#EmbraceEquity with judge Nathalie Cusson
A Q&A with 2023 Photography & Illustration judge
March 8, 2023
In recognition of this year's International Women's Day #EmbraceEquity we wanted to celebrate all the talented hardworking women in our industry and so, we approached the women jurors of our three 2023 Awards competitions – Photography & Illustration, Design and Student - with a Q&A. We wanted to provide them with a space to discuss their experience in the industry today as well as share their advice to up-and-coming creatives.
Nathalie Cusson, Creative Director, Design, Scooter Design Inc. Montreal, Quebec
How did you end up in the industry?
Back in high school, I did not know that being a designer or working in advertising was even a thing. Then I babysat at a house where the parents were in the industry; he was a creative director at Cossette and she was an illustrator. He would often show me concepts to get my opinion. She showed me her work in progress. When the baby was sleeping, I would get into their bookcase, which was filled with publications about design and advertising. It was a real discovery. Years later, he was my teacher in university. They had a big influence on my career choice.
What were your goals as an up-and-coming creative?
Ah ! I was not so focused. I was so curious that I wanted to try a little bit of everything.
I did a lot of illustration for magazines, and then some art direction in an advertising agency. (While still in school – they called me the baby AD)
During my last year of university, I was lucky enough to land an internship at a TV station. I worked on “news graphics” and decors. After that, I really wanted to get into TV. But the recession forced me to change my plans and get back to advertising. I became a Creative Director at a very young age (28) and my boss told me to keep that a secret. The transition from advertising to design was done slowly, over years and so why I consider myself a true hybrid. Today I keep my age a secret for different reasons. This goes to show you that, as a woman, you never really are the “right age”. Too young, too old…what happened in between?
Who was your mentor?
There were several people who acted as mentors during my career. And they were not always part of the creative staff. I really admire the best people managers. But one name comes to mind, and she is both creative and excellent at management: Jane Hope. She understood that good work can happen while having fun. And I love how she looks at things differently than anyone else. She is still an inspiration (and a friend) today.
What was your experience climbing the creative ladder?
Is there really a ladder? This is a question I have often asked myself. Is longevity the way to get up the ladder? I have no idea. And frankly, I never really focused on climbing because I was too busy trying different things, like learning how to make films, animation, motion design, experimenting with photos, collaborating with various artists.
Do you feel the creative industry has evolved when it comes to fairness to women in the workplace?
I think that there is still a lot of room for improvement. “Pourrait faire mieux” (could do better) as my mom (a former teacher) would say. There is still a lot of abuse and little consideration for women as leaders. And sometimes, alas, the sisterhood help is just not happening. We need to be more generous with each other. There is room for everyone, young and old, and we’ll all come out winners if we consider each other’s P.O.V. This may sound Kumbaya-esque but it’s true.
What is your advice to young creative women seeking a career in the industry today?
To young creative women seeking a career in the industry today, I would say: try to see long term and ask yourself why you want to do this. Where do you see yourself in 10 years, that sort of annoying question.
I say that because the market is changing so much. Creativity can be put to work in a myriad of careers. Keep an open mind and experiment a lot. Do not work for free. Do not work for the promise of more work. If you see a glass ceiling, speak up. And when you make it to the top, help your sisters. To quote Michelle Obama, “When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through the doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back.”