Lea Friedman

BFA, Visual Commuincations, 1995
Atlanta, GA


What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work? Fine art. I’ve been painting and hand lettering so much more in the past few years. I tend to follow artists who are bridging their fine art sensibilities with the world of textile, interior and graphic design. Even in a world that is increasingly about technology, there will always be an attraction to work that feels organic and authentic.

“Even in a world that is increasingly about technology, there will always be an attraction to work that feels organic and authentic.”

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking? The amazing Creative Directors and fellow designers/writers that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with throughout my career. I can’t stress it enough... surround yourself with talented people. You should feel intimidated, question your abilities, and be in awe of other creatives. That’s how you grow, learn and become a better designer.

What project or design problem have you faced (in the past or recently) that seemed to be a “failure” but was perhaps an extremely valuable learning experience? I’m not going to lie, I’ve made a client cry over the work that I created (and not in a good way!). What I learned? Good design is not about you and what you perceive as art. Yes, your work should be thought provoking and beautiful. But did that edgy piece of design work solve your client’s problem? Help them reach their goal? Good design puts the client’s objectives first.

While you were in school at Auburn, do you remember a specific graphic design project that challenged you the most? Professor Heck gave me a failing grade for my very first project in graphic design! Luckily, in the work I do today, making perfect circles with Rapidograph pens isn’t a requirement. 

How did working in design firms like Iconologic and EAI prepare you for starting your own business? Would you recommend young designers engage in internships and work for other companies before they start their own business? Actually, my husband, Ben (former Partner of Iconologic), and I are starting a new venture together called IMBIBE. And yes, working at EAI and Iconologic were huge preparation in making that leap. You have so much to learn coming out of school about the business of design. And all of your contacts will be made through these experiences.

Are there any rules or habits that help you run your business more efficiently? Time management. I’m not a procrastinator. I always want to be proud of the work I’m doing and I make sure that I’ve carved out the time to get it right.

Do you believe that it is harder for women to become successful in certain aspects of the design field? If it’s harder, it’s only because women tend to make different life choices. It’s a cliché, but finding balance between work and family has and will always be the struggle. I left work in a studio environment 6 years ago. At that time, I had decided to stop the work of design altogether. That didn’t last for long as freelance jobs found me. What I learned was that, in a few hours at home, I could do the same work that would take me a day to complete in a studio. Take out commute times and distractions of the office and it’s amazing what you can do. Also, having the flexibility to chose my own hours is game changing.

Is there a difference between working in design with women or with men? Have you ever been treated differently because you are female? I feel as if I’ve always been treated fairly but there’s definitely a different dynamic in a studio where the gender balance is off. The past year has been inspiring because I’ve been working closely with Sara Blakely, founder/owner of Spanx. The one thing I've learned from her is to never give up. If you believe in your ideas, make them happen! 

Would you recommend some resources that young designers might find useful? Honestly, I don’t spend a ton of time looking at what other graphic designers are doing. I find most of my inspiration from related, but different genres. I love interior design, architecture, art and food. I find myself buying coffee table books, searching blogs and getting lost online with those topics. I have tons of Pinterest boards but most of them are secret. I’m not always very social when it comes to sharing design!

“Good design is not about you and what you perceive as art...Good design puts the client’s objectives first.”

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were in school? When to pick your battles.

What advice would you give a student designer preparing to propose their senior project? Pick a topic that’s close to your heart and dig in deep.

What should a young designer avoid doing when applying for jobs in the design field? Keep it simple. If it’s not easy for an employer to make an immediate evaluation of you and your work, you probably won’t make it to the next step. Keep the intro letter short and give them a link to your resume and work.

Feel free to add any additional thoughts if you feel they need to be shared. A huge thank you to all the professors at Auburn who helped me along the way, especially Professor Ross Heck, who may have given me my first failing grade but has been so supportive ever since!

Design Samples

Designer responded to questions in 2016 via email.