidence come from the black community as a result of hashtags/movements like “Black Girl Magic.” I just want to keep pushing that. I think my purpose in this world is to inspire, so I dedicate my work to that. Eventually, I want to have an influence on a bigger platform and be able to put other WOC information. It’s all about lifting your people. I see so many influencers that make it and that’s it. I want to create a path for other creatives – it’s imperative. I’m not here to paint myself as perfect, I’m also very hesitant at using the word “role model” because I don’t necessarily want people to model themselves after me, but rather take the inspiration and incorporate that into their own lives. Plus, my Snapchat is still ratchet, so...
Your hometown is Huntsville, Alabama. How did you express your creativity growing up, and who were your heroes?
Funny you ask, because my mom tells me a story at least once a month about how I never thought I was creative growing up. She’s creative and I just never saw that in myself. I was more into track and band (I’m still a band nerd at heart). Now that I look back at it, I was definitely creative – from playing the clarinet for years to going ham in Microsoft Paint back in the day. My heroes were my family members for all different reasons. Ranging from my mom and dad who did a great job at raising me, one of my brothers Terrance who started my love for sneakers and taught me how to stand up for myself, to my Aunt Evon who taught me the value of self-care and budgeting (which I still don’t do) BUT she’s the one who says stuff like “your bra and panties should match at all times,” which are life gems. Got to love her.
What’s next for you this year?
Again, loaded question. Right now I’m focusing on building a stronger portfolio so I can get more of the projects I dream of. In 2017, I think the biggest thing is figuring out what my next career move will be. I would love to be self-employed or in an unconventional place, like working as a creative on an artist's music team (call me, SZA!), Or in a position where I can create all kinds of different content – like a Refinery29. One thing I’ve learned is that no matter how much I try to plan my life, it never works, so now I’m just making sure I’m putting the work in and creating things I want to be known for.
What’s your definition of “Girl Power”?
I think there are two parts to "Girl Power" – the power you have within yourself as a woman, and the power that forms when women come together.
You’re a creative powerhouse–from branding, design, art direction, and your own line of pins–what talent or skill would we be surprised to know you’re also amazing at?
For starters – THANK YOU! That’s a huge compliment! I do have a hidden skill that I’m in the process of learning how to use (and explain). My mom is a super hustler, and extremely resourceful. After moving to California, I tapped into that set of skills. For instance, if you came to me and said “I’m interested in styling food for a living but there’s no way I could make that a job," my response to you would be to create an Instagram where all you post are styled food pics (which means you should be using your free time to do that). Create an outlet like a blog where you can talk about your process. Connect with restaurants that don’t have budget and offer your services for their marketing materials. Once you have a few projects, create a portfolio and pitch it directly to your dream clients. At CAA, people have asked if I want to be an agent. In my freelance work people have referred to it as brand/life consulting. I’m not sure what it is, but always feel like Olivia Pope when I’m able to connect the dots and think of ways to hustle and create opportunities.
Do you think millennials are misunderstood, or underestimated?
YES, and YES! We all know the reputation that millennials have. Supposedly we’re all entitled and want everything prematurely. While I’m sure there are some that fit those descriptions, it’s not all of us. We’re a generation that grew up with the boom of technology and we're truly go-getters. Honestly, we’re just a little unconventional and our parents are more traditional. For instance, when I decided to move, my dad was against it because it didn’t make since logically – in his mind, I needed a certain amount of money to ensure my safety and, technically, he was right. But the go-getter in me knew that I didn’t need to do it that way... and I was right. Even in the workplace, I always hear, “It took me 10+ years to get here, you have to pay your dues,” which I agree – dues must be paid. But, if I use my resources correctly and work my *ss off, it may not take me 10 years. The idea of that is something I don’t think the older generation understands. At the end of the day, the proof is in the work ethic – if you work hard, it will show, and you can’t underestimate that.
Who is your main MISSBISH and what have you learned from her?
I have two! My real life one and my celeb one. My real life one is my mom, Rosemary. We drive each other up the wall but she’s the most creative, magnetic, and resourceful person I know. [There are] so many different sides to her – ranging from her professional side to a very hood side if you catch her on the right day. That’s where I get my hustle, she makes sure to let me know how special I am and won’t let me forget it. When I was young I hated that she was so flamboyant in her wardrobe and hair changes, but fast forward and I’m the same way. Back then, I didn’t realize she was unapologetic AF. Now I’m stealing all her old pieces.
My celeb one is Rihanna, the unapologetic authenticity queen – I don’t need to say anything else.
What are 3 places in LA that you go to when you’re looking to be inspired?
1) Anywhere outside. I’m stuck inside most days with my 9-5 so when I’m feeling inspired, I love to get out. This could be sitting in a park or going to the beach.
2) Around other creative people. I’ve been in LA for four years and honestly, I’m just starting to get out and connect with people. Lately, I’ve found people who have similar goals and who are super dope and inspirational.
3) Events and museums. LA is full of events. For instance, last week I went to the gallery opening of the California African American Museum downtown. Before I could even look at the art, the vibe of the event was magnetic. Earlier this year I went to Nike's THE FORCE IS FEMALE brunch. That lit a fire in me to keep pushing. Plus, there were so many MISSBISHes in the building to meet and collab with. That’s the stuff that gets me going.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
MISSBISH is more of an attitude than anything. It's knowing who you are and staying 100% authentic to that. It’s being unapologetic about who you are and not taking any sh*t from anyone. MISSBISHes are go-getters, move makers, and creators of cool.
Photographer: Rikki Wright