Long known as “the city that never sleeps,” New York City can feel chaotic with its cacophony of skyscrapers, subways and noise. But within creative corners of the Big Apple, from a photo studio in Brooklyn to a design firm in Manhattan, transplants find their own groove. Meet three recent alums based in New York.
Since 2017, Waterman has worked as a senior art director and designer—first full-time, now freelance—at the New York City firm, housed in a 100-year-old building above celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s Mediterranean restaurant Gato. Once a haven of artist lofts and industrial spaces, the historic Manhattan district of NoHo (North of Houston Street) is now home to luxury condos, design firms and brick-and-mortar shops for websites such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.
“There’s a hustle and bustle here,” says Waterman, sifting through dried mango and parmesan chips in the office kitchen’s snack drawer as the sounds of construction float up from the street below. “Everyone collaborates and gets each other’s opinions, whether or not you’re working on the same project.”
With its tall white brick walls, floor-to-ceiling bookcases of design books, and rows of desks occupied by the company’s designers, writers and strategists, the enormous open studio captures the busy ethos and look of the New York advertising world. But unlike the 1960s booze-filled boys club depicted in television’s Mad Men, Partners & Spade employs more women than men, from writers to designers. It was founded in 2007 by Anthony Sperduti and Kate Spade New York co-founder Andy Spade.
The company boasts clients such as the Coca-Cola Company, Nordstrom, J.Crew, Warby Parker, Target and Whole Foods. Waterman’s very first project at the firm was working on the identity for men’s wellness startup Hims, from its logo to a billboard in Times Square. Cheeky ads for the brand, which include hair loss products, line the inside of nearby subway cars. One ad, featuring a young man with a hair-covered face, reads “Graciously offer the wind something to mess up.”
“I’m really grateful to have had the opportunities I’ve had in New York to build a career,” says Waterman who has lived and worked in New York on and off for 10 years. Her style has changed since her days growing up in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley, from colorful outfits to mostly black. She emphasizes body positivity in her own fashion, beauty and art website The Lacey Minimalist.
Walking down a narrow staircase from Partners & Spade, she makes a beeline three busy, maple-tree lined blocks to The Smile, a subterranean restaurant in an 1830s building with a sunken staircase entrance, red brick and wooden walls and a crackling fireplace. She digs into scrambled eggs and greens for breakfast.
Waterman grew up painting, she says, creating “a zillion replicas” of Van Gogh and Monet paintings. She later went to a small East Coast college, then transferred to ArtCenter. “I knew that in the Advertising program I would get the conceptual side of art and design that I felt was missing for me,” she says.
Instructor Ellen Shakespeare encouraged Waterman to hone her copywriting skills, and while at ArtCenter she interned at brand-led agency Taxi in the cobble stone street-filled Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca. After graduating, Waterman worked at advertising behemoth TBWA\Chiat\Day on Madison Avenue. She then went to big ad agency McCann. For several years, Waterman lived in the East Village above McSorley’s Old Ale House, established in 1854 and known as Manhattan’s oldest bar.
After getting her graduate degree in graphic design at Yale, she moved back to New York and freelanced for a swath of companies, from InStyle, Google Creative Lab, Mother and Wieden+Kennedy to real estate company Compass and brand firm Red Antler. In 2016, Waterman moved to a one bedroom condo in Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), in a building built in 1916. Soon after she got a rescue chihuahua she named “Valley,” a nod to her SoCal roots.
“When you turn 30 and move to Brooklyn, the move comes with a dog,” she says, smiling. “There’s no fighting it.”
Her mornings usually start with walking Valley before taking a 15-minute F train ride to Partners & Spade. During lunch she walks four blocks to bookstore McNally Jackson. Waterman, who loves to cook, brings her lunch with her to work every day, and also volunteers at the nearby Bowery Mission, helping in the kitchen.
On this particular day, after breakfast at The Smile, Waterman passes by indoor cycling company SoulCycle, where she regularly exercises after work. Down the block, brimming with clusters of round wooden tables, is contemporary Mexican restaurant Atla, where she likes to grab dinner.
“What I like best about New York is the spontaneity,” she says, adding that she finds inspiration in local store openings and pop-up shops. “It’s easy to stop by, see how displays are done, and be on the pulse of what’s happening. I’ll always have Southern California pride, but I consider myself a New Yorker.”