Next Creative Leaders 2017: Lucia Orlandi
on Oct 28, 2017
Creative Director - R/GA San Francisco
Three words you’d use to describe yourself?
Independent. Curious. Precise.
What work are you most proud of and why?
My work with Ladies Get Paid. The brand’s values speak to me on such a personal level and it’s been energizing to contribute to a movement that provides tools and support for women to advocate for their value in the workplace.
What does leadership mean to you??
I believe leadership is built on a system of respect and trust. You can be razor focused on making the best work, but to get there you need a team that’s inspired, that trusts your guidance and you also need to trust yourself and your team in return. For me that comes from a base level of respect - I’ve got a bit of a zero bullshit approach when talking through problems and challenges, and I’m open enough to recognize that I don’t have the solve for everything and that there is power in vulnerability and collaboration.
What’s your “breaking into advertising” story?
It involved trusting my instincts early on. After I graduated from university there was one agency that I wanted to work for in Dublin above all else. After graduation I sent my portfolio directly to the two Creative Directors there. They called me in for a chat, but they weren’t hiring. Deflated, I ended up taking another junior design role. Four months in said agency called me up, they were finally hiring and offered me a job. I had a decision to make, stay put and do the responsible thing or run with my instinct. I did the latter. That decision gave me an invaluable foundation in advertising and design.
You’re Irish, but have worked in three of the largest international cities in the world. How has this global experience shaped your creative POV?
There’s that Chuck Palahniuk quote, “Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I've ever known.” When I think about my creative POV it’s shaped in a similar way. My surroundings, the eclectic mix of people I’ve met and worked alongside, the values I grew up with - all of these things come through in how I approach my work.
In addition to your agency experience, you’ve sought out opportunities to grow and develop your skills and portfolio through side work. Can you tell us about that?
Creative opportunity exists everywhere. It just depends on how you define and embrace it. For me it has been a way to expand on my skill set. I forced myself to get comfortable with writing through running a music site and I honed my eye for photography with the same thing. Side work usually comes full circle for me, informing how I approach communicating an idea.
Being in New York exposed you to female leadership on a whole new scale. How did that expand your world or expectations for your career?
Moving to New York was a game changer for me in terms of my career trajectory. A big part of this was having the opportunity to work directly with female leaders. Having my opinion valued and being thrown into leadership moments with the support of female mentors gave me the confidence to go with my instincts and own what my impact and contribution can bring to a piece of work.
You have a belief about opportunities that “interest but terrify you.” Tell us about that.
There’s something liberating about saying "Yes", but it can also be terrifying in that you’re opening yourself up to an unknown and to failure. That said, discomfort is necessary for growth and if something doesn’t work out, you can always begin again.
Your work spans beauty, fashion and now a tech giant. How has that diverse clientele affected your personal aesthetic?
There are different nuances associated with each. Part of what I do is translating ideas into design systems that resonate and create an emotional connection, something I’ve become very attuned to. With Google the span of my work is now much broader, as is the audience. Simplicity is key.
Lots of creatives feel the pressure to focus on doing one thing—and doing that well. You have different ideas. Can you share?
Flexibility and curiosity are invaluable traits. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to decide on that one thing that I would become associated with, especially early in my career. Having a strong foundation in one area is essential, but using that foundation as a springboard for experimentation is the fun part. Pivoting and trying new things doesn't need to be perceived as a negative, it’s how you connect the unexpected pieces together that is self-defining.