Lyndsay Wasko

Independent Designer & Illustrator

10 years

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Quick with a sketchbook and conceptual thinking, Lyndsay has crafted a multidisciplinary portfolio over the last decade that demonstrates her ability to wear many hats: from award-winning brand, web, and packaging design to multi-channel ad campaigns and more illustrative work such as video game concept art, children's book illustration, and museum installations.

At what point in your life did you learn about design, and what drew you to it? 

I think design has always had a communicative art function that helped me connect with others.

When I was little, I absolutely loved drawing up paper menus with matching sandwich boards for my make-believe restaurants. I don’t know if it was the ability to control and shape someone’s emotional experience positively or if it was just pure creative expression, but I definitely developed my creative tastes early on. 

When I watched Disney movies like Sleeping Beauty, I was enchanted with the colour palettes and geometric interpretations of nature that Eyvind Earle invented, and I would notice ways of drawing certain poses or objects and attempt to adapt them into my own sketches.

In my preteen years of the early naughts, I bought a cheap version of Photoshop Elements and started making forum graphics for all my online friends: I was contributing to communities and connecting with my peers by designing profile photos, GIFs, and signature banners on Livejournal. I learned a fair bit of code too( to style my posts and stand out as an -*~individual~*-). I remember the fashionable font size was always incredibly small!

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What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day?

I have a little morning ritual with my corgi/border-collie cross dog Watson: We do a minute of yoga first thing, and then he does a little celebratory howl when we’re done stretching. Then I have a protein-heavy breakfast (they say this is good for ADHD) and a coffee with a stroopwafel while either reading a book on my phone or watching a few TikToks. 

I am very much not a morning person (more of a night owl), but by adding little sparks of happiness to my routine I have made mornings more nourishing. The biggest improvement has been a flexible work-from-home arrangement; this means I can rise slowly and not turn my webcam on unless I’m client-facing, which helps so much with getting ready to face the day. I don’t want to be perceived until at least 11am.

What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced as a woman designer? 

Myself! I have been a people-pleaser all my life and didn’t know how to stand my ground, ruffle feathers, or be the “bad guy.” 

Wanting to be liked can sometimes get in the way of actually being kind. My 30s have been a turning point, as I am saying ‘no’ more frequently (which makes saying ‘yes’ mean more). I would say my career development suffered from a lack of female role models as well, which made my time at Daughter such a wonderful period of growth thanks to the women I collaborated with there.

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Who do you consider to be an inspiring woman?

My late Grandma Claire is someone who I aim to model much of my life after because she made retirement look damn good. This is a woman who had bubble baths daily, DIY’d manicures, kept a gorgeous cut-flower garden, and had daily laughter-filled phone calls with her friends late into her life. Her love of fashion, interior design, art, classic movies, romantic literature, and heartfelt stationery all rubbed off on me and taught me that adorning our lives and homes with beauty and intention created a beautiful life. She had a glamour and a humour that I adored, and I hope I glow even half as brightly as her when I’m that age. Whether I’m making my home and garden more beautiful or just feeling particularly well-dressed with good friends and a cocktail in hand, I think of her.

What does success mean to you?

Success to me is safety, personal artistic fulfilment, and being excited for myself (not just for recognition from others). I used to think that I would only be happy if I reached some height of achievement, but now I realise that the absence of fear and the space to rest, while challenging myself professionally and loving myself despite the result, is a more sustainable and nourishing vision of success.

What does it mean to you to be a woman in this business?

Being a woman in design is being open to empathetic problem-solving, uninhibited wonder and joy, and greater emotional intelligence. It is empathy and kindness and softness without being diminished as weakness, because opening yourself up to potentially being hurt is actually so brave. 

Gender is so much performance, right? We have seen decades of Mad Men-esque cruelty and tyrannical leadership, and I think that this next wave of women in design is changing the landscape and the culture entirely. There still is so much more work to be done, but I can see improvements even in the last decade, and I am excited for how younger designers will push that dial even more.

Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night.

Ultimately, I would say that my creative projects are all tied together by a certain level of earnestness (the antithesis of being cool and aloof), and when I see projects that have those qualities I definitely see them as something I lack. I care so much! 

To reframe that fear, though: I would say my sensitivity is my strength.

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What advice would you give to a young woman designer?

I would advise young women designers to cultivate a way of communicating to their coworkers, clients, and colleagues that is candid about your anxieties, concerns, wants, needs, and desires. Saying you would like to do more web design projects or to have time to hone your Figma skills, for example—or explaining that a brief simply does not make sense or the timeline is unrealistic. Communicating these needs is necessary for your growth and for your team to help you perform, and the earlier in a timeline the better. Confidence and competency come later, but you don’t know what you don’t know!

We are so often taught as women to make ourselves smaller and to exist without needs, but instead of sitting silently gripped with worry about what your manager or creative director actually wants, explain your fears and confusions to them in a calm manner and they should (if they’re not a giant turd) want to help you get back on track.

What about the current state of graphic design could you do without?

If I can be candid for a moment: Pantone’s casual monopolisation and extortion of an entire industry. 

Also, digital display ads—nobody likes making them, and nobody likes looking at them. 

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What are your plans for the future?

I’m a big future-planner, so I am very excited for what 2024 holds, as it will be my first full year as an independent freelancer. This will also be the year I graduate with my Masters in Library and Information Studies. I’ll also be teaching more continuing education courses through Alberta University of the Arts and getting involved in governance as a member of the board of directors of The New Gallery, an artist-run arts centre in Calgary, Alberta.

My journey into the world of micro-publishing (through my company Mice Type) will continue as I publish more children’s books by local authors and illustrators. Of course, the thing with DIY publishing is that you really have to do it all yourself, so I am learning how to be a better manager/PR agent/salesperson/CFO/etc. And through all the heavy lifting, it has been so rewarding both to see children enjoying the books and to offer the dream of publication to other artists.