Jessie Zaud

profile / alumni / graphic-design
July 15, 2019

All That Jazz: Meet Creative Director Jessie Zaud

ArtCenter: What are you working on right now?
Jessie Zaud (BFA 90 Graphic Design) Creative Director & President, Zaudhaus:

The Zaudhaus team and I have created a wonderfully fun brand for Elemental Music, a small nonprofit music program in Santa Monica. We just finished a truly effective new website; we also create their concert programs each season. That reminds me, I need to create a new T-shirt design! While I’m proud of larger projects and companies I’ve done work for, this client, with its focus on music and children, really touches my heart, especially with so many cuts to arts programs in schools.

AC: How do you define success?
JZ:  I look less at the product and more the process—thinking, researching, sketching and creating. That’s really success for me.

AC: What’s the most unique thing you’ve designed?
JZ: When Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf hired us to design their new packaging line for coffees and teas, I created over 60 unique watercolor illustrations. I chose to really dive into each flavor and attempt to capture what it evoked for me. It was a fantastic experience, and I’m so proud of the illustrations. Sadly, the packaging line evolved, and now you can only see a few scant designs left in the labels I designed. Sometimes new leadership comes in and changes things for their own taste, even though the line was doing so well in market.

The notion of getting to look forward to sitting down and designing: thinking, researching, sketching and creating. I look less at the product and more the process I get to enjoy — that’s really success for me.

AC: Do you have any superstitions?
JZ: I still try not to step on cracks on the sidewalk.

AC: What’s the one tool you can’t do without?
JZ: On one hand I can’t imagine a world without my iPhone and laptop. However, I miss the days when no one texted or stared at their devices all day. And my computer never traveled, but stayed on her spot on my desk. In those times, clients had to wait; designers would spend more time thinking things through, and (gasp!) respond in person. Even the days when we all started working via email, no one expected an immediate response. I think designers actually did better work, worked fewer hours and replenished themselves. I feel fortunate that I grew up before texting and email; I think all life has suffered as a result.

AC: What’s the first site you look at when you open your computer in the morning?
JZ: The New York Times. It’s just great writing, in-depth stories and the least amount of typos in an online news source. I see typos everywhere in the world today, so annoying — suggests to me that people just aren’t thorough. Today typos are the norm. Am I the only one who notices? I guess today no one cares.

AC: Where do you go (online or offline) when you’re taking a break?
JZ: Even when I take a break, I love being inspired. It’s the same as it was when I was in school — I love going to museums and hearing live music.

AC: What do you do to detox from media and screens?
JZ: I love being in nature, running on the beach or walking around my garden. Nature is the best inspiration.

AC: If you could trade jobs with anyone for a day who would it be?
JZ: The various editors of the New Yorker, currently David Remnick.

AC: What book is on your bedside table?
JZ: Fahrenheit 451, my son is reading it in school right now so I thought I’d read it again.

AC: Who are the most interesting designers working today?
JZ: I get my inspiration these days from two places: First, from “new design,” actually children. When I look around my children’s schools, I see incredible design — early drawings, still raw and not overly shaped by what “should be.” I love being reminded of that state of mind. Then, second, I look at design and illustrations by indigenous peoples, Native Americans in particular. The weaving, beading, pottery — it’s ancient, yet it has so many modern shapes and ideas.

AC: Describe a moment in your childhood where you first identified as a designer.
JZ: My mom used to design our annual Christmas card. I remember watching her carve block prints and press each card by hand. Each year it was a different design, but after a while she went with store-bought. Of course, I designed my own little cards too while she was designing hers. Then, when I was 8, she used my design for the card. I didn’t know I was a designer! I still have the card she made with my design.

AC: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
JZ: I wish I were a “superpower musician.” I’d love to be a singer/pianist in a jazz combo. Music transforms people. I have to add that I also wish I had a “super-purr” power — the ability to instantly soothe people, like a cat!

AC: What’s your most irrational or rational fear?
JZ: Stubbing my toe. My skin is really sensitive and when I get a bug bite or bang my toe, it takes weeks to recover.

AC: What’s your most prized possession?
JZ: My memories and photos of my children when they were really young.

Alumni Q&A

Submit the Alumni Q&A questionnaire to share your story. We want to hear about your accomplishments, what you're working on and your advice for future ArtCenter students.

AC: Where is your happy place?
JZ: My cozy reading spot at home on my couch, looking out at my garden with my cat by my side.

AC: How would your closest friend describe you?
JZ: Here are a few words from him: “Jessie is a ‘present’ and thorough designer, artist and dedicated mother. She happiest at the piano and her painting desk. She loves a great cerulean green and a piece of Fabriano paper while Oscar Peterson plays in the background. Simple things. That said, she also is very thoughtful and very forward-thinking person who looks beyond the present moment and considers actions and their impacts on the future. She values being thorough and following through. She welcomes the struggle of life.“

AC: What’s your best piece of advice for an ArtCenter student who’s interested in following your career path?
JZ: I really value my ArtCenter education, although I wish I had gotten my MBA right after my BFA. It would have been great all these years to have been the client and studying business would have helped. I’ve enjoyed many of my clients, but occasionally I wish I were the CEO. I used to think design could change the world for the better and sometimes it does, like Apple computers, but the 1% and leaders of big corporations are the ones who can have the most impact.