Known for her bold illustration style and multidisciplinary approach, Laci Jordan’s creative journey is one of reinvention. Originally from Huntsville, Alabama, she pursued criminal justice, political science, and computer science in college. Her trajectory changed, however, during an internship at the F.B.I. (yes, that F.B.I.) when she stumbled across Adobe Illustrator. After a series of risks, calculated decisions, and a full pivot into the design world, Laci is now an established artist and creative director in Los Angeles. She’s worked with clients like Nike, Walt Disney Imagineering, REI, and Sweetgreen and more than 4,000 students joined her Skillshare Original since it launched this past fall.
But personal reinvention is only half the story.
We joined Laci in Los Angeles to discuss the transformative power of creativity for community and the experience of seeing yourself represented in art. Watch the video above to be immersed in the world that Laci is creating, and read more below about how Laci developed her voice as a Black artist — and how she thinks about paving the way for the next generation.
Laci, we’re excited to learn more about your journey. How would you describe your creative style today?
My creative point of view is very direct, and it’s very Black. I want my work to have an attitude that makes you feel something.
Why is creating that spark so important to you?
I want my work to inspire other people to create and give people a space to see themselves — particularly women of color and people of color. When I was starting out, it was a struggle. I didn’t see people who looked like me in the spaces I wanted to be in. I come from a Black family that expected me to go to school for something practical, like law. Even now, I don’t have a blueprint for what I’m doing. But: because of that, I want people to see themselves in my work. I want it to get people talking.
Your work is colorful and bold. How does that relate to the impact you want to have?
For me, the biggest story is representation, particularly for people and women of color, but it’s also how you tell that story. I love to tell unapologetic stories. That’s like, Rihanna vibes. It’s caring and not caring at the same time. It’s when you have that duality of being able to shake things and move forward with your best life. It’s bringing your whole self to the table and living freely.
“Unapologetic” is a word that you often use with your art.
And my life! When I moved to Los Angeles, I definitely didn’t view myself as unapologetic. I was actually very quiet and shy. But, I was not going back to Alabama. I was going to do whatever it took to stay. Any meeting, speaking up, whatever. It was like somebody hit the switch on my hustler mentality.
I really felt like, “Anything I thought I couldn’t do, or anything that was uncomfortable to me before, I can’t let it matter now. I’m in these rooms, and with these new faces, and I have to maximize it.”
It was a big turning point, and I think being unapologetic helps make things happen and helps you just get basic things done.
It’s wild how hard it can be to build up that strength and confidence.
That goes back to representation. People need to see themselves like that. I’m a Black woman and I love to show Black women. And then, I want to show that unapologetic “I don’t give a shit” attitude. That confidence.
I feel like women, especially in the workplace, are always fighting a duality. You want to be strong, but then in other ways you want to be soft. It’s a balance. In my art, I want to show that unapologetic side.
What advice do you have for someone who is starting to develop a creative voice?
Start, and give it time. If you want to find your creative voice, you have to start talking. Go make something. You have to keep creating. That’s the only way to find out what you’re in tune with. There’s no magic formula. It’s usually the stuff that’s right in front of you. Pay attention to what you’re naturally drawn to. What music? Art? Fashion?
For me, it’s natural to show people of color because I am a person of color. And, whether it’s an illustration or a photograph or doing creative direction, I always want my creative work to represent me and people like me.
But, I also think the biggest thing is time. It takes time to develop anything. And I feel like I’m always like developing, rethinking, and restructuring. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Now that you feel like you’re on that path, how do you think about mentorship and providing a blueprint for other Black female artists?
That’s something I’m very passionate about because I love the idea of mentorship and I want to be a mentor. From experience, I know it’s hard being in this space, especially for black artists. You want to see people that look like you and are successful in your career sector, but it’s not always the situation in design and art spaces. Luckily, social media has made a lot more people accessible and visible; it’s easier to find people that look like you that you can connect with.
“I think the easiest way to create your creative voice is just to start talking.”
I’m a big fan of gaining and sharing information. I’ve also noticed a lot of the time people will be open to giving you information if you just search for it. Sometimes I reach out to people who I admire and say like, “Hey, I love your work. Would love to take you out for coffee.”
My goal this year is to find ways to share more information and inspiration within the design space. One project I’m working on is a podcast for creatives of color. Our voice is a bit lost in the podcast arena and it’s a great opportunity to share our stories.
How have you changed since you pursued a creative career?
Oh, I don’t even know who the old Laci is anymore. I’m way more open-minded, and I’m way more resourceful. And honestly, I’m just a different person. That’s how we grow. Being my own boss and being a creative entrepreneur and artist has been so different than a corporate job, and I just learned so many hard and soft skills I never would have expected.
It sounds like you made the right decision.
I’m pretty sure I would have been a real dope version of Laci if I was doing criminal justice. But I don’t think I would have grown into the person I am today — with this strong of a voice — if I wasn’t a creative.
Want to help build a more diverse, inclusive creative industry? February is Black History Month, an opportunity for us all to reflect on and celebrate the achievements of Black Americans throughout history and culture — and remind us to take action all year. If you’re looking to take action, check out Black History Month programming at a community art center or library, support local Black artists, follow inspiring black artists online, or use a directory like Blacks Who Design when commissioning your next project.
If you’d like to hear more from Laci, be sure to check out her Skillshare Original Digital Illustration for All: Discover, Cultivate, and Share Your Unique Personal Style. You’ll learn how to work with reference art, draw from inspiration, and create a unique digital portrait.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.