When people hear creative, they think Don Draper, and a couch in the office, and whiskey between brainstorming sessions. And while being a Creative certainly has some perks, like any job, it certainly doesn’t come without hardship: from the grueling hours, to cut throat competition, it’s no longer enough to just have good ideas.
Being a Creative is a lot like offense: they get to take the big shots, and it’s them who receive the glory after a brilliant idea is executed meticulously in a pitch, but it’s also the creative who take the fall if the concepts fail. If the boat sinks, they’re going down with it.
But, for those who have a knack for unique ideas, a way with words, and also possess a magical gift to combine the two in order to connect to their consumer- those are the visionaries who change the world. They’re the ones who transform an idea into reality.
Lux & Concord was lucky enough to chat with Judee Song Karson, VP of Creative at ThredUP and dip into her beautifully unique mind for some advice in pursuing a creative career.
Take it away, Judee!
Can you tell us a little more about what thredUP is and what exactly your role is in the business?
thredUP is an online service that offers like-new clothing/accessories for purchase as well as a selling concierge platform. Customers can really cycle out trends and afford to try new trends without having to break their banks. My role at thredUP is to oversee the Brand Creative across all Marketing and Product initiatives. So I care about things like fonts to what the experience feels like on your mobile phone.
If you’re the go-to girl for coming up with the ideas- what do you do to keep the inspiration fresh? Do you have a creative process?
I have a background in traditional Graphic Design + Advertising, so my focus really is on how the customer will experience the brand through the imagery as well as the content. I “dogfood” our site regularly as a customer wood to see if things make sense, and how we can improve things. I usually have a laundry list of “pie-in-the-sky” ideas that I break a part to see how I can seed these into tangible ideas. Exhibitions, pop-culture, technology, and even music all influence the next best thing here at thredUP.
What are some of the steps you take in order to transform your designs that exists on paper (or maybe just your brain) into real life?
I am a pen and pencil kind of gal. Everything starts as scratches to a paper / drawing to a board / a phrase written down, etc. Then boarding these ideas up with a lot of research. It’s usually the research/planning of how you make these ideas come to life that takes the most time—but it’s the most exciting part. Researching what type of technology is out there really influences some of the outcomes. I always make sure we can work within the scope of what we have in front of us, but really push on how we can make things better/interesting. These ideas then get tacked into our brand pillars to see how they stand, and then I think of how we need to make ideas stronger by combining them or by simplifying them.
The creative industry is insanely competitive. What are some things you did to put yourself ahead of the rest and land such coveted positions?
believe one has to always have an insatiable appetite to seek more, learn more, do more when it comes to creativity. The brain can keep absorbing and wants to be curious. The other part is to really focus on skill sets that highlight ones strengths is important. Sharpen that skill set, try to expand outside, but also be aware of what you’re not good at. When you’re completely aware of this, it allows creative to be strong and focused. Allowing you to go after good work, and companies you believe in—like thredUP!
What does a day in the life look like?
I really organize my days in advance as much as possible, with two little boys, they DEFINITELY keep me on my toes. I try to have things planned out so when the week starts, things just roll into place. My home life and my work life blend and also have separate spaces. I think it’s important to protect family time (that means shutting off all devices and being completely off-line) and it’s important to build/protect the team at my work. I like to make sure we have fun outings for any of these settings. One involves sippy cups. The other involves libations!
What is your favorite part of your job?
I believe in the Brand and all who gather around it to build it into what it is now and what it will become. It’s the energy off of each other that really makes thredUP really successful. I love how fluid we are as a team, and passionate about the things we really believe in.
What is your biggest challenge and biggest reward in your career?
Biggest challenge was coming back from an almost 5 month maternity leave and trying to rebuild things in a fast moving environment. Biggest reward has been given opportunities to work under monumental leaders who have vested in me as well as inspired me to think bigger.
What have been some of your proudest career milestones?
The teams I have built and the influence I have been able to make on any initiative and within a company. I think it’s important to walk into a company with the realization that things may not always be perfect, so what can I do to make it better.
In addition to kicking butt at your day job, you’re also a huge advocate of for body positive campaigns to push authenticity and diversity- what makes you so passionate about this cause?
Working in Fashion and Beauty in a tech evolving time is pretty fascinating. The way we perceive “the perfect body” really is all based upon Photoshop hacks. There is such a need and desire to rip those facades and present people the way that they are. I strongly believe that everyone has such an important story to tell. I want to make sure that I can capture that and explain it in their words as much as possible.
What do you do to advocate this cause?
Minimal retouching, as much as possible. I want to speak to the women and community like I would face-to-face.
What can other women do to help you in campaigning for diversity and authenticity in the media’s portrayal of women?
The biggest opportunity for women, in general, is to make sure that they are standing up for themselves. Standing up for what they believe in, share what matters the most, and to help break down racial stereotypes. What always amazes me about being a women is the power we have when we speak up and also when we share our stories and experiences with each other. The community we bring together is such a strength. The more “real” stories we tell of each other the more we close the gap of false portrayals.
What is a piece of advice you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?
Remember that you shouldn’t be asking the company of what it can do for you, but what can you do for the company. Then make sure you always know your worth and not to be afraid to ask for raises!