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Conversations with the Inspiring Susan Landesmann

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Landesmann.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Susan. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was born and raised in Vienna, Austria. My mother was originally American and my father was from Austria. I came to the US when I was 18 to go to college in Boston and have been in the US ever since. I worked in New York as a production coordinator for print materials at the Guggenheim Museum and Lincoln Center, which introduced me to the world of graphic design. After graduating from Parsons School of Design, I worked at a few design studios in L.A. and as principal designer for UCLA before launching my own, Landesmann Design. My clients include Jewish Women’s Theatre, City of Hope, and UCLA. I have a multi-pronged approach that allows me to move fluidly between the worlds of print and digital design.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I was so fortunate to have a more or less smooth career path. For me, the biggest struggle professionally has been balancing work and motherhood. I would advise women to wait to have children until they feel like they have the flexibility they need to juggle work and family life. (But don’t wait too long, of course!)

I actually worked freelance when I had my daughters, which was obviously ideal because I could set my own schedule. The hard part was that I didn’t have a regular salary (or paid maternity leave) so this required that I maintain a steady flow of work. When my daughters were 3 and 6 years old, I accepted a job at UCLA as principal designer. I felt that I needed to have a set salary and hours in order to balance motherhood and work. I didn’t always manage this balance! I remember a day when I had no choice but to bring my daughter, Alexandra, who was 6, into the office. When she met my boss for the first time, she greeted him very nicely and then announced, “My mom has a penis and a vagina!” Just for the record, I don’t, and, needless to say, I tried very hard never to bring her to my office again.

What should we know about Landesmann Design? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I like to collect funny old objects and also impressive new ones. When I see beautiful paper, I have to touch it for at least 30 seconds—even if people give me funny looks. I love looking at well-printed materials—posters and postcards—and I’m a type snob. I focus on working with nonprofits and other companies whose mission I believe in to create meaningful, purpose-driven communication.

We at Landesmann Design strongly believe that one size doesn’t fit all and we pride ourselves on serving each client’s unique needs to drive audience engagement.

One of our biggest clients is the performance center and art space Jewish Women’s Theatre at The Braid. Our challenge as the exclusive branding and graphic arts consultants for both the theatre company and the arts center is to convey a multi-cultural, 21st century vibe that overcomes audience preconceptions of a staid, traditional, boring and overly ethnic experience. We do so by constantly updating their website with new visual and graphic images and ensuring every piece of collateral from posters to mailings delivers a consistent message.

Recently we’ve been working on a series of books for UCLA Sciences. Each department needs to have their own look and feel while still being part of the bigger UCLA family. A big challenge when talking about science to experts and the general public through the same publication is to avoid bewildering the general audience or alienating the expert audience. This requires designing pages with meaningful infographics, illustrations, and photographs that are visually stimulating, are clear and convey the appropriate message while delivering scientific information in a graphically designed fashion so that it is easily consumed.

In my spare time, I do some painting, drawing, collage and screen printing. Lately, I have been experimenting with different image transfer techniques as well as encaustic painting. I was selected to participate in a few group gallery shows which was super fun.

For good reason, society often focuses more on the problems rather than the opportunities that exist, because the problems need to be solved. However, we’d probably also benefit from looking for and recognizing the opportunities that women are better positioned to capitalize on. Have you discovered such opportunities?
I actually don’t think there are opportunities that are specifically for women, at least not in graphic design. There are many, many incredibly talented female, as well as male, designers, but the challenges that women face in just about any career are real. And I am very happy that we as a society are talking about this.

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Image Credit:
Photo by Tamara Sabler

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