Margo Chase – An Interview with Lynda |

(Music Playing)
Lynda Weinman: Hi! I’m so excited to interview Margo Chase who’s
a fantastic designer and we’ve just enjoyed profiling you so much in
this series, so thank you so much for agreeing to be part of it. Margo Chase: Thanks for having me, it’s been
great! Lynda Weinman: Well, you’ve made a transition
from an individual designer and an individual contributor to now owning a company. Can you talk a little bit about that? Margo Chase: In the beginning, working in
the music business, I was really hoping somebody would hire me that I get a great job as an
art director for Warner Brothers or something. That really just didn’t happen. I got a few offers and they really just didn’t
seem — by the time I got the offers, they just didn’t really seem like
what I wanted to do. They started to seem kind of confining, because
by then, doing my own business was — I was a freelance, really, with a couple
of assistants. But the freedom of that was really clear to
me at that point. So I got attached to that idea that I could
make my own decisions and work for who I wanted to work for. So I started to consider that what I was really
doing was a business, but I knew nothing about running a business. That became really clear after a few years
of trying to do it. I sort of had the idea that if we were busy,
then we were probably okay financially and that became obvious that after
a while that wasn’t true. So it’s much more about making sure that you
charge enough to cover the time you spend and the music business made that pretty
difficult, because that very specifically set budgets for lots of work. I’m kind of a perfectionist, so I would tend
to spend way more time than we could really afford, trying to make the thing
look better. So I ended up having to hire some consultants
to come in and teach me how to run a company and how to manage bookkeeping and
do all that kind of stuff. Eventually, I realized, I’m really bad at
that stuff and I really don’t like it. So it became really clear to me, what I needed
to do is hire other people who are really good at the stuff that I’m not
good at. That’s really been kind of what I’ve tried
to do for the last 20 years and I’ve been doing it now. If I find somebody who, I think, is fantastic,
I try to hire them to help me with that thing. Lynda Weinman: Do you also hire other creatives? Margo Chase: Oh! Absolutely, yeah. I mean, absolutely, I have some really talented
designers, and then, I depend on them. I mean, to be honest, I don’t do as much design
now as I used to, spend a lot of time in meetings with clients and a lot
of time selling the design work we do, I mean, in a literal sense, really, I
mean, walking in, doing a presentation about who we are as a company
and what we do to try to win the business and then talking to them strategically
about the project and what kind of work we should do. So I do a lot of the upfront work along with
Chris, sort of, positioning the project, the research, the strategy and then
a lot of the preliminary concept work. Sometimes, the concept stuff happens in collaboration
with one of the art directors. Then, once that, sort of, gets approved and
often it gets handed off, so often the work is completely done by someone else. I tend to try to hang on to the logo pieces
still, because I love doing that part. Lynda Weinman: It seems like you have a lot
of confidence in your gut, when you love something, you know to go in that direction, does that
still guides you today? Margo Chase: Yeah. Most of the time that’s a good indication,
sometimes not, but I had to learn a lot about what the design business is really
about and the music business doesn’t really teach you that. I mean, it was really fun to do design in
the music business, because it’s very much about how cool can you make it, it’s
about self-expression and you get a chance to really explore your own voice as
a designer, like who am I about, what do I think is important. In someways, that’s great to have as an opportunity
when you’re young, but in someways that’s really not what we’re up to. What we’re really up to is design its commercial
art, its design as in the service of someone else’s problem. I think, if the better you can be at understanding
that problem and adapting your abilities to that problem, the more successful
you are and the better you’re doing your job, I think. Lynda Weinman: Well, in someways, when you’re
at the part of your career where you’re working for other people, you’re learning to please
them. And then when you make the transition to working
directly with clients, you’re learning to please your clients. Margo Chase: Yeah. Lynda Weinman: And so how have you refined
your own ability to understand what a client wants
and needs and how does that drive the kind of work that you do? Margo Chase: Well, yeah! I don’t think I’m a basically kind of a stubborn
and opinionative person, which helps a lot. I mean, I think, that certainly you can end
up with one of those jobs where you don’t have very much power and those can be
really frustrating. I think, the beauty of running your own business
is that you actually do get to make decisions about who you work for and
you can choose clients who actually do trust you and will allow you to do what you
know is right. I’ve been in situations where I have to just
bite my tongue, where I know that what they are suggesting we do, just
doesn’t make sense, but it’s not my decision. So the best thing I can do is just say, you
hired me to tell you what I think and you hired me to give you my best work
and here it is, and if you don’t like it, then it’s your money. After a certain point, you just have to go,
sorry, it’s your money, and we’ll do what you’re paying us to do. And I hate doing that, but we do it. Lynda Weinman: When you’re interviewing young
designers, what are you looking for in a portfolio? Margo Chase: I look for somebody who has a
broad interest and that can be demonstrated in their portfolio. So that might be graphic design plus cine-photography
or graphic design and paintings or some other collage work that
they do or something. I love it when I see a portfolio that is clearly
not a formulaic, okay, we did the design project and here’s the logo and
then here’s the sketches that develop it and here’s something it turned
into and then here’s that again, which is the way that some of the schools
actually require, suggest that you present your portfolio. So I always tend to ask people, well, what
you do on the side, do you do anything for yourself, like do you do anything that
interests you, and hopefully finding out that they do something else. One really good example is, one of the art
directors that works for me now, when he brought his portfolio and he actually had
worked for a couple of other companies and he had done sort of this wide
spectrum of kind of work. So he had like posters from Texas for like
rodeos. Then he had some animated After Effects things
that he had done for an entertainment client here. He does painting, so he had some of that in
his book. It was just a really interesting — a collecting
mix of work and all of it was good. It was all really clever, it didn’t look like
all the same kind of style, it was very unique and fresh. I thought, okay, he cares me, he’s smart,
they’re thinking about the work, they are not hindered by media. He can use the computer, but he can also use
his hands. So I found that to be really a great example
of something I’m looking for. I just saw that in an intern — I had an intern
coming in interview, couple of weeks ago he decided to take another job,
which made me sad. But he had a really nice portfolio. He’d been doing a lot of print work as a student. So he actually had solved some real world
problems, which I thought was really good for someone coming right out of school. So he could tell me, oh, yeah, we had a $2,000
budget to print this thing. So I knew I could only do it in two colors,
but I chose one of them to be a fluorescent, and I thought, Oh! That’s great! He’s really thinking about, okay, here’s the
end result and how can I use that creatively. So that is another really good example. Things that are a bad portfolio would be one
that I saw, kind of, recently too, where they had put together a bound book
of their work, but the pagination was wrong. So you saw two pages of a project and then
you saw the other page of something else and then there was that project again,
and they said, oh, yeah, the pagination didn’t work out right. And I am thinking, so why didn’t you fix it? Why would you walk in an interview with a
book that’s put together wrong? Lynda Weinman: Well, those are great insights. We want to thank you so much for spending
time with us. It’s been very inspiring to hear your stories
and see your work. Thank you again so much! Margo Chase: Yeah, thanks! You’re welcome! It’s been really fun, it was great to meet
you too. Lynda Weinman: You too.

1 thought on “Margo Chase – An Interview with Lynda |

  • Great Interview Lynda. I love that Margo is so candid and open in this interview. Designers, often times, are very guarded and insecure. She's so talented, I love her work.

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