Robin Landa — Clarity to the Communication

Robin Landa is a Distinguished Professor at the Michael Graves College at Kean University. She has written twenty-three books about creativity, graphic design, advertising design, branding, and drawing, including Nimble: Thinking Creatively in The Digital Age, Graphic Design Solutions, 6th ed., Designing Brand Experiences, and Advertising by Design, 4th ed. She is now working on a new book aimed at business professionals for Routledge. And she is working on a book proposal with Rich Tu, VP of Design at MTV and Viacom.

She is also a Co-Chair on the governance board of Design Incubation, a design research and practice organization.

We chat about how she started her career as a writer—and what routines she has created to be “non-negotiable” to maintain her output. She also shares her passion for teaching and giving back to the next generation. I hope you can find something that works for you, enjoy!


Follow Robin at Personal Website / Instagram / Facebook / Twitter




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About the Works in Process Podcast:

A podcast series by George Garrastegui, Jr. — designer, educator, and creative catalyst. Works In Process is a collection of discussions that exploring and demystify the creative process. I interview individuals to gain more insight into the ways they work and the projects they produce.



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Robin Landa: One of the reasons I started taking things where I didn't know anything was to understand what my students we're feeling. We walk in, and we're experts, and we know what we're talking about. And they have they're hearing it for the first time. So when I took this yoga class and had a very strict teacher, and I went up to her after like a year of taking the class, and I said, you know, you said something today. And I got it. And she said, I say that every class, and I thought, Wow, it took me a year to hear her. And it wasn't that I wasn't really listening. I just didn't get it yet. I didn't understand it. And it really made me have greater empathy for my students. And it made me a much more patient teacher. I'm willing to explain things over and over and over again and in different ways so that different learners get it, but it really did make me more empathetic. When I was in a situation where I couldn't do something.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: Welcome to work some process, the podcast that asks the hows and whys behind creative work. Take a ride with me designer, an educator George garris. Taking, as I learned from my guests, there's no one way to being a creative, but endless possibilities fueled by passion, determination, and of course process. And that's this episode's guest Robin Landa, a distinguished professor in the Michael graves college and Kane University. She's written 23 books about creativity, graphic design, advertising, design, branding, and drawing, including nimble thinking creatively in the digital age graphic design solutions, the sixth edition, designing brand experiences, and advertising by design, the fourth edition. She's now working on a new book aimed at business professionals for Rutledge and she's also working on a book proposal with rich to VP of design and MTV and Viacom. Professor Lana has won numerous awards for designs, writing and research, including awards from the National Society of Arts and Letters, and the National League of Penn women. She received the 2015 human rights educator award. 2013 Kane Teacher of the Year award in Carnegie Foundation lists her among the great teachers of our time. Recently, Professor Landa presented a subject of personal branding at Columbia University's Graduate Program in strategic communications. She is the audience favorite at how design conferences, and she's also a co chair on the governance board of design incubation, a design Research and Practice Organization. It's for her comprehensive knowledge in the area of writing and publishing that I have her on the show. I wanted to learn what keeps her motivated, and what constitutes a writing routine. I hope you can find something that works for you. And enjoy conversation.


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Hey, Robin, thank you so much for taking the time and welcome to the works in process podcast. Thank you for inviting me, George, this is great. So we're definitely going to get into your design and publishing history. But let's do something fun. First, I'd like to start each episode with a rapid q&a fire session. Are you ready? Sure. These are just a series of this or that questions?


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Coffee or tea?


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Robin Landa: Coffee,


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: toast or a bagel?


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Robin Landa: A toast?


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: paper or digital?


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Robin Landa: umm, digital


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: writing or design?


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Robin Landa: Oh my goodness. You can ask me that. I love them both.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: It's Sophie's Choice.


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Unknown: I'll say writing right now.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: Branding or advertising.


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Robin Landa: Oh, another one. I have to say advertising right now. It changes it changed.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: But today, today is advertising day today.


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That's what I'm writing about today.


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Yeah, there you go. And now like to just do some quick word association, right. So one of the first things you think of when you hear these words,


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Robin Landa: imagination,


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: determination,


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Unknown: grit,


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: business,


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part of design and advertising.


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Robin Landa: My students


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: education,


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Robin Landa: my life.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: mistakes


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Robin Landa: made a lot of


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: skills,


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Robin Landa: sensibility,


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: history.


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Robin Landa: Art


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: opportunity.


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Robin Landa: So many


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: accessibility.


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Robin Landa: Everyone should have it.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: Future.


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Robin Landa: Rosy


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: process,


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Robin Landa: always in the process of becoming.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: I like these there's no time to react, you just get a chance to answer. You know, sometimes there's there's no right. So now I want to kind of get a little bit of an origin story about Robin and like your introduction to art and design. So where did you grew up? And were you creative, artsy as a child?


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Robin Landa: I grew up in New York City born and bred and Oh yeah, that's what I did. All the time, I was either drawing or making clothes for Barbie, or cutting up my mother's jewelry to make things. It was just constantly entertaining myself by making things and creating art.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: Did school or family play a larger role in you becoming a designer? Or were you kind of self taught?


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Well, college certainly came into play, I really growing up, I wanted to be a fashion designer. And I really didn't know how to pursue that. And I would my father brought home these pads, and they had figures on them. And and I guess they were they were created for fashion designers who couldn't draw the figure, which makes no sense. But I would draw fashions on them all the time. And that's what I really loved. And everybody in my family loved everything. I did that that was a very positive to have people say, Oh, you're such a good artist. But they didn't want me to be an artist. And they didn't want me to be a designer. They wanted me to be either a doctor or a dentist or a teacher. And I mean, teacher, I mean, little kids, my mother made sure I learned how to play piano. So that in case I taught kindergarten, I'd be able to do have the kids sing along


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piano. Do you still play?


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No, no, I don't play anymore. But as an adult, I started to take lessons again, but it was hopeless.


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I know, we touched on this earlier in our like pre conversation, but what was your first creative job? And how did you stumble into it?


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Robin Landa: My first creative job came through one of my professors who I would confide in and say that I really wanted to be an illustrator. And sometimes I would say fashion Illustrator. And sometimes I'd say Illustrator. So he got me a freelance job doing illustrations for a publishing house. And that's, that's what I did for a long time. So I started out as an illustrator.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: And so when, after all of that, you know, or even before that, when did you consider yourself a creative?


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Robin Landa: Always, always, I was always thinking about what I could make, or what I could design or what I could write, or were anything I was just constantly consumed with it. My daughter when she went through the phase of asking her parents, did you take drugs? I would always say no, I didn't make drugs. I've made art, I art, art, you know, and of course, she didn't believe me, but it was true. And it's true. Because you know, that if you if you concentrate, you know if you're drawing or designing or writing the endorphins flow, so you actually are feeling good.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: Yeah, that zone moment, you know, kind of takes over. So, you know, that was just a little bit to get to know the backstory of Robin. And in reality, when I was thinking back of just kind of researching, you know a little bit more about you and thinking about, you know, because we've actually met in person, and I think it was either at a one club event or a designing probation event. But I definitely remember it was at the time when your nimble book came out. And that's kind of when I was the first that was probably the first time I was introduced to you. And you've obviously written so many things before that. But that's just kind of maybe just my introduction to the Robin land, Robin Landa, you know, sphere, you know, with all of that you've written about 23 books, you know, your design educator, and it seems for you that the act of writing and design seemed very intertwined. So I'm wondering, were you always a writer and a designer,


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Robin Landa: right out of undergraduate school? I don't know if you know, this that's many people do I went into a graduate program in art history. And of course, you know, there's no painting there. You know, your there's no drawing there, your writing. So my, one of my undergraduate professors in headed encouraged me because I was always so opinionated. He said, Well, if you have so many opinions, you better learn how to write about art and design. And then, as I stayed in the program, I completed all the credits except the thesis and I was getting antsy, and I decided to switch to an MFA. But for me, I guess writing and design and art and painting has always been a combo deal. I love it all. But, and this might encourage a lot of your listeners, I didn't really know how to write. I went to school, I was in a gifted program, in elementary school with, I guess, people called primary school or elementary school. And it was progressive. And they didn't teach us how to write. They just said, do your own thing. And so I never actually learned I remember my aunt yelling at me that I didn't know how to diagram a sentence. And they really didn't know any of the mechanics. And I really struggled in graduate school in art history when it was very, there were really conventions and great orthodoxy about how you approach it. demmick writing, so I kind of had to teach myself then and then later and mostly later when I really started writing a lot more. So there's hope there's hope for every, there's hope for all of us out there who, who to realize that somebody who's who's published over 23 books and continuing to write, that they weren't


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: really into writing or learned how to write when they were younger. Thank you, thank you for that vote of confidence. We all can do it. So you said that one of your professors kind of prompted you like, if you have so many opinions, you might as well start writing it down. What was the first article or book that you really put yourself out there and started to share those opinions with other people?


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Robin Landa: I first wrote an article about a painting but it didn't it didn't go anywhere. It didn't get published. And then when I was teaching, one of the sales people from Prentice Hall came around and they still do they still come around to faculty offices to ask you if there any books that you'd like to adopt from that publisher. And we talked and she said, Well, would you like to write a book? And I said, Sure, I would love to write a book. And she gave me I mean, this is how long it was a card. Good an index card that I filled out. And I wrote down. And an editor contacted me and said, they were looking for somebody to write a book about an introduction to two dimensional design. And I said, sign me up. That sounds great. That that was my first book. I wrote it on a typewriter. Believe I mean, I'm really dating myself. I wrote it on a typewriter, I cut up the pages that I typed in reading the line gnome, and I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I look at that now. And I cringe. But I had good instincts. But I really didn't know how to write a textbook or a trade book. And then I wrote, I wrote two more for the two more one, at least one more for that publisher.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: Wow, just kind of being thrown in the fire of just, hey, do you want to write this? And yes, but why did you say yes,


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Robin Landa: Chris, I am very opinionated. Because I, you know, I'm a belief. Like I really believed I was so passionate in undergraduate and graduate school about art and design. I mean, I love art design. And then I was just like, I just thought, art and design would change the world. And I was going to be part of that. And I was on a mission. That was religion for me.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: Art and designers religion. That's the next book. Just,


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Robin Landa: yeah, it is, it is and people who are passionate about it. I mean, it's in the you know, if you're a musician, or you're a writer, or you're a dancer, it's, you know, you got to believe otherwise. Just


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: write Otherwise, why? why are you doing it? Right? Otherwise? Yeah, I mean, you got to be a believer. Totally, it's Wow. So starting to write about 2d design, thinking about how design an art can change the world, you know, as these things for you are intertwined in the way that you do. And I even love the idea, that old school of writing on a typewriter, but also cutting out sentences and rearranging them, and things like that, right, which is the easy copy and paste now, but, you know, instead you didn't want to retype you know, the pages over, you would just cut them out and do them over. And I think that's a great way to see sentence structure and see if this can be moved, you know, in front or below, because sometimes tangibility just makes more sense in our heads than like, copying and pasting on an on a Word document or, you know, it just kind of seems like not really there. While when you see it in your hand or you make copies, it kind of has that sense. So that's one tangibility aspect. But what other similarities or differences do you notice? with being a writer and a designer,


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Robin Landa: you still have to think about your audience, especially depending on the I mean, if you're writing nonfiction, like I do, most of the time, I write some fiction, but mostly, the books that I write are nonfiction, I really have to think about my audience. And I have to think about what you know, I have to look for the insight into the audience in order to make sure that the book sells more than a copy to my husband. I mean, I really like to write but I like to earn some royalties so that I can sponsor scholarships for my students. That's what that's why I keep writing so that I can help students. But anyway, I think understanding the audience looking for that insight, being organized understanding that you have to communicate ideas in a very clear way. One of the best tips I give people is I say, think about exactly what you want to say and just say it, just write it out. Sometimes people forget what the goal is or what the objectives are. So it's sort of like having a creative brief write or design brief. It's so similar in terms of writing nonfiction, and if you're writing for trade Then you have to be more creative, you have to engage, you have to speak conversationally you have to use, you have to address people as you, it really is a different game. And what I've learned is that, and this is kind of a sad fact that since 1982, most people who buy nonfiction trade books don't read past chapter one. So everything's got to be in chapter one that you want to say, Chapter One has to be a really fabulous, condensed version of the through line of the theme of your book. Some people don't even read the book, they just the title just does it for them, you know, think about a book like don't sweat the small stuff, the title tells you what to do exactly.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: or start with why, right, like just Yeah, kind of these things that automatically give you a hook. So obviously, you know, thinking about just how you break down these ideas, thinking about your audience, what the intentions are thinking about insight, this will probably be an easy question, right? How does it inform the way you teach?


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Robin Landa: It's really about clarity of communication, I really tried to be as clear as possible in teaching. And I have learned to define terms, I don't assume that people know what a term means before I proceed. So if you're writing a textbook, the first time you mentioned a term, you have to define it. And so that really helps in the classroom. And I've come up with all kinds of events. If you know me, or anybody knows me, I'm like the checklist queen. Like I've come up with all these ways of getting people to understand complex information and putting it into very easy to understand forms. And so I've done a million of these different little charts and ways of understanding information in my books, which definitely helps in the classroom.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: I definitely, and that's coming up, right, that's as a marketing tool before you released, you know, your advertising by design, fourth edition, you kind of were promoting the book with these processes and checklists, how important was that for you to get that out in front of people before the book comes out?


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Robin Landa: Well, thank you for asking that. And for anybody writing a book, listen very carefully. Unless you're john Grisham or a celebrity, the publisher is not going to do your marketing for you. So you have to have a marketing plan. And you have to figure out how you can get to people and get them to know about the book because publishing has totally changed. So what I do is to try to get people interested is I give content away. And that that's what I did in this way I wrote to people and asked them, would they like, open resource content that I created that comes out of the book and relates to the book, you really have to have a marketing plan? And I'm not good at it, believe it or not, I'm not. I don't like to say, Hey, I just wrote this book, like, would you please look at it, I am very, if you can believe it, I'm kind of shy in that way. Or kind of, it's hard for me. So I really had to push myself. And the incentive is, is to try to earn the money so that I can sponsor scholarships.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: So you have books that have multiple editions, where over the years things change concepts change, tactics change, how do you know what stays and what gets updated?


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Robin Landa: That's a great question. Well, you know that our field is so dynamic. And the first edition that I wrote of the advertising book, as soon as it was published, it was like, Oh, my gosh, everything has changed. You know, social media has changed everything. So that our fields graphic design, you know, that there's always a new digital form. And there's, there's so to me, there's enormous crossover among branding, graphic design and advertising. And you know, like, if you're designing a website, or you're designing for social media, what are you really doing? Are you you know, especially if you're thinking about social media, is that branding said advertising is that graphic? Like, where does it fall in the Communication Design? sphere, so I have to just keep everything up to date. So you know, you keep all the theory, the fundamentals the same, I keep certain classic illustrations the same. And because it's not a journal, I have to really pick examples and illustrations that are classic that will last for four or five years, as opposed to getting the new issue of Communication Arts right and seeing the latest stuff, and then you have to get permission to use all the images. So it's, it's it's difficult process. So I tried to refresh it. The law is that you have to change at least 25% of a book for a new edition. That's the law that's legal. But once I start, I change at least 40 to 50 percent? Because I'm just like, Oh, well, I really would like to change that. And just to keep it very cutting edge.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: How do you keep track of that? Like, how do you know that you've did 40 versus 20? Is it because I'm taking out chapter 17? and replacing with a whole new chapter? Is it because the interview that I had is now with a new person who gets a different perspective? Like, how is that gauged?


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Robin Landa: You have to actually give them a list of what you're going to change, you have to actually have a plan in both your proposal for the new edition. And then for marketing purposes, because somebody will say, Well, what did you change? Can I just buy the old edition? And so they want a kind of comparison. So I do change interviews, I change case studies, I change samples, I change out, maybe branding, and storytelling should be two different chapters, you know, I try to keep the chapters the same so that teachers don't lose their marbles. If they're using, you know, like, oh, now look, two dimensional design, just move to check. Two, three, wait a minute, what like, so you have to be mindful of the people who've been using the previous edition. So I just tried to stay within the structure, but give them brand new content that is absolutely cutting edge and relevant. But you do have to offer the publisher a plan,


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: that seems very interesting that you kind of have to, I guess, sell the concept of an updated edition to the publisher for the, I guess the ability to? Is it something that you go to them with and you want to update this? Or do they sometimes come back to you and say, Hey, we would like an update of this,


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Robin Landa: it depends, usually they'll come to you, if it's selling, well, they'll come to you, because in this market, they they need to keep refreshing it in order to sell new copies, because people will just buy used copies, and the publishers and make any money on a used copy, I don't make any money on to use copy. And there's also piracy, which is a whole other I don't know if you know the whole funny story about me and a new level of piracy that took place. But anyway, they often come if the book is selling, they'll come to you for a new edition. And if the book isn't selling, but they want your name on your list, they sometimes will put out a new edition just to keep you


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: to keep you part of their roster of, of writers. Right? Interesting. So now you're thinking about right they're coming to you to you know, formulate and and refresh ideas. You're you're trying to battle, I guess the new digital age with the way content gets updated. But also, like you just mentioned piracy, that that things happen. And PDFs run rampant or books or ebooks change hands or who gets rights to that obviously, in the early 2000s with music and publishing and, and Napster and all that stuff like that, right? seems very similar, probably in the publishing industry, you know, where people can just kind of find copies of things and then utilize that. But you usually when you think about that, what what do you say with with people who can't afford the book, the people who who want the content, and I would say maybe even our students who these books are, you know, as reference books, you know, if they go to the library, they're not going to have 15 to 20 of these for everybody to take out, they're gonna have one and they're all gonna fight over it. Right? So you have the opportunity of getting an E book, which sometimes doesn't feel as impactful. But then, you know, they find they come across your book that somebody else, unfortunately is pirated. But for them, they're gaining content. How do you grapple with that? Because you probably understand that it's, it's like a double edged sword.


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Robin Landa: It is, and it's the same the music industry deals with the piracy. I think the libraries have to have a couple of books, I have to think they have to have them on reserve. I think that I think the publishers need to lower the prices. I've been saying this for years. textbook publishers absolutely need to lower their prices. It's ridiculous. But it's an industry and it, it's very hard to keep motivated to keep writing and put out new content if you don't make any money on it. And you don't make any money on it. If everybody's stealing the content. It is difficult, and I feel terrible. But I also would I feel that with my books is that, for example, graphic design solutions, our students use them for four use the one book for four years. So there are many classes using the same book. So you're getting your money's worth, by having it but also publishers now have new ways of selling so for example, that publisher Cengage has what's called an unlimited deal, where you can your university can buy into this unlimited and you can get all of your textbooks from them for one price, which is that's the way that they're, they're dealing with it. And then during the pandemic, they gave my book away. During the pandemic, students could get my book for free. Nice. Yeah, that was very, very nice. So that was


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: that was based on them? Or did you have a hand in that?


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Robin Landa: I didn't they never listened to authors. You know, I've been begging them to lower prices for years, but No, I didn't. I didn't, but I was very glad about it. And also you can rent the books, that's another option that they give, and then, you know, you can always get the used copy of the previous edition,


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: but then we're not supporting you.


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Robin Landa: Right. Right. You're not supporting me, but you get some content, for sure. Right. And that can be gotten very cheaply.


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George Garrastegui, Jr.: Because I do think there was a difference in you know, I sometimes you get an E book. And of course, you can read the content. But as designers and and you know, people who create books, there's such a tangible aspect to the flow and the layout that you wanted, the way that a large image could be on one side versus a bunch of body copy, or even just a large headline, and the other would you don't really get that same experience in, you know, an ebook, which is sometimes one of the reasons why, you know, I never really go for the ebooks because it just doesn't really feel the same. You know, and I mean, yeah, I may be an old school person who likes to flip through and just hear the pages. But I think there's a tactile nature of just knowledge and recollection of content and information that comes. So everything creates like a memory, that when you're reading one versus another, you get reminded that oh, I was reading this one versus that one. Right. So I definitely see that the the aspect of getting the book, if you can, but yeah, you are correct, that these prices are a little bit outrageous, especially for textbooks and content is king. And I think students or emerging designers, like you said, want to get to the heart of it extremely quickly. You know, my books are always like pencils in the margins, a bunch of little tabs. Like it's crazy. And I don't even know why I even Mark some things up. But I know that if it's there, there was a reason that I needed to


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Robin Landa: tell you two things, one, that I get people writing to me who I don't know, telling me that they bought graphic design solutions in college, but they keep it on their desk at work, because it's a reference, you know, and if they're thinking about a logo, and I have all this background on logo, they can look that up. The other thing is that graphic design solutions, I think, is the very first interactive textbook in graphic design. So that publisher published it on a proprietary platform called mind tap. And so I had to write a version of it so that people could interact with it. And that's very cool. Yeah. So you can zoom in, you can look at images, you can bear a little quiz there. It's like really cool.


00:27:51,810 --> 00:27:55,650

George Garrastegui, Jr.: I think that's great. But I think it's obviously like you said, you're doing almost a whole other book.


00:27:56,430 --> 00:28:15,720

Robin Landa: Yeah, I had to create content just for that platform. Yeah, the next book is published by Wiley, who publishes my advertising book. And a lot of a lot of the art history books were on the front line of interaction, because you could really zoom in and look at these, you know, wonderful works of art and design up close and scrutinize them.


00:28:16,170 --> 00:28:23,220

George Garrastegui, Jr.: Very interesting. So you mentioned one of the things that educators and students use these as references. Did you always think of your books


00:28:23,280 --> 00:29:15,900

Robin Landa: as textbooks? No, it's interesting. Um, a close colleague of mine said, will you just write textbooks? I think No, actually, I don't only only two of them are textbooks. Everything else that I've done has been a trade book. And it in fact, I've written like a drawing book, that's a trade book on like, you know, here learn how to draw on your spare time kind of book. I've written how to books and I'm done. Drawing journals. And you know, I've done the gamut. And now I'm moving into phase of writing for trade that's not aimed at an added design or advertising, Creative Advertising audience or brand new audience. I'm actually aiming a business people now. So I'm very excited. That's what I'm working on now, but only my two best sellers. So I guess I do write textbooks fairly well, our textbooks.


00:29:16,170 --> 00:30:04,170

George Garrastegui, Jr.: I mean, I can see because even sometimes when you go to Wiley's website to use them, they even have I guess it's like a professor Compendium, where like it tells you like how can you use the book as like a weekly, here's a syllabus, it definitely allows you to break down if you did want to use this as your textbook, it's, it's thought of like that and kind of guiding you on how to navigate the book but in a, I guess, in a sequence that allows educators to have an easier time to fit in and then of course, with your content morphin their own personal perspectives and things like that. So I definitely see though, those two as as gravitating more towards the textbook arena, right, and we have to write all that that you just mentioned But then you get paid for you see, that's more money. Oh, no, no, oh, it's


00:30:04,170 --> 00:30:27,690

Robin Landa: not No, no, no, no that some, they want that. That's part of the part and parcel. Some people refuse to do it, but I do it because I figure it'll help professors and adjuncts, and middle ultimately make it a better product. So I always do it. I always provide a ton of ancillary instructional materials. Well, thank


00:30:27,690 --> 00:31:04,320

George Garrastegui, Jr.: you for that. I appreciate Oh, yeah. And so, you know, you're thinking about how writing helps you clarify information, how it starts to inform the way you teach. And, you know, like you mentioned, when you're introducing new terms, you have to define them and things like that, right. So it allows, you know, your class to kind of be on the same page. I just recently read, I guess, a recent one club article that stated like, my advice to anybody writing a book, an article or copy or a short story is to write in a non negotiable activity is like brushing one's teeth. How do you keep up that routine? And what is that routine,


00:31:04,770 --> 00:32:33,960

Robin Landa: I have a lot of non negotiables in my life. And that's the way that I do things that I might otherwise say, well, maybe I'll just go watch Netflix, my workout is non negotiable. In other words, I don't argue with myself, I just do it. And once I do, and I'm very happy that I'm doing it. But I really like to write, I look forward to it. And not everybody feels that way. And I think that's where the problem comes in from people. And I think my best advice is that if you like to talk, you can write, because it's pretty much the same thing. And then you should just record yourself and have your ideas flow out that way. It shouldn't be you shouldn't feel stymied, because you're using a different medium to communicate. I really think especially for faculty and designers who teach, it's really an extension of what you say, in the classroom, you just always just have to make sure that there's clarity to the communication. And there are a lot of handy books to help you become a better writer. I really like it, I really like to write because I like to make things I like to think I like to think things through I like the endorphins that flow when I'm in the process of doing something. In fact, sometimes I forget about meetings and stuff, because I'm like writing so much that I forget to do anything else.


00:32:34,080 --> 00:32:53,430

George Garrastegui, Jr.: That seems amazing. I need to get to that Zen moment. I like the idea of, of non negotiables. Where did you come up with that? How did you kind of, I guess, figure that out of I'm not going to argue with myself on these couple of things or a bunch of things that to me are important.


00:32:54,210 --> 00:33:41,850

Robin Landa: I think people waste a lot of time arguing with themselves. It's like, oh, should I go to the gym, you know, I don't want to work out but I should work at like all the ski like you can, you know, as with Stuart smiley said, you can shoot all over yourself. And I just don't want to waste time. I guess in practical. I'm very practical person. And I just figured out with this, do it. You know, I love to I'm a dancer, I love to dance. And so if you say to me, oh, go to a dance class, you know, like, I got my clothes on, and I'm out the door. But if you say you know, go to the gym to lift weights and like, oh, okay, you know, it's not, it's not something I love to do. But I know I have to do it. And so I don't argue with myself, I just do it. Does that make any sense? Or? No, it


00:33:42,110 --> 00:34:39,920

George Garrastegui, Jr.: does. And I think it's just the idea of that internal monologue of you know, it's not worth it to really challenge yourself there, you know, it's good to have these, this group of things that you call non negotiable. to kind of say, these are the things I need to stick to, you know, these are my core, this is my values, these are, you know, whatever you want to call them, and stick to that. And then build that into something specific like you do as a routine. Right? That if the gym is a routine, if writing is routine, like brushing your teeth is routine, then it becomes something that you just actively do. And it's it's the thing that you do instead of just reverting to being lazy and say, I'll just watch Netflix, it seems like people maybe need to find those non negotiables as an almost like a, like a self care moment, like these are the things that that I need to do to kind of just keep myself human. Because there's so many distractions going on.


00:34:40,350 --> 00:34:51,000

Robin Landa: Right. And plus, the other side of it, is that once I do go to the gym, and I start lifting weights, 15 minutes in, I actually feel better.


00:34:51,230 --> 00:34:52,260

George Garrastegui, Jr.: Yeah, that's so true.


00:34:52,589 --> 00:35:50,040

Robin Landa: So it's sort of like you have to remind yourself that on the other side of it, you're going to feel better and you're going to be happy. with yourself, you're going to feel virtuous. And you're going to say, Hey, you know, good job, kiddo, you went and did what you had to do. But you also just physically, I think, whether it's workout or or writing, or brushing your flossing your teeth, you know, it's like, I remember, maybe it came from my dad who was really having really, really heavy work ethic. Remember, he put up a calendar in the bathroom where I had to cross off brushing my teeth. And I would say, Daddy, it's like, I'm tired. I just want to go to sleep, you'd say, Well, do you want your teeth? Do you want to have them tomorrow? And so I guess, you know, I always look at it that way. It's like, Well, on the other side, I'm gonna have what I want, your teeth are still there, I'm gonna have my teeth,


00:35:50,070 --> 00:36:25,590

George Garrastegui, Jr.: right, I guess the repetition is definitely something that that keeps us going. I remember similarly, when my mom wanted me to, to learn my multiplication tables. And it was literally every day, I had to write one through 12 outs on a full page of paper. And she would look at it every night and make sure I did it. Right. And I would fill in old school composition book every day with new things. But now when somebody asked me a simple multiplication question, I come up with like that without even thinking because of the repetition. It's kind of building that muscle memory.


00:36:26,360 --> 00:37:25,460

Robin Landa: Yeah, yeah, it you do build muscle memory. But also you really, and I keep telling this to people, when we teach the design incubation fellowship. You know, I've been doing this for a few years now. And we get new writer, mostly new writers, people who want to write book reviews, or articles or books. And I keep saying, the more you write, the more you're going to like it, and the more you're going to enjoy it. And the longer periods that you can write for, your brain will thank you, your brain will actually get into it. For you run, if you're a runner, or like if anybody's your runner or a dancer, if you only do a short burst, you don't get as much of the endorphins as a longer push. So if there's something you said it's then you get some kind of peacefulness out of drawing for an extended time, or designing for extended time or doing anything where you're concentrating. And it really feels nice.


00:37:26,040 --> 00:39:19,770

George Garrastegui, Jr.: Yeah, I mean, I'm going to counteract that with writing never feels nice for me. So it's always been a challenge. It's always felt like a chore to be able to express yourself in this other medium. And it's made me that I haven't been doing it for that long, or I still feel uncomfortable and having that self doubt with it. I know I have things to say. But it's also saying I'm like this versus saying them on paper tend to sound different. But you're so fabulous speaking. So what's the difference? There's no difference there is it's the self doubt, it's the it's the I'm negotiating with myself it right. But what I what I think is, you know, you mentioned design, incubation and the fellowship and I did a fellowship program, try to I think my aspect was article writing, or book reviews. And what transpired from that, I think, was a great takeaway from me from it was the fact that, at that point in time, that wasn't my medium. You know, and I think, going through the process and going through the the weekend workshop, which I met a lot of great people, including you and an heiress and and, and, and starting to figure out what I wanted to do, it also led me to figure out that I didn't want to do that yet. And honestly, this podcast starts because it was an anti writing project, it was basically the opposite of that, and said that, I can probably pull out more information via conversations than I can do as the written word. And so for me, it's it's trying to interact publishing or you know, counteract the idea of what publishing is, but with podcasts and people who are able to shape the industry and learn from them in the same way somebody would do a book review, but for me, this feels more natural. So maybe eventually, I'll get to that point where I feel a little bit more comfortable. But right now, this podcast is my perspective.


00:39:19,860 --> 00:40:43,670

Robin Landa: Yeah, we come to things at different points. I mean, I really did. George, I really did have to teach myself how to write. I really didn't know how to write a textbook. I really didn't know how to write an article and the design incubation fellowship is a blessing for people because we have these extraordinary people who will actually teach you how to I mean, I had to struggle and do it myself. And I was lucky I had a friend who would look at my writing sometimes and say, Well, you know, keep going kid. You know, you can you can do it and I and I read a couple of how to books on writing and reading really helps true reading really good writers really, really helps. And you can sort of, if you have any kind of chameleon like quality in you, where you can pick up style or substance from these people, that really helps. One of the best books. And it's a, it's a pleasure to read is called on writing by Stephen King. It's his memoir, but it also gives amazing tips on sentence structure that actually changed my writing, take note, storing it in my, in my bank of information, it's a great, it's a fun book anyway, even if you just read it for pleasure,


00:40:44,010 --> 00:41:49,230

George Garrastegui, Jr.: yeah, I tend to I tend to read sometimes more for just like purpose, you know, the idea of learning some knowledge or something like that. And for me to to learn for pleasure, or to read for pleasure, kind of takes me out of it. But I, you know, there's certain types of books that kind of, I'm just kind of allowed to engage, and it kind of just takes a flow, you know, so it's definitely finding that balance. Because I do agree that sometimes when you're just reading, it's it's firing off different synapses in your brain that allow you to kind of just go different places. And even like you mentioned with the workouts or, or any of that, when you're doing something different than what you're used to, it kind of frees your frees your mind up to maybe go back to that thing that you were so stuck on and kind of find that solution, you know, or find the ending or find the right typography, you know, because you're no longer like forced to think about it, you're kind of just been letting yourself go and the endorphins take over. And like, all of the things that you've learned, take over. And then you just like you said, you just do you're not thinking and one of the reasons why I think that I consider myself maybe not a writer is because I'm overthinking it.


00:41:49,560 --> 00:43:22,130

Robin Landa: Yeah, I think or just people think that it's very different than speaking. And it's not for writing, you know, you write emails, you grade papers, you give lectures, you do the podcast, you know, you're fabulous, and you're fun. And you're interesting, and you could just speak it into into your phone, right? No one says you actually literally have to use your fingers to do it. I think and it's insurance. And you're right. I mean, sometimes we're not at a point where we do one thing and certain activities, feed other activities. So maybe the podcast will feed your thoughts about writing at one point, I started to do what I called lunchtime fiction. On my lunch break, I would write a short story. And I started writing more and more short stories. And I didn't know how to write a short story. My daughter went to Harvard summer school and took a course I forgot the name of the woman with a great short story writer. And when she came home, I thought, well, let me get my money's worth out of this. Tell me what you learned. And she taught me how to write a short story. So I started writing them. And I started submitting them to literary journals, and they were accepted. But the reason I'm telling you this is that it actually if I hadn't done that, I wouldn't be getting the book contract that I have now. Because when you write for trade, you almost have to write like you're writing short stories. So teaching myself that enabled me to move forward in the direction that I really wanted to go.


00:43:22,440 --> 00:43:35,340

George Garrastegui, Jr.: Also seems like putting yourself in a position to learn like being okay with not knowing or being okay with just taking on a new challenge, right? Somebody? Somebody's like, do you want to write a book? You're like, sure.


00:43:36,230 --> 00:44:39,810

Robin Landa: Yeah, no, you're absolutely right. I think bravery has something to do with it. And and, and sometimes we have to coax ourselves. I remember when I was first started joining a gym, I would look into the rooms where they would have like yoga classes, or other classes, and I'd look in I'd be an outsider looking in and I was afraid to go in, everybody had these nice outfits, and they had mats and they were doing these things. And I thought, Oh my gosh, I can't do that. I'm an outsider. So I thought, Well, you know what, I went and got myself a DVD for beginning yoga. And I taught myself beginning yoga at home. And then I went into a, I mean, I just like, I just want to learn. And I never took ballet as a kid. I just, my father was a dancer. And he taught me I was home schooled dancer. And as an adult, I went and took jazz classes not I mean, I just love to learn. I love to learn new things, and I don't mind being bad at them.


00:44:40,500 --> 00:45:09,300

George Garrastegui, Jr.: I agree. I think the willingness to learn and, you know, as you just mentioned, the the idea of not or fearing that you would be looked upon or being bad, you know, kind of sometimes inhibits our ability to do something that were, you know, apprehensive about, definitely thank you for just sharing those little tidbits of Allowing us to realize that you know, sometimes you have to come to terms with certain things on your own. But putting yourself in that situation is definitely going to hopefully get you over the hump.


00:45:09,720 --> 00:46:25,770

Robin Landa: Right. And I think trying, one of the reasons I started taking things where I didn't know anything, was to understand what my students were feeling. We walk in, and we're experts, and we know what we're talking about. And they have they're hearing it for the first time. You know, so when I took this yoga class and had a very strict teacher, and I went up to her after like, a year of taking the class, and I said, you know, you said something today. And I got it. And she said, I say that every class, and I thought, Wow, it took me a year to hear her. And there wasn't that I wasn't really listening, I just didn't get it yet. I didn't understand it. And it really made me have greater empathy for my students. And it made me a much more patient teacher, unwilling to explain things over and over and over again and in different ways so that different learners get it. But it really did make me more empathetic. When I was in a situation where I couldn't do something. I wasn't the best, I take dance classes, I am not the best in the room. And that's humbling, you know, and that that's, that's a good lesson to learn.


00:46:25,890 --> 00:46:32,250

George Garrastegui, Jr.: So what do you think has changed in your perspective, the way educators need to empower students voices,


00:46:32,250 --> 00:47:31,620

Robin Landa: I think it's very important that we let them be them, that we not impose a school of thought on them, I tried to explain to them what's acceptable in the profession. But I owe I really tried to let them find their own sensibility, and not impose this, like I tried to give them skills and theory. But I don't impose a sensibility, I tried to look for that in them and help them have it emerge. And I think that's one of the reasons, a lot of the students like my classes, that it's it's very open, open ended. And they can sort of feel they feel more like fine artists, because I allow for that, in there, that kind of finding their inner voice and what what's special and unique about them,


00:47:32,010 --> 00:48:19,200

George Garrastegui, Jr.: which I think is very important in what we do. Because as you know, when we talk about, you know, design and advertising as a business, the unique perspectives that our students have a what they get hired for, right, if they're doing the same thing that everybody else is doing, then there's no real differentiator between, you know, you or me, because we bring the same thing to the table, because we have the same school of thought. So I think it's definitely important to allow them to start to become their things and kind of letting them know, this is what's acceptable, but also, right, like the idea that rules are meant to be broken, right? Like, this is what they're, this is what exists, but doesn't mean you have to follow this doesn't mean that, that this audience needs this,


00:48:19,379 --> 00:49:14,640

Robin Landa: I would totally agree. And I always tell them, there's only one you, you're the only you, it's so true. And no one else can can have your sensibility and bring to the table, what you can bring to the table. And my job is to look for that and pull it out of you. And I think they appreciate that. And I think you're so right, I always assign a passion project for the seniors so that employers can see into their souls so I can see what they're interested in see what they what they would want a self directed project would be and that's been very helpful for them. In fact, we what we ended up identifying was that maybe the person who thought they were an aspiring brand designers really a filmmaker, right or, you know, it really has helped some of them see what their purpose is.


00:49:14,790 --> 00:50:01,860

George Garrastegui, Jr.: And that's what school is, is to explore and expand and I guess kind of debunk any ideas that either they've had on themselves or professors have had on them or families had on them. It's the ability to kind of take all of these pieces and start to figure it out. And you know, I would love to always find out that what you walked into the room with on day one as a freshman is totally different than what you left the school with. Right That would be and I don't even I don't even really care about like design wise and and what were you into creatively but like you know your experiences, who you meet how empathetic you are now like all of these things that go into why we why people go to school, like all those things, you would be a different person, you know, kind of leaving because Have all the experiences you have?


00:50:02,520 --> 00:50:53,970

Robin Landa: Absolutely, yeah. And your career path can change. And that's okay. You know, if you're not supporting a family, that's okay, you can try to find yourself my husband went all the way through getting a PhD in science, only to realize he really wanted to go to medical school, you know, so you can take a very long path, and then find out that you really want to do something else, a creative director I worked for, got his undergraduate degree in illustration, and then went back to school to become a graphic designer, and then back again, to create an art direction portfolio. And now he's a creative director and advertised, I mean, it's not always a straight shot, you know, you have to find yourself, but that's our job as teachers, I think, as educators to, to guide them and help them you know, what I think I always see myself as a coach,


00:50:53,970 --> 00:51:11,880

George Garrastegui, Jr.: right? And I and you have somebody like, you know, when researching you, you have so many good quotes, and I read another one that states like, my life's work is to ensure my students know what's possible, and to open as many doors as I can. So how do we continue to do this? And what kind of support is needed for up and coming creatives?


00:51:12,810 --> 00:52:27,030

Robin Landa: That's such an important question, George, I think what the one club did during the pandemic was so important. They they stepped up to the plate, when when agencies closed down, and internships folded for students, they created a creative mentorship program. And they got eight tons of agencies on board to to coach students and help students or somebody like TJ Pereira, who I think is is a genius in the advertising industry from career Odell is now he's the, who's the president of the Andes this year. And part of one of the reasons he agreed to it is if they would allow him to take young professionals and give them mentors of the judges become their mentors, we all need to mentor, right, we all need to step up to the plate. For young people, we need to diversify the industry, it has to be inclusive, there has to be equity, agencies, studios, people who have money, right? They all have to help young people get in, we have to diversify this industry.


00:52:27,480 --> 00:53:27,090

George Garrastegui, Jr.: A great that's kind of what I focus on. And with the ideas of connecting with people at the one club connecting with people at AI GA, one of the things that I always focus on is always making sure there's avenues and opportunities for my students, and anybody who's like my students, right? So if it means discounted tickets, if it means, you know, free codes to get into different things, I'm always advocating for the people who just can't afford what we're lucky enough to be able to do, right or at least just sharing all the free opportunities that are out there. So that you know, you can't say this is behind a firewall. This is behind a paywall, right, that the opportunities are there because like you said, places like the one club are starting to just break down what used to be, you know, in the ivory towers, and now starting to say, we need to open this up. We can't just allow this to be with the same group of people because we're never going to change the industry. We're going to keep on having the same people because we keep on doing the same things.


00:53:27,510 --> 00:54:23,700

Robin Landa: Right. The one club has been really a wonderful role model in terms of their diversity and inclusion efforts. For years they've had, we're all the black people conference and other initiatives, the AI ga I mean, all these wonderful advocacy organizations must continue to support young people and open doors. My whole life has been dedicated to opening doors for my students who at my university have primarily are first generation college students, and they don't necessarily have somebody at home to help guide them. And so I really do see that as part of my my role as an advisor in terms of careers and opportunities to make sure nobody helped me in college. Nobody. And I will never forget that and I help anybody who asks me


00:54:23,940 --> 00:54:29,400

George Garrastegui, Jr.: finishing off with some of the things right let me ask you as a designer, what are you still inspired by


00:54:29,850 --> 00:55:19,680

Robin Landa: everything? I mean, I love book, I love fiction. I love films, I love TV shows that are like really, really substantial. Like I'm like, I get so excited about a great TV show or mystery and I think oh my gosh, I could write that or I you know, or I see my daughter and I just went we just finally went back to the movies last week. And the typography for some of the the film titles were like amazing. I was like, Oh my gosh, look at that. Look at that beautiful type treatment I get like, so I'm still like a little kid, you know, I get so excited that whether it's a short story I read, you know, in the New Yorker, or it's, you know, the shadow falling in Central Park or anything I get, like, I get


00:55:19,680 --> 00:55:35,820

George Garrastegui, Jr.: very creative juices always flowing, it seems like a great observational list, right? Just kind of like noticing everything that's in your surroundings and kind of really just being inspired by things that you don't even know that it's around yet you kind of just waiting for it to happen and kind of loving when it does,


00:55:36,090 --> 00:55:49,950

Robin Landa: right. But also I did a dance. And so that really, that gets me through the week, I dance a lot. And that really helps me ground me and make me feel like an artist. Awesome.


00:55:50,160 --> 00:55:53,640

George Garrastegui, Jr.: Now as a writer, what parts of the process Do you still struggle with?


00:55:54,090 --> 00:57:06,330

Robin Landa: I think I struggle on several fronts. I struggle first with that insight into the audience that like, why would they want my book? Why would they want what I have to say? And how can I say it so that they do think they need it or want it? So it's still always still that audience insight is really critical for me. And then there's the craft, I write, and I've gotten better at writing. But I still go back and say, this, this, this sentence really good. Is this an active enough sentence? Is this have any impact? This is interesting. You know, as creatives, you know, we all think, Oh, this is like the best thing ever, or this is a terrible? Like, I don't know which one this is? Is this a gift to humanity? Or is this, like more junk being put out there? So there's always that that inner argument of this is good, or this isn't good, or, but I'm always interested in the craft making my writing better and sharper and more readable and more enjoyable. And I keep working on that.


00:57:06,990 --> 00:57:25,260

George Garrastegui, Jr.: Yeah, I mean, that's, that's something that I think we, we need to continue to push through. Right? I think that, you know, understanding and looking at the mechanics, like you're talking about of, of writing, once you understand those things, like making sure that what you're putting out there is exactly what you're intending to put out there.


00:57:25,260 --> 00:58:02,370

Robin Landa: Right. Plus, it's sort of like you have to argue with yourself, because as I'm writing, I know, through process that I should get a draft done, and then come back, I shouldn't be fussing around with the first paragraph for four hours, right. And I notice, but I have to say to myself, come on, do the draft, come back to it let you know you're constantly. So there's always that struggle of you like, it's like, you know, eat your broccoli or your dessert like you know, what you should be eating, and you know what you should be doing, but you don't always want to do it,


00:58:02,490 --> 00:58:36,930

George Garrastegui, Jr.: almost going back to what you know what works, like stop doubting yourself or stop trying to shortcut it or, you know, just like, I know, I'm supposed to do this, let's just do it. Instead of you know, thinking that sometimes, you know, it's I think that's when we get in trouble. You know that one time we try to shortcut it a little bit. And then we actually, unfortunately, take more time because we realized we should have just went back and started from the beginning or did what we trusted ourselves and reminding ourselves to do it again the right way. And finally, what advice would you give a younger self entering design and advertising.


00:58:37,730 --> 00:59:28,620

Robin Landa: Learn as much about many things as possible, get your skill set, find your sensibility, but really become as educated as possible, read fiction, listen to music, go to the theater, read about science, read about business become as well educated as possible. Because if you're a graphic designer or brand design or an ad person, you're not just working on one clients work, you're working on multiple for multiple sectors in multiple industries. So you may have to do a logo for a tractor. Or you may have to do an ad for a baby formula, right? And the better educated you are, the easier it will be for you to grasp that client's goal and industry.


00:59:29,220 --> 00:59:57,360

George Garrastegui, Jr.: Perfect agreed. There's so many things you need to do to cross over and not just be totally in one camp. There's there's so many things that that you need to understand a little bit because of just the industry that we work in, that touches so many other industries. You can't just think about it as just being creative. What different industries will you be working in and who do you need to, to focus on and the more you learn about the variation of audiences, the better you're going to be?


00:59:57,660 --> 01:00:47,640

Robin Landa: And one more piece of advice Understand social justice really understand that we create cultural artifacts, and whatever we're putting out there are messages. And you need to scrutinize those messages. And you have to interrogate the images and the words that you use to make sure that you are not sending anything negative into the world, that you're avoiding stereotypes that you were avoiding tropes that you are being respectful. We want to make the world a better place. And there's bias, there's unconscious bias. So it's very important to understand what social justice is, and what our responsibilities are, as citizen designers


01:00:47,700 --> 01:00:53,940

George Garrastegui, Jr.: couldn't say it any better myself. Thank you for that. So where can listeners find out more about you? And can they connect with you on social?


01:00:54,120 --> 01:01:12,780

Robin Landa: Sure, I pride myself on answering emails. So you can reach me at Arlanda at K I'm on Twitter, I'm on Instagram, I'm on Facebook, I'm all over the place. And then my website is Robin Landa books calm. Thank you for asking,


01:01:12,840 --> 01:02:37,890

George Garrastegui, Jr.: of course and I'll add all that stuff to show notes so people can find it on the website or, or tag you in posts that we use for promotions. Well, Robin, this has been a really amazing conversation thank you for for allowing us to dig you know, a little deeper into kind of how you got your start in writing and kind of that Kismet moment of somebody just walking into an institution and being like, would you like to write a book and and look at where we're at now where we're 23 books in where I think some proposals in the works or or updates to things are about to be happening, talked about the idea of certain to write for a new audience, you know, this this C suite or this this business minded thing, which I think is going to be an interesting challenge. And I'd love to, to learn more about that where the spark from that comes from where why taking on that new challenge is something that intrigues you, you know, after all this time doing, doing what you've been doing, but I I definitely love a lot of the tidbits that you had for me and other listeners who are very apprehensive to writing as a creative process to give us a little bit more tips and tools to kind of break it down a little bit so that we're able to really use and share our opinions in an effective way. So Professor Robin Landa, thank you so much. I really appreciate you being on works and process.


01:02:38,310 --> 01:02:42,030

Robin Landa: My pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me, George. You're fabulous.


01:02:42,030 --> 01:03:37,170

George Garrastegui, Jr.: Thank you. I want to thank my guests, Robin Landa again. It's amazing that she can tackle so many subjects and still find time to teach. What I found most interesting was the concept of non negotiables. don't convince yourself to not do something, create a list of things that need to happen regardless of the situation and stick to it. If you want to learn more about the various books, projects or people organizations mentioned in our conversation, please check out the show notes at our website w i p dot show. The works in process podcast is created by me George Gary stinky Jr. and this episode has been edited by hearsay productions. Thanks so much for taking a journey with me and I hope you enjoyed this episode. be social, and let's connect on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. And if you like the show, don't be shy. Feel free to leave us a rating or review on Apple podcasts. And until next time, remember, it's not always about what you create, but how you create it.

An educator, designer, and a creative catalyst, George is a native New Yorker who started a podcast in 2017, because he didn't like to write. He also wanted a way to learn and chronicle varied ways or making. We hope you enjoy his journey.

Further reading

Episode 30 Max Masure

Inclusive UX Strategist / Consultant,

Befriending Imposter Syndrome.


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