Today Jeremy Wortsman of The Jacky Winter Group interviews efficiency-queen Monica Laskowski! Monica is one of the outstanding team members at Jacky Winter HQ and today she shares the details of her role at JW, like managing marketing and promotion, as well as introducing us to some of the special projects that she has produced, and how she ended up with such an ace job in the first place. (her secret dream-job hunting weapon - homebaked muffins!) - Jenny x
If you've ever left the JW offices or a Lamington Drive offices smiling a bit too widely and then subsequently walking head-on into a utility pole, it's probably because you have just experienced the overwhelming awesomeness of one Ms. Monica Laskowski.
Jeremy Wortsman (JW): Monica! Hi, how are you today? Isn't this a bit weird to by typing out this question when I could just walk across to your office. Anyway! Maybe you could start things off by telling the audience at home a bit more about your role here at the agency and what an average day involves for you.
Monica Laskowski (ML):I have three lovers at Jacky Winter, and their names are Marketing and Promotion, Special Projects, and Lamington Drive. Sexy, right? As with any job, there are a million other things jammed in between, including managing illustration commissions and assisting Charlotte in keeping JWHQ running like a well-oiled machine. I'm also the official dog-whisperer and snuggler whenever Levi decides that a courier is trying to eat him.
Marketing and Promotion involves a healthy amount of content gathering and writing, with a hint of design. I'm responsible for writing the daily blog posts, tweets, weekly newsletters and general jibber-jabber for Jacky Winter, The Twitchery, Flutter and Lamington Drive. Jacky Winter print promotion also vies for my attention. I like to believe that I hold the world record for having the most Text Edit documents open at one time. Don't believe me? Read this and weep: right now I am hammering this out on a document titled 'Untitled 43'.
My inescapable desire to make things has lead to my responsibility in managing Jacky Winter's Special Projects. This involves a lot of research, calls and emails with suppliers and clients, longs lists and spreadsheets, plus the joy of seeing early mornings and late nights blossom into something beautiful. I've produced delights such as the 2012 TDF Calendar, Dylan Martorell's 'Possible Worlds' Poster Book, and a seductive Megan Hess limited edition print for Chadstone. I've managed eventful events, assisted in the birth of a pop-up gallery and even designed an iPad app. Right now I'm in the thick of producing an exhibition I'm incredibly excited about called 'True Self', in collaboration with Melbourne's GPO, Fabio Ongarato Design and Foolscap Studio. Most recently I've produced the world's longest response to a set of interview questions.
Last but not least, I look after the little beast that is Lamington Drive. This involves managing exhibitions, sales, and ensuring that we have lamingtons (plain and jam) at all openings. Plus a few immensely satisfying things, such as organising a book signing for Alex Trochut and facilitating the launch of our latest show by the phenomenal Ben Ashton-Bell. It also involves a little mundanity, which has largely resulted in me being on a first name basis with all the staff at our local post office.
So, to bring this party to an end, there is no such thing as an average day.
JW: One of your major roles is in working across the agency's social media platforms. Given the extreme competition for people's attention online, what do you think makes for the most effective communication in this regard?
ML: It's obvious, but knowing your audience intimately is key. Once you know the colour of everyone's underwear, tailoring content and tone becomes a whole lot easier. The next thing to remember is that no one likes reading anything long and boring. Well, except maybe my Dad. If your audience doesn't include a sixty-something Polish software engineer, then I'd suggest doing the opposite, by being short, direct and captivating. Last but not least, if you want someone's attention, your content should be consistently interesting, thought-provoking and/or entertaining. You can't polish a turd, people. And yes, I do realise it sounds as if I've just been possessed by a marketing handbook. Don't fret, I'm ok. Really I think the trick is to have fun and throw in as many dated pop-culture references as possible.
JW: Of all the staff here, you might have the most diverse background in terms of education, including a degree in communication design. Even though we are not a design studio, your skills in this area are definitely put to use daily. Tell us a bit more about your decision to move from a more traditional studio path to your fateful muffin-bringing meeting at JW.
ML: Well, it got to a point where pure graphic design just wasn't doing it for me anymore. In order to reassess, I did what any self-respecting soul-searcher would do and jetted off overseas. I happened to experience an intense epiphany while laying under an Elephant Seal in the Antarctic, and realised how much joy I would get by facilitating creative projects. When I got back to Melbourne I made an effort to list all the people I respected and admired in this field, and contacted as many of them as possible. High on this list were the people at Jacky Winter. I approached Jeremy and Matthew for advice, and soon had the pleasure of quizzing Matthew Shannon and gaining his insights. I brought in a big basket of raspberry and white chocolate muffins to thank them for their time. Lacing them with heroin worked, because I was soon invited to swan-dive into the crazy world of Jacky Winter. Nowadays I often have to pinch myself – I get to work with my creative crushes daily, and I'm constantly inspired and invigorated by the experience.
JW: One of the major elements that define our brand is our tone of writing, much of which you are responsible for now, and an area that does not seem to be given much attention in design courses. How did you develop this skill?
ML: I'll be honest, when I was first given this responsibility I was a little apprehensive. At the time my writing experience didn't stretch much further than design rationales and mildly amusing emails. In addition to this, I was following in the footsteps of two writers I deeply admired, due to their incredible style and wit – Rachel Elliot-Jones (now Group Publisher at The Thousands/Right Angle Studio) and Jeremy Wortsman (yes, we can chat about my raise tomorrow).
I stifled my fears by going on a major research mission. My aim was to quickly teach myself the fundamentals and learn from other (read: real) writers. I read every piece of writing I could lay my eyes on, to critically analyse patterns in tone, structure and language. I trawled through the Jacky Winter writing history in order to do the same thing. I asked for advice from friends with writing experience and had a quick flick through The Elements of Style and Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I think I also read Penny Modra's interview on Junior, which was helpful.
The truth is I'm still learning and developing this skill and my confidence in it. I try to write fast and furiously without a critical voice, and then go back and to look for what I can improve.
JW: Somehow you manage the find to study a Masters of Arts and Cultural Management part-time. How do you balance this with work, and do you think that your study relates to aspects of the job working on Lamington Drive and our Special Projects?
ML: There was one point in my life when I was working full-time, studying full-time, freelancing part-time, interning at State of Design part-time, and being slightly delirious all the time. In comparison to that insane time in my life, everything seems pretty manageable right now. Really though, for me it's about actively finding pockets of time to read, write and learn. It's miraculous how much time you have when you don't own a TV (I'm not weird, I promise). My study allows me to broaden my theoretical skills in areas such as Arts Law, Policy, Marketing, Project Management and Exhibition Design, which I can fortunately apply in a practical sense while working at JW. Plus I get cheap movie tickets.