#EmbraceEquity with judge Jenny Vivar
A Q&A with 2023 Design judge
March 13, 2023
In recognition of this year's International Women's Day (#EmbraceEquity) we wanted to celebrate all the talented hard-working 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.
jenny vivar, creative director, design, art direction & illustration, Toronto, on
How did you end up in the industry?
In high school, I was sure I would become an architect. Then I fell in love with writing poetry, so naturally, I thought I would be a writer or journalist. Then I became obsessed with black and white photography so I thought — ooohhh I could be a photographer! All through high school and then later during my undergrad I studied and dabbled in all of the above and more. It was during my postgraduate studies where I finally realized that what I really wanted to do was design.
My father may also have put me on the design path. Unbeknownst to him, he actually gave me my first lesson in publication design. Imagine recreating the entire front page and two double-page spreads (front and back) from the Toronto Star at 9 yrs of age. Every day for 30 mins after homework I'd sit at my desk in my room drawing each photo, recreating each headline and drawing each line and column of text with a ruler. All by hand. SUPER FUN. It took days and when I was done, I would present it to him and share what I learned from each article. I loathed every moment and wished every day that I was cleaning the bathrooms, scrubbing and mopping the floors instead. Invaluable life lesson? Maybe.
What were your goals as an up-and-coming creative?
Early on in my career, I would often ask myself. Is this really for you? Is this creative torture worth it? Why isn't this fun like I imagined it would be? The beginning was sooooo hard. Things took much, much longer. Problems were daunting and "OMG where do I start" was the voice I heard in my mind almost every day. My goal at the time was simply to not give up. To learn as much as I possibly could and to closely watch and listen to people around me that were more experienced than I was — in and outside of design.
Who was your mentor?
My parents. My father taught me the value of hard work and my mother—a true creative at heart—taught me how to problem solve through art, play and patience.
What was your experience climbing the creative ladder?
I knew from early on that this was the right career path for me. I never really had a goal to climb "the ladder" so to speak, my focus has always been on the work and my growth is a result of my commitment to solving problems, creating order out of chaos and producing meaningful and beautiful work. I'm also thankful to have worked alongside people that saw something in me that maybe I didn't—leaders that invited me to lead with them.
Do you feel the creative industry has evolved when it comes to fairness to women in the workplace?
The fact that women are still asked this question proves that it's still a debatable topic. I know a female creative director that was not considered for a leadership role because quote on quote "she's too soft-spoken". That was the only feedback she got as to why she was not suited for that role. The plot twist—the feedback came from a woman. There are so many tangled layers of what is considered fair before we can unpack what "fairness" actually means in the workplace. One of those layers is to change the narrative around our perceptions of what a man vs a woman is qualified to do in our industry. A man with a voice like Rambo can lead creative for the Cartoon Network just like a soft-spoken woman can lead creative for DEWALT.
Has your career provoked change out of the office?
Work-life balance is now actually a thing. As much as I enjoy collaborating with teams in person, the office buzz and kitchen banter — working from home has given me time to really focus on the work without "office buzz" distractions leaving me with room to focus on personal growth and other projects. I've also been able to carve out time to do more outside of work with my family and friends that helps me recharge and fuel me creatively.
What is your advice to young creative women seeking a career in the industry today?
Surround yourself with positive, supportive friends and colleagues that genuinely champion for your growth like you do theirs. Book coffee dates with people in the industry you admire and ask them all the questions you may want to ask at an interview. Remember that you're also interviewing the agency and person that wants to hire you. Learn as much as you can from anything and everything that interests you in and outside of design. If you're freelancing, make sure both parties fully understand the project scope and don't start any work until the contract is signed and a deposit is paid. And lastly, this one is very important—make sure your time outside of work is actually YOUR time. I learned that one much later in my career and I wish I had actually listened to the smart women who kindly reminded me to do that. Rest is QUEEN.