Pictured (above): Rachel Larkin, Creative Director at W. BRADFORD

Tell us a little about yourself.

RL: I’m the Creative Director for W. BRADFORD, and I lead the creative process for brands and clientele who wish to challenge the standards of their industry through visual communication.

How did you get into design?

RL: Growing up I was drawing and painting all the time, and I had a teacher in high school who encouraged me to pursue an education in art. I was accepted into a fine art college in Portland, Maine, where I lived for a year with plans to become a goldsmith.  It became apparent to me that I didn’t want to be restricted to solely create beautiful objects, but rather I wanted to solve problems on a larger scale.

So I took a bold risk and moved to Los Angeles, where I pursued Product Design at Otis College of Art and Design with a scholarship and a suitcase at 19 years old. It wasn’t really a typical college experience.  I spent many late nights in the wood shop, early mornings welding furniture, 3D rendering electronics, or building models of packaging designs. 

I’m reminded each day of how grateful I am for having the opportunity to receive a quality education at a top design school. Furthermore, I couldn’t have done it without the countless sacrifices from my parents and family— I owe so much of my success to them.

Meeting those goals and others was not easy and required a focus on the broader requirements for achieving them, while also requiring me to train an awareness of which boxes need to be checked off on a daily basis to stay on track. Meeting such ambitious goals also took a relentless and almost always exhausting commitment that spanned a long period of time. Without the ability to muster the inner strength to rise to such commitments and not lose heart when others gave up, I would certainly not have many of the milestones I’ve enjoyed thus far in my life and career.

What were your first work experiences post graduating?

RL: Immediately graduating Otis, I was very fortunate to be accepted as an intern with Karim Rashid in his New York City studio. He’s globally known as one of the most prolific designers of our generation, and Time Magazine has named him “One of the most famous industrial designers of the Americas”. I worked on projects on a global scale at a very young age under the guidance of tremendously talented designers. I was on his branding and identity team and assisted the industrial design team as needed. It was a very serious, high pressure environment, with extreme attention to detail and originality expected at all times. It was a valuable moment for me as a young designer, and really shaped my expectation levels for my own work and any work that is tied to W. BRADFORD’s reputation.

How would you describe W. BRADFORD?

RL: W. BRADFORD is synonymous with luxury. Our number one priority is to offer our clients the most bespoke and premium services that cater to their needs. Our clientele is very diverse, and we strongly believe that each account is unique to their own identity and roots. The key differentiator between W. BRADFORD and other luxury marketing agencies is that we aren’t afraid to push the envelope with customers. We will present ideas that are outside of their comfort zones. We will offer wild cards and totally unexpected ideas. At that point, it’s really up to the client whether they are ready to transform their brand.

What is your design philosophy?

RL: My design philosophy is that every lesson is an opportunity to hone in on your technique, and consistently challenge to redefine yourself and your approach. That might include becoming more time/cost efficient, finding inspiration in different ways, or stepping into unknown territories to get a different perspective.

At the end of day, it’s important to understand that every campaign and design is asking for a unique solution to the problem at hand. I think it’s healthy to fail, then get up and try it again. If you’re still not getting it… then be confident enough to ask for help whether you’re entry level or at director level position. I firmly believe that the design community should help raise each other to improve not only the industry, but the world through design collectively.

What does a typical day look like for you?

RL: I try to begin working on the most challenging or time sensitive project as soon as I can. I’m consistently most creative, focused, and energized in the morning. I start the day with a healthy breakfast and a (few) strong espressos so I can maintain my creative flow as long as I can. Afternoons are a mix, sometimes it will be creative and other times it will be more strategy, administrative or scheduling. If I’m working from home I’ll listen to music, I’m currently loving Gioli and Assia (play below), and sometimes Bloomberg News to switch it up. 

I end my day with writing my most important tasks for the next morning in my calendar. If it is something creative or strategic, my brain begins thinking about it on a subconscious level or looking for inspiration on the commute home or maybe a spark comes to me in a random conversation that night. I’ll end my evenings with some type of workout, I need the physical outlet to unwind from the day. I usually cook a late dinner – around 10 or 11 p.m.

What piece of advice would you give to someone who dreams of working in the design industry?

RL: Work as hard as you can. Keep your head down and just keep grinding. Then keep going.

What is your philosophy to achieve success?

RL: Everyone’s definition of success is different. For me, success is defined as happiness.

How would you describe your personal style?

RL: My personal style has definitely transformed between living in New York City and now living Miami. In New York, I wore a ton of black and structured/tailored silhouettes. Between the obvious climate change, I’ve really loved how my closet has transformed into more white, creams, linens, golds and bronze colors. They look equally as sophisticated and feel refreshing for the warmer temperatures.

In terms of my home, I’ve been super inspired since traveling to Mallorca and Morocco (and preparing to move to a new spot within the next month), so it’s in the works to get some love, which I’m really excited about as a personal project. I’ve been ridiculously obsessed with Studio LIFE/STYLE’s work, along with getting ideas from Valldemossa fincas and Riad Azzouz in Marrakech. My apartments have always been very minimal and white, so it’s fun exploring into new territories as my personal style evolves. 

How do you find inspiration?

RL: Like many designers, it comes from a multitude of sources and one can find inspiration everywhere. When I am out in the world, particularly in a new place, my eyes are really wide open and I pay attention to architecture, color, and signage. Interesting forms and silhouettes will grab my eye. I’ve always been really interested in how “time” is defined and measured, so that occasionally comes into my work on a deeper level as well.

What is it like to work for W. BRADFORD?

RL: Where do I start? W. BRADFORD is amazing to work for. It’s a great feeling to wake up everyday and look forward to going into work, and creating things I genuinely care about. Design is highly valued at W. BRADFORD so I’m very fortunate for that as well.

Just as importantly, we have a team of such intelligent, creative and hard working people. We each bring something different to the table: skill sets, backgrounds and experiences – and collectively it all comes together to produce impressive work for our clients. The projects change everyday, so there’s endless variety on the type of things you’ll be working on. We’re always looking for new talent, so I’m looking forward to seeing new faces that will be attracted to our collective model. But most of all, I’m excited to see how the agency transforms within the next year – and many more years after that.