Bringing back the Ascenders competition for the third time, we caught up with Adriana Longoria, one of the winners of the inaugural competition in 2018.
Back in 2018, she had just launched her studio, Caracter, from her hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, after a stint in New York working at agencies such as Pentagram and RoAndCo. We reached out to Adriana to provide some words of wisdom and inspiration for the upcoming class of Ascenders. This interview was lightly edited for clarity.
What was your very first job?
Math tutor for kids.
First design job?
Design intern at Mother NY.
Did you go to school for design? If so, where and what was your major/concentration?
University of Monterrey, and then transferred to School of Visual Arts, bachelor in graphic design.
What was your earliest design class?
Human anatomy drawing.
Name one of your favorite projects from early in your career.
A self portrait we were tasked to create with mixed media.
Are you embarrassed by your old work?
Some of it, but I know I had to go through that journey ?
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Put your work out there, don’t be afraid of criticism. Aiming for perfectionism is too tiring and might actually stop you from finding your more authentic work.
If you could change one thing about your career trajectory, what would you change?
To try to get to know myself while working. Find out what matters to me sooner, and see how I can work more closely with projects and people that excite me.
What is something that today’s young designers have that you wish you had?
So many resources and access to all kinds of references, information, connections, etc.
What traits are you looking for when looking at young designers’ work?
Daring to try different approaches, not [being] afraid to speak their minds and bring new suggestions and ideas to the table, organizational skills, and impeccable grammar. Even if grammar doesn’t seem that important in design, it gives your presentations and work excellent quality and credibility.
What are 3 things that you hate seeing in young designers’ work?
I’m not the most familiarized [with the work of young designers], but I think it’s common to see trends in young designers that I wish could have more authentic touches to their work.
Name one way in which you continue your education.
I try online courses. Or, the most recent attempt was an intensive type design course, which I loved.
If you could change careers, what would you do?
So many things ? I would love to try illustration, psychology, fashion design, industrial design, chef studies…I think being creative leaves you wondering how else you could try to create…
What is your favorite job you’ve ever had?
Working at Anomaly was great. The people were like family and it was the funnest job I’ve ever had.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
I worked at a small agency that was very competitive. I think it was harder to enjoy the work culture and make friends because the team was always competing or trying to stand out.
What is a job you’ve had that would surprise people?
I used to photograph events and family portraits.
Which of your peers do you most admire?
So many! Pedro Sanchez, Edward Yeung, Adrian Ortega…
What do you wish you were better at?
I’m always striving to find balance in life. I try not to focus completely on design, in order to not burn out. I focus on my health and mind as well, taking breaks and lessening the pressure sometimes.
What in your career are you really good at?
I think I’ve gotten really good at developing processes. It was daunting at first, and now I find they come naturally to me, and allow for the rest of the team to learn from them as well.
How do you define a successful career?
A career that makes you happy and allows for you to have peace of mind outside of the work life as well.
What tools do you need to have a successful career?
Being open-minded, not letting failures or fear of criticism stop you from moving forward, patience and knowing that when you do something with your best effort, the result will always be good. Maybe not great at first, but you start off like that and then get better.
What food must be accessible to you in order to work well?
Coffee, water, almond butter.
Who do you credit most for your career rise?
Teachers like Dan Blackman and Scott Buschkuhl, who opened doors to internships and jobs, and were great teachers who believed in their students.
Who do you consider your teachers?
Previous bosses like Cynthia Prat and Andrew Guirguis, my mom, and other teachers like Timothy Goodman, Louise Fili, Natasha Jen, and Joe Marianek.
If you could collaborate with anyone (that you haven’t worked with yet) who would it be?
Zipeng Zhu, Louise Fili, Aldo Arillo, Yinglish, Lauren Hom, and many more.
Any books, films, or albums that have defined or changed the way you think?
Run Studio Run* [by Eli Altman] when starting my business. *Brutally Honest* by Emily Ruth Cohen, too.
What hobbies keep your sanity intact?
Exercise. I hadn’t realized how necessary it is to exercise and sleep well in order to be better at work. A lot of sleepless nights taught me that’s not how you become better. Also being surrounded by nature is important to me, and laughing with people. And cooking.
Do the above inspire your career/practice, or do you compartmentalize to get away from it?
I think they help clear my mind in order to be ready the next day to take on new projects, challenges, and come up with different solutions.
How much sleep do you get?
7-9 hours, in general.
How necessary do you find “routine”?
SO necessary. I also learned this recently, but my routine is what allows me to get things done. As creatives, we like to think inspiration hits and then the work flows, but I think when I get into my routine and figure out my process, that’s when I get the most done in a more efficient way.
Would you like to retire
Maybe. I would like to work part time in the near future if/when I start a family and see how that goes.
Anything that worries or frustrates you, looking at the future of design?
Maybe that everything is becoming so global that work starts looking very similar sometimes. I hope we all keep different styles, tastes, and approaches alive, and maintain variety and culture.
What excites you about the future of design?
How technology will open up new ways of communicating.