OMGLord — An interview with Gabby Lord

static1.squarespace.jpg

Name: Gabby / Gab / Gabster / G-Lord / Gabatron / Gabbison / Gabalicious… I’m starting to lose track of all the nicknames, to be honest!

Location: Berlin-Kreuzberg
Job:/role/company: Designer and Art Director / Currently a mix of independent + freelance

Years experience: 6


How are you?

Sweaty. There’s a rare heatwave in Berlin at the moment and it’s hard to think or talk about anything else.

You’re an Aussie living and working in Germany. How did that happen?

My plan even before my degree was to work as a designer in countries other than Australia. When I graduated I won a design competition and originally thought I would move to Italy. During a two week trial there it became obvious for many reasons that wasn’t going to work out, but afterwards I visited a friend in Berlin. I had been before but staying with someone local unlocked a completely new perspective of the city.

I went back home, quit my job, packed up my life and booked a one way ticket.

That was 4 years ago.

What did you think you’d be when you ‘grew up?’

It shifted a lot. I toyed with the idea of being a lawyer, real estate agent or even a psychologist. In hindsight I’d have a lot more money had I pursued any of those options, but now I can’t even imagine who I’d be without design as part of my life.

What does an average Gabby Lord day look like? Do you have a morning routine?

An average work day will always involve my laptop, but the location and what I’m doing does change quite a lot. I work in-house for studios some days and others I work for my own clients from home, cafe or co-working space. The other month I was in Paris for 3 days of research and yesterday I was at a clients studio running a branding workshop. I definitely enjoy the mix and flexibility.

I don’t have a super strict routine but my mornings are sacred and how I spend them usually affects my whole day. The first thing I do without fail is make my bed and open the windows. Even this small, one minute ritual really helps set my headspace. After that I usually meet my friend by the canal to work out or cycle to wherever I am working that day.

What are the habits that help you stay creative?

Walking and swinging. I love a good swing! Having conversations and doing tactile things that have nothing to do with design in general.

What are three key guiding principles that have influenced the trajectory of your career?

  1. Get up, dress up and show up.
  2. You can’t steer a parked car.
  3. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

What makes a good designer?

A good thinker. I’m also really drawn to people who follow through. So many people give up on ideas and side projects or never get them going. The best designers I know are the people who never stop making and put in the work to hone their craft.

What makes a good leader?

A good listener and communicator. Someone who eats last and consistently shows up to support their team. The people I admire most are approachable and lead by example because monkey see, monkey do.

What are you reading?

I usually read embarrassingly little, but at the moment I have THREE books on the go *humble brag*:

  1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo — Not sure I’d recommend it. I think it has some great stuff in it but you’d get everything from a summary, the book is very repetitive and a tad dramatic IMO.
  2. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter — This was a gift and described as a series of familiar tales and legends retold with a feminist twist. It’s certainly made me realise how limited my vocabulary is.
  3. Run Studio Run by Eli Altman — I backed this book on Kickstarter and just opened it. I can already tell there’s a lot in it for me.

...Watching?

I just started the latest series of The Handmaid’s Tale and Orange Is The New Black.

...Listening to?

Music: My Spotify is a rollercoaster, I’ll tell you that much. From Jazz Vibes to Techno to Hip Hop. I do play “In My Feelings” at least once a day because I’m basic AF when it comes to Drake.

Podcasts: The Guilty Feminist, Getting Curious with JVN and Aus Design Radio of course.

Women in design. I’d love your thoughts and opinions.

I’d love more people asking women in design their thoughts and opinions!

Short answer: Representation matters. Awareness is one thing but taking action is another. Equality is something that requires constant work and it shouldn’t only fall to the people fighting for it.

Industry associations. I'd love your thoughts and opinions.

The same applies when it comes to awareness vs. action. I think a lot of people are less than satisfied with current industry associations but we adhere to a lot of BS because “it’s the way it’s always been.” 

We are a community of creative thinkers and problem solvers and yet too many of our models are completely broken.

I want to break them even more until they literally come crashing down and we have to decide what aspects are worth rebuilding for the betterment of everyone, and not just the select few.

I recognise my responsibility in this and am excited by the possibilities.

What has been the greatest struggle of your career?

Letting it happen at it’s own pace. I’m often so focussed on ‘the next thing’ that I don’t appreciate what I’ve achieved so far.

What has been your happiest moment?

Probably the one time I dropped ja aber nett ist die kleiner Schwester von Scheiße” in the correct context. I can now leave Germany. My work here is done.

What role does OMGLORD play in your world?

OMGLORD in a nutshell, is my world. It’s a place to put all the things I think and see and find and feel—mostly relating to design and creativity. It’s not perfect, but it’s my own little nook of the internet that (I hope) is about substance not style. It encourages me to keep my eyes open. To look under my feet and up in the air. To reflect and digest. I’ve thought about quitting it, and maybe one day I will, but it has become such a huge part of my identity and I love having the outlet to share as I continue to learn and grow.

What has been the biggest lie design has told you?

That the world will end if you don’t meet a deadline. Obviously deadlines are important and everyone needs to communicate expectations properly, but no one is going to die if you don’t send that brochure out at 9pm on Friday night. Go home. Enjoy your life.

It can wait until Monday.

How would you describe your personal brand?

Fun, friendly and colourful. I keep a conversational tone because that’s the type of relationship I want with people—online and off.

What is your process for starting a new project?

This is always a work-in-progress but I’ve definitely honed it in during this last year of doing more independently-led client work.

I’ve realised that without rapport you have nothing, so I start by building that foundation of mutual trust and respect. I go to peoples studios, I try their product, I immerse myself in their world, I ask questions and I do my best to take it in.

I now deliver a research and brand strategy document as Stage 01 of my design process to show my clients that I’ve understood their problem and how we might fix it. Only once we have that first stage agreed upon do I open my design programs.

When I don’t complete that first stage, I’m designing in the dark and it usually results in loads of feedback rounds and crippling self-doubt. I’d rather avoid that as much as possible.

What piece of advice has stuck with you?

Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Learn more about Gabby on her portfolio website and her blog.