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Q&A with Adam Ladd

Graphic designer and art director in Cincinnati, Ohio

My name is Adam Ladd. I’ve been a professional graphic designer and art director in Cincinnati, Ohio since 2003. My recent work is full-time with the staff for HOW and PRINT magazine brands. I have also worked as a freelancer and started out in-house for a large church in my city.

How did you get started in design? What is a turning point in your professional career? 

I went to a 2-year portfolio school, which was meant to get you an entry-level job and then grow from there. And that’s what happened (I’m grateful to have had an early start, though there were some growing pains on the job). After leaving that first in-house job after 5 years or so, I learned more about the demands of external clients and different working environments. The next job was actually as a full-time contractor, which also required me to setup an LLC. This eventually led to freelancing basically full-time for a period, which taught me many things about organization, self-promotion/marketing, and working with a variety of clients. One of the pivotal happenings during this season was a viral brand video I created for promotion efforts, that gathered 1 million views in 1 week and unique interactions from around the world. This helped me see how an idea (albeit relatively simple one) can go a long way in being a bridge for opportunities.

What is your ideal work environment? Do you prefer to work in your design studio all day long or prefer to mix a few activities? 

This may sound strange, but I do not like to hole away, close the door, and turn up the music. I actually get too distracted. I like to be pretty focused on my tasks. I also need to get up and move (even if it’s just walking to the window), otherwise I can get into a bit of a slump at my desk.

Where does your work inspiration come from?

I think most of my inspiration comes from studying other designers, especially some of the early pioneers of graphic design (e.g. Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Chermayeff & Geismar, etc.). They really leaned on the foundational principles of design and executed on an idea. Today, there are some amazing things being produced and cool new trends, but there is also a tendency to just make things look “shiny” and not have any real communication or solution to problem (though it should be done in an interesting way). I actually believe gifting and talent definitely need to be developed by gathering inspiration and learning, but that ultimately, these things come from God and is a gift from Him first and foremost.

Where are your favorite places in your city or outside?

I worked downtown (in Cincinnati) for a period of time, and I actually really liked the Fountain Square to get away from the offices and sit outside for a bit. During the summer they would have some little attractions come in. It was a nice break for lunch. For me, it’s not so much about a particular destination as it is trying to slip away for a bit most days and have some time to disconnect, pray, and slow down a touch (even it’s just getting outside and being in the parking lot).

Who are the designers you admire most? 

Hmm… good question. There are a lot I really like: Charles Spencer Anderson, Malcolm Grear, Lance Wyman, Michael Bierut… I know those are some names that have been around a while, but I just feel like they’ve proven themselves and have shown real thought and consistency in their work. There are many more current day designers who I appreciate as well.