ArtCenter: What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns in your professional/creative journey after graduating ArtCenter?
Lindon Leader (BFA Advertising ’78): I have served a wide variety of clients large and small, local, national and global. They’re all different, each with distinct communication challenges. I’ve worked with a lot of fine people and I am fortunate to have learned a great many interesting things in the course of serving each of them.
AC: What’s been the most unexpected or valuable takeaway from your ArtCenter education?
LL: Among many other things, ArtCenter taught me that a client needs to know you understand their business. The ability to convey design-thinking fluently and coherently is critical to selling your work. If a client asks you why you’re recommending a design approach and you reply, “I don’t know; I just really like it,” you won’t get very far down the corporate design road.
If a client asks you why you’re recommending a design approach and you reply, “I don’t know; I just really like it,” you won’t get very far down the corporate design road.
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: How do you define success?
LL: It’s looking back and being satisfied, pleased even, that, despite a wrong turn every now and then, all told you wouldn’t have had your life any other way.
AC: Do you have any superstitions?
LL: One: You must get out of bed on the same side you got in. I have no idea why.
AC: What design cliché are you most tempted to use?
LL: Beginning a logo exploration with a pencil and a scratch pad. I do. Always.
AC: What’s the one tool you can’t do without?
LL: I want to say my tech support but, really, it’s an X-Acto knife with a #11 blade.
AC: Describe the moment in your childhood where you first identified as an artist or designer?
LL: Growing up in Texas, I always enjoyed drawing — I could do it all day — but studio art classes in my K-12 school were very few and in the lower grades. Any drawing in college took a back seat to earning a degree in political science.
After wandering into law school and completing one terribly unfulfilling first year, my father said to a friend, “Lindon doesn’t seem to know what he wants to do. But I know he likes to draw.” My father’s friend mentioned ArtCenter, as his daughter was in photography at the school. I was intrigued.
During a semester break, I hustled out to L.A. to visit the Third Street campus. The lobby then was filled with some of the best student projects of the previous semester. Walking among the work, I recall thinking two things: One: This is the coolest stuff I’ve ever seen; and two, I’ll never be able to create anything so impressive.
Loaded with little more than a sketchbook for a portfolio, I applied to ArtCenter and got placed in advertising. I was in heaven. The school took a chance on me and I am forever grateful. I remember design instructor, Bill Moore, directing us to “Keep the layouts loose, and the concepts tight.” To this day, I strive to meet that challenge.
AC: What’s the first site you look at when you open your computer in the morning?
LL: The New York Times, rain or shine.
AC: Where do you go when you’re taking a break?
LL: I wish I could say I take a walk around the block but it’s mostly about sitting back, staring out the window and daydreaming. I find that this can take me anywhere.
AC: What do you do to detox from media and screens?
LL: I enjoy a good book, especially nonfiction. But I also like the occasional crime novel, usually John D. MacDonald and Carl Hiaasen.
AC: Where do you get inspiration?
LL: From things I find to be elegantly simple, well-designed and beautiful. I’ve long been a fan of a marvelous book, Quintessence, described as being about “things that exhibit a rare and mysterious capacity to be just exactly what they ought to be.” An Oreo cookie, for example.
AC: If you could trade jobs for a day with anyone, who would it be?
LL: I’d trade jobs with artist Barry Blitt and illustrate a New Yorker cover with his wit and charm.
AC: What books are on your bedside table?
LL: At the moment, Eric Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile, about Churchill during the first year of WW2, and Chris Salewicz’s biography, Jimmy Page.
AC: Who are the most interesting artists or designers working today?
LL: Personally, I’m fascinated with the works of Michael Heizer and James Turrell. Heizer works with mass; Turrell, the polar opposite: light.
AC: If you had superpowers, what would they be?
LL: I’d be a “five-tool” college outfielder with pro scouts beating down my door.
AC: What is your most rational or irrational fear?
LL: Mayonnaise and spiders, respectively.
AC: What is your current obsession?
LL: Writing and illustrating a children’s book. I hope to get to it eventually.
AC: What is your prized possession?
LL: Self-assurance. It took a long time to earn.
AC: Where is your happy place?
LL: Traveling somewhere on Earth with my wife, Mary.
AC: How would your closest friend describe you?
LL: Well, he dates back to nursery school in Houston and is still a presence despite being thousands of miles away. I believe he would say I am the brother he wished he’d had. I’d say the same about him.
AC: What’s your best piece of advice for an ArtCenter student who’s interested in following your career path?
LL: Remember that interest in seemingly irrelevant fields like science, music, literature and world history will serve to hone a personal aesthetic that will handsomely inform your work down the line. The memory of strata got from a passing interest in geology and the mental image of storm clouds conjured by a Wagner symphony may together inspire a remarkable landscape photograph that otherwise might have been most ordinary.