I’m so excited that we’re finally getting a look behind the curtain at a reader favorite – Kate Spade New York. It’s hard to imagine a happier brand, so I’m excited to get the 411 on all things design from Dana Lucas. As Senior Designer, Novelty Prints and Graphics, Dana works to design products in all categories – she’s usually working around a theme to create a mini collection. For example, should the creative minds at Kate Spade New York be obsessed with typography, it’s Dana’s job to create jewelry, handbags, scarves, stationery, etc. which reflect that interest (and across different channels and price points), whether it’s a throw pillow printed with a beautiful, oversized ampersand or a clutch with a quirky question mark-shaped handle.
Dana came to Kate Spade New York as a graphic designer in the marketing department. They were a very small company at the time, so Dana was able to have her hands in many pots – everything from designing invitations for PR, developing packaging for stores, creating seasonal showrooms for market – any graphic need the company had was delivered by her team. It was a fantastic opportunity to try out many disciplines and build her skill sets. The product design team projects were some of her favorites to work on, as product designers often reached out to the graphic designer team when a conversational or type-driven pattern was desired. Because of this cross-departmental sharing of ideas, Dana was able to contribute to product design on a regular basis and eventually moved over to the product design team full-time. These days to she’s up to her elbows in designing everything from stationary to rings to – her favorite – the recent Kate Spade book, Things We Love. –Amy
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Design*Sponge: What did you study in college?
Dana: I majored in graphic design while taking all my electives in sculpture and textile arts and spending summers woodworking. It was important to me to maintain my connection with tactile forms. Looking back, I am so happy I did this. For me, a multi-disciplinary approach to design has enriched my tool kit and opened up many doors for me.
Design*Sponge: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Dana: Despite evidence to the contrary (that’s Dana’s childhood dream for her future above!), I do have distinct memories of wanting to be an astronaut or an artist. Sadly, my math grades being what they were, space was not in my future. Art seems to have worked out for me, though.
Design*Sponge: What’s the best part of your job?
Dana: Without a doubt, the best part of my job is the people I work with. Over the years my coworkers have been a tremendous source of inspiration to me. I am constantly inspired by what they bring to the table creatively. They come to the office with all of their years of experience to share and I have learned so much from them. I am not only motivated by their creativity at work, but by their interests outside of the office as well – in my cubicle section alone, we’ve got a reiki practitioner, a gallery owner, and a model. More than any other reason, getting to work with such a curious, smart, funny and kind group of people is why I’ve stayed in this job for seven years.
Image above: A spread from one of Dana’s favorite projects, Things We Love
More about working at Kate Spade after the jump!
Design*Sponge: Can you describe a typical day?
Dana: No two days are alike for me, which is another best part of my job. Projects come in and have to be turned around fast, new categories get launched bringing in lots of new work, company priorities and initiatives are always shifting, and headcount is increasing as we quickly grow in size. It makes for a very fast-paced environment which keeps me on my toes. I actually get to spend precious little time designing. Most of my day is spent in meetings, reviewing work, getting briefed on new projects, brainstorming, comparing notes with other teams and kicking off new development.
Design*Sponge: What have you learned about life from your job as a designer at Kate Spade?
Dana: In no particular order:
- Gold is a sassy neutral.
- Curiosity does not kill the cat.
- Bright colors look better on you than you think they will.
- Humor and grace are not exclusive of each other.
- There’s never a wrong time for champagne.
Image above: Dana’s desk shelf at Kate Spade filled with inspiration and objects that she’s designed.
Design*Sponge: What advice would you give someone who would love to go into accessory design? How should they get started? What should they study in school or learn on their own?
Dana: This is a difficult question as I came to accessory design serendipitously. I have no formal education in fashion or industrial design and began my career as a junior graphic designer in magazines. What I do know is that from day one at my first job, I have always followed my intuition and gone with my gut when faced with job decisions and it has always paid off. I have also never let my out-of-work interests slide by the wayside. I have casually sewn and made accessories for myself since I was a little girl. Keeping up with this has influenced my professional work and my home-spun designs began to get noticed over the years. I think it contributed heavily to being able to switch over from marketing to design with little resistance.
Design*Sponge: Do you know other accessory designers? Do you think there are common characteristics amongst you all?
Dana: Nowadays, obviously most of my coworkers are accessory designers. I think the common thread is an appreciation for decoration and ornamentation, whether it’s in fashion, architecture, or in our own homes. We range from minimalistic to lavish in our personal styles, but we all enjoy that cherry-on-the-top feeling of discovering the perfect ring, hat or scarf that seals the deal on an outfit, or just makes us smile.
Design*Sponge: What else would you like to do in this field?
Dana: I would really like to expand into more home accessories and furniture. I have a love for the utilitarian and would have a great time combining my graphic and fashion interests with the world of home organization and decor.
Image above: Another spread from one of Dana’s favorite projects, Things We Love
Design*Sponge: What’s the holy grail in your field – what’s your Oscar?
It is always a great feeling to see someone on the street enjoying one of my designs. That is the end-all-be-all for me in terms of career fulfillment. After all, I’m designing accessories – completely frivolous and optional items – so when someone spends their hard-earned money on a piece I have helped bring in to the world, I consider my job well done.
Design*Sponge: How do you stay inspired? (And where do you get your ideas from?!)
Dana: In the words of Dolly Parton; “Don’t get so busy living that you forget to make a life.” Smart lady. It is so easy to burn oneself out with all the long hours in this business and I am definitely guilty of spending way too many late nights at the desk trying to get something “just right.” Experience has taught me, however, that the more time I spend away from the office, the more valuable and productive my time there ends up being. Spending time traveling, seeing friends and family, working on personal projects, and just getting enough sleep all contribute to more interesting designs in the long run. While away from the desk, my favorite inspirational hot spots are antique malls and flea markets. I take any chance I get to walk the stalls. Many pieces that I have designed have been inspired from finds on these excursions.
Image above: Another spread from Things We Love
Design*Sponge: Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on? Or one that you are most proud of?
Dana: One of my favorite projects at Kate Spade New York was designing the coffee table book, “Things We Love.” This project combined many of my most-loved interests: photo research, graphic design, styling and curating. I was lucky enough to work with the very talented designer Jeanette Abbink of Rational Beauty on this tome. I had never worked on a project with such scope – 240 pages of content – and she guided me through her process with a great deal of elegance and verve. In my opinion, the best projects are those where you learn something and through Jeanette I learned a good deal about editorial design. The end project is something I am very proud of.