June 19, 2019

Five Questions with Lara McCormick: Creative Director, Artist, Educator

On June 25, we will be partnering with California College of the Arts (CCA) to present “Non-Judgment, Impermanence, and Faith: What I Learned Teaching Design to Buddhist Monks” with Lara McCormick. Through the Science for Monks initiative, Lara, who is currently the Exploratorium’s Creative Director, traveled to India where she spent a week teaching graphic design basics to Tibetan monks. She’ll share her experiences—and the lessons she learned—with us.

Lara is a nationally recognized designer and educator who has given presentations and workshops on design and typography across North America. Her work has been featured in HOW magazine, PRINT, Graphic Design USA, and DesignObserver.com. She is the author of Playing with Type: 50 Graphic Experiments for Exploring Typographic Design Principles, and she is a two-time recipient of the Sappi “Ideas that Matter” award.

We can’t wait to hear her stories. In the meantime, we asked her to give us some insights into her creative life.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

“Our relationship is pretty inconsistent! So much of what I create is driven by deadlines, which doesn’t allow for the most effective problem-solving to happen. When you rush things, creativity goes by the wayside. The best creative solutions come from a process that involves research, thinking, collaboration, and more thinking. My creative process for personal projects is thriving, because that’s when I can take my time and really dig in.”

How or where do you find inspiration?

“I love going to museums, art shows, and galleries and learning about other artists’ approaches and process. Instagram is also a good place for inspiration; I recently curated my feed in order to sort out the crap and follow ‘regular people’ doing things I admire.”

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

“Fifth grade, Mrs. T’s class. We had to come up with an advertisement for soap, and I illustrated a full campaign, with ad copy, of a woman in a bathtub floating in the ocean. (Don’t ask me why, but it made sense at the time.) I remember my classmates giving me major props for being able to draw, and this really boosted my self-esteem. I started to be referred to as ‘the girl who could draw’, a label I wore with pride.”

What was your first job?

“Creating flyers for parties in college, in exchange for free passes. I didn’t have a computer, so I set the text in Microsoft Word at work, printed this out, then cut the words out and pasted them around an illustration. I then made a photocopy, made revisions, photocopied again. It was very labor-intensive, but taught me how to be scrappy with limited resources.”

What was one of your biggest creative challenges?

“Writing my book, Playing with Type. Before that, I’d never considered myself an author and was nervous about writing an entire book. But I ‘acted as if’, I showed up, and I did the work. Now I feel really good about accomplishing it. Every time I’m pushed out of my comfort zone, I learn and grow.”

Bonus Round: What is your favorite color?


Join us for “Non-Judgment, Impermanence, and Faith” at CCA Hubbell St. Galleries on June 25. Reserve your ticket here: https://sfdesignweek.org/events/non-judgment-impermanence-and-faith-what-i-learned-teaching-design-to-buddhist-monks/