Linda Zacks packs a mean punch. When I say that, I hardly mean to communicate that the freelance designer, illustrator, and artist would actually hit anyone (sheâ€™s terribly nice) but only that, as a female New Yorker with a enough pep to put Red Bull out of business, she sure can pull a room (ad, album cover, poem, etc.) together.
With a resume whose lengthy limbs stretch past the internet pages of VH1 and through lustable clients like Target and eBay, Linda has wisdom to impart and experience to share. Thankfully, she does this in the very way one might suspect from her: With extra-oomph.
â€œI have run into this time and time again. I call it ‘throwing like a girl’ syndrome.â€
Format: Please Tell us about your upbringing…
Linda Zacks: I moved around a lot growing up, living in different states and overseas in England and Holland. It was always hard to be uprooted as a child and as a teenager, but the challenge of settling in different places, meeting new people, being an outsider, and drinking in new sights and sounds really makes a person grow. When people ask me where Iâ€™m from, I never know what to say, because I feel like Iâ€™m from nowhere in particular. I never had a house that became a grounded character in my life, with a room filled with memories that I could always call home base. Home became wherever my parents were at the time.
Format: Have you always been fairly in touch with your creativity?
Zacks: I think so. Iâ€™m a big believer that creativity is a way of seeing, a way of approaching anything, a unique way of solving problems, the way one communicates and approaches life. And it can wiggle its way into anybodyâ€™s life regardless of whether they consider themselves an â€œartistâ€ or not. We are always taught that creativity lives in art class, but I have always believed that it can raise its whimsical head anywhere, bend the rules, inject something sparkly- a stick can be a paintbrush, and a project due for geometry or biology class can become a colorful book instead of a boring old paper.
I have always had my creativity burst out in weird places. I was never the star in art class who could render the most perfect still life scene, but Iâ€™ve always learned how to think and have worked on digging deep to find my voice.
Format: It seems like you are many things. Artist, designer, ass-kicking business- woman; is there one area that you identify most strongly with?
Zacks: Well, to do the freelance thing you have to be a jack-of-all-trades. The art side is only part of the equation, youâ€™ve got to embrace the business side of things. As tedious and torturous as it might be, youâ€™ve got to be a marketer, a writer, a messenger, a scheduler, a waterboy, have your shit together as much as possible otherwise youâ€™ll get eaten alive. Youâ€™ve got to be aware of contracts, lawyers, negotiations, communication and all that fun stuff.
Iâ€™d say, at this point in my career, I identify with all three. Iâ€™ve got a design background, so that helps me design my site and market myself; the art thing Iâ€™ve always just done, like exercise, always trying to experiment and open new channels that might pop out an idea; mental exercise, thinking until your brain sweats. And for the past couple of years, Iâ€™ve been working on the business side of it all, where the reality is that someone is always trying to take advantage of you. Itâ€™s the individual vs. the corporation, and that is always intimidating.
Format: The creative side of advertising is notoriously male-dominated. What sort of gender-related challenges have you faced in the creative industry?
Zacks: It seems the world is male-dominated, not just the ad industry! Being human is a challenge, being female is an extra challenge, but I wouldnâ€™t trade it for the world, and a lot of people have more complicated and bigger challenges than we do. I have run into this time and time again. I call it â€œthrowing like a girlâ€ syndrome. People assume women are not-as-good, not-as-aggressive, not-as-opinionated, not-as-likely-to-negotiate, shouldnâ€™t be paid as much, should look a certain way, should this, should that. I say: Use the strife as ammunition. We are all warriors. You canâ€™t change the world and everyone has their little special piece of shit to deal with.
Format: Your client list is incredible. What has the journey been like while building such a desirable resume?
Zacks: Thanks! Itâ€™s been torturous, exhausting, messy, long, bumpy, colorful, uphill, sparkly, unpredictable, juicy, complicated, bright, laborious, like-giving-birth-to-your-brain-through-your-nostril, emotional, rewarding, and thereâ€™s a lifetime of journey still left.
Format: What is the most challenging project you’ve worked on to date?
Zacks: Iâ€™d say all projects are challenging. Proving yourself, deadlines, pressure, crazy client demand, itâ€™s always damn hard, but when the project is over you can rip off your clothes, take a yummy hot bath, eat a very large chocolate chip cookie, and feel like youâ€™ve accomplished something special.
Format: In general, your artwork feels quite feministic. Do you see this as a sort of rebellion from any other areas in which you (professionally) use your creativity?
Zacks: I always have to look up the word â€œfeministâ€ when someone mentions it. I am woman, hear me roar! Well, why the hell not!!
Format: Your artwork is also very alive, very thematic. Can you put this theme into words for us?
Zacks: Love, hate, struggle, angst, excitement, war, fear, depression, loss, the gem of conversations, the beauty (and ugliness) and sheer amazement of being human on Planet Earth, living and breathing. What we all share as two-eyed thinking creatures, despite physical or geographical differences. And of course, some of my favorites: America the Strange; New York, New York; that crazy beast called woman, family.
Format: As I study more and more of todayâ€™s designers, I’m beginning to notice that the ones who truly make a name for themselves are the ones who maintain their own distinct style. Design is as trendy as fashion, yet it is the designers that primarily stay true to themselves (so, in a sense, the ones that extend their art into design, and not vice versa) that produce the work that has the most shelf life. What do you think about this statement?
Zacks: I think the most important thing is to have a voice, and I see this as different from style. To me itâ€™s deeper, less superficial, more timeless, more conceptual. I feel like voice can transcend style. It can also transcend labels like designer, illustrator, and writer, and can have a long shelf life. A distinct voice resonates and moves people. Some super designy, style-based-things are just that – they donâ€™t really say anything other than â€œlook at me, Iâ€™m coolâ€ – thereâ€™s no depth, like a trendy person that spends so much time on their outfit but has absolutely nothing to say. Voice also has soul. I see it as the visual counterpart to good songwriting – the kind that makes an impact and lasts through the ages.
Format: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your professional career?
Zacks: Art stores smell great and you can spend your life savings in them. Go after what you want. Never give up.
Format: Is there anything you wish you could change about the creative industry today?
Zacks: Slow things down so everything doesnâ€™t always feel like a rush.
More respect for what an idea is worth.
Format: And last of all… why do you love your job?
Zacks: Iâ€™m the boss.
More Info: http://www.extra-oomph.com/