Interview with Janet Odgis
How has Odgis + Co changed over 30 years?
Over the past three decades, we’ve been powered by the joy of collaboration, and we multiply our potential by sharing our visions with one another. As the company has evolved, it’s been guided by two constants: our love for our clients, and our drive to make them happy and successful. I feel like we are getting better all the time.
What are some of the company’s defining moments?
We’ve had many exciting moments, whether providing creative in 10 countries, or working with some of the world’s top companies across seven industries. Remarkable people and institutions of note for whom I’ve worked include Julia Child, Walter Kerr, Toni Morrison, Andy Warhol, National Trust for Historic Preservation, MOMA and The National Gallery of Art. We thrive on helping our clients be more successful. Some of our most delightful challenges have centered on giving brands their fullest expression, and watching their stock prices rise.
Did you ever see yourself running your own design firm, and having thirty years of a very successful business?
I was a staff designer in many industries—including advertising, book publishing, and magazines—before I went to grad school at Yale. I realized I wanted to design a greater variety of creative projects for different industries; in order to accomplish that goal, I had to build a design firm.
You could have established Odgis + Co anywhere. What brought you to New York City?
I knew I had to be in NYC to succeed. In the ‘70s, advertising and design were centered here. It was such a creative dynamic city. I was thrilled to be surrounded by that energy.
What has changed most about the design world since you opened your firm?
The evolution of technology has been tactical and logistics-oriented… and that’s not necessarily aligned with design thinking. When I started designing in the mid-‘70s, it was all about craft: working with specing type, ink with brushes, ruling pens, doing mechanicals, making photo stats, making comps and directing retouchers. Even with the technical changes in the field, however, the root process has really stayed the same. We just have gotten faster and better at it over time.
What has been your hands-down favorite project or experience?
Working with Champion Paper on Imagination 26, White on White. I had complete freedom and total support of the client. I proposed an idea based on an assignment I did at Yale for Armin Hofmann. They liked it so much that they wanted it to be part of their Imagination Series, a project with a 26-year history that was always done by renowned designers. I was the first woman to have the opportunity to do it, and I had amazing freedom to design the concept I proposed and use whatever process or techniques I could imagine. They printed and produced it exquisitely, and Champion sent me on a national speaking tour describing my concept to groups of as many as 400 designers.
What advice do you have for others out there who dream of owning their own firm one day?
You must love what you do. Creating and solving problems is so natural to me. However, you should anticipate that everything changes all the time, and you must keep changing with it: You have to keep riding the wave, watch what is happening, and anticipate what will happen.
What do you see in the future?
We are learning all the time. Our work allows us to discover new perspectives as we engage in understanding our clients’ motivations. We are always building on our strategic approach, and further exploring how to bring beauty, heart and value to our work.
Thanks to our clients who have made the past “30” years colorful!