Designing the Creative Startup

An interview with Adam Shaw-Vardi, Creative Director of Lousch

Adam sits sipping tea while The Beatles play softly in his NYC midtown office. The iconic Empire State Building stands tall just two blocks away and the occasional siren filters by as we sit and chat together.

Adam is the Creative Director of Lousch, a creative agency providing design and strategy solutions to both corporate and nonprofit clients. Adam was born in Jerusalem, grew up between Tel Aviv and London, and has been designing in New York City for the last 15 years. He’s an artist, a startup founder, and the bearded leader of nimble team whose philosophy is “not just graphic design; everything design.”

To start with, tell me about your role at Lousch.

My role as creative director is to ensure there’s a cohesive visual language across all the things we do. I make sure our work meets our standards and that this entity we call Lousch has a unique voice.

You’re a designer, so what’s your favorite color? Favorite font?

Red, of course. Maybe not for design, but personally it’s my favorite color. I like crimson, something that’s between red wine and blood. As for font, that changes. Helvetica is probably my favorite font right now. That’s not very unique, but that’s what it is.

What’s the origin of the name Lousch?

Lousch is an endearing thing my mother used to say. When my brothers and I were little, she would add “lousch” to the end of words to make us laugh. It was a family thing. Then when I needed a name for my business, before I had a whole plan to create a company, it was a name I felt good about. Calling it Lousch made it more personal and putting my mother in there seemed like the right thing to do.

What’s your design background?

My background is visual arts, traditional painting and drawing and sculpture. When I was seven, I started playing with my first computer, the first Macintosh, that my dad had. I loved it. I was drawn to the technology from the beginning.

When I was thirteen I got my first computer and I started redesigning things for fun. I was sick at home one weekend and I had a computer magazine that I loved, but I thought the table of contents was poorly done. So I sat through the weekend and redesigned their table of contents spread. It so happened that my mother knew someone who knew the editor so she sent my redesigned spread to her. And I don’t know if the editor thought it was just cute or she really liked my work, but she said I could design the table of contents every month for the magazine. Within a few months I was designing the whole magazine. That was my first foray into graphic design.

How did this lead into the career you’re in now?

I started getting paid for my work. My family needed every penny at the time, so when I was fifteen, I was going to school and making really good money designing. I loved it, it was fun doing it. I got really good feedback and it was all a new experience that made me feel like a professional.

A few months later I got my own Mac and started going online. That’s when I designed my first website for a company I was working for at the time. I think it was one of the first websites in Israel. I decided to build them a website and learn how to do it along the way. It was basic HTML but it was very exciting.

Who and what are your design inspirations?

For classic art, turn of the century German painters like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele have always been a source of inspiration, as well as Renaissance masters and the Delft School. For design, the Bauhaus movement of the 1930s has always been a favorite along with the modern movement in the middle of the twentieth century.

Why did you decide to expand from a single person shop to a full team?

A few reasons: First, because I have a background in design and technology, a lot of the work I was doing was split down the middle. As much as I love technology, I wanted to focus on design and the creative aspect. And the only way to do that was to hire someone who could do the technology part…and then it’s sort of like a snowball with hiring more people and growing.

Second, Astraea, a nonprofit that funds grassroots LGBT movements, was an important catalyst because it showed me that I could make a living and also do a lot of good. That notion was important for me and it’s also at the core of Lousch.

And finally, I wanted to surround myself with other creative people who can give me some of their creativity. I want to exchange views and design together. I felt like I needed that for creativity.

What have you learned about the professional world along the way?

You don’t have to give in. You can be yourself and still make it. You need to stay true to yourself even if people tell you that you shouldn’t. You need to stay positive because things have a way of coming together. A vision is important…a vision for yourself…know where you want to go.

From your perspective, where is web design headed?

More touchscreens and new types of displays: Tables that are screens, a coffee table where you can move digital photos around using your finger, windows that are also interfaces to access information. I see a lot of experimental UI work coming because it’s no longer going to be a mouse and a computer and a screen.

Print will continue to disappear slowly, but it will never disappear completely. Print will be for projects that are prestigious. You do it when something has to be printed. It will make it more special and unique.

Where do you see Lousch in the near future?

I see Lousch doing more broad nonprofit work and doing work for good. Doing things we’re passionate about. I see us focusing more on the creative, doing more storytelling in text and visuals. I see us growing, but not too much. I like us being a small and close group. I want Louch to be an established place where people come to work happy and are excited about the projects they’re working on.

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Lousch is a creative agency providing design and strategy led by evolving technology. We believe blending art and tech yield the most meaningful and enduring interactive experiences.

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