Design, in the purest definition, has only become more important in contemporary life, and yet we rarely get to hear from the designers and other creative professionals who are helping companies and individuals alike to recognize and understand why that is and how to take advantage of it.
The principles of design stretch well beyond graphic design and branding materials, and this is part of why Serra Semi and Alex Chimilio decided to create the GATSBY FRIDAYS podcast.
An expert in branding and media design, Serra Semi discussed her latest project, GATSBY FRIDAYS, a podcast she’s co-creating. Serra brings over a decade of distinctive career experience and masterful design skills to transform the conversation around a creative and productive life with refreshing advice and inspiration.
Semi founded the creative studio Lumens, which has gone on to complete work for major brands such as Medivol Wines, Vivity, Showtime, and Stoli.
Chimilio is a design industry veteran in New York and now works as a Creative Director in fashion.
With their combined expertise, the GATSBY FRIDAYS podcast has become an informative and unique offering, giving the general public a rare look into the lives of creative professionals. Most importantly, it does this without scaring off new listeners or anyone who doesn’t work in a creative field.
The podcast is informative and educational without being so technical that you’ll need a new college degree to jump in.
That accessibility has been a persistent goal of Semi and Chimilio. The show feels more like you’re sitting in on a fascinating conversation over a glass of champagne.
GATSBY FRIDAYS is on Apple, Spotify and all major podcast platforms.
Below you’ll find our full interview with Semi.
For any readers who might not be familiar, can you give us a short pitch of what Gatsby Fridays is all about?
You’re invited to a speakeasy-like no other! A podcast about getting the best out of creative life from two Creative Directors working around the world and based in New York City. GATSBY FRIDAYS evolved from two young creatives’ leisurely lunches in SoHo discussing movies and design, aptly named “Champagne Fridays” into an elevated conversation about how to live a fully engaged and productive creative life.
My co-creator Alex Chimilio and I have a long history starting from my first design job. We have already been having conversations around the topics we cover in the podcast. We have noticed a lack of representation and separation of work and life that isn’t true to the creative spirit. On top of that, we have been active in the design community in New York, participating in events and workshops for years. Sharing the conversations we were already having as a podcast seemed like the obvious next step.
The podcast is inherently tied to New York and the creative atmosphere in the city. What influenced the decision to make this a big part of the show?
Being such a densely packed hub makes New York an incredible source of dynamic interactions and as the center of art and fashion in the United States and possibly in the world, a constant source of inspiration. I chose to live in New York for over 15 years for this very reason and it has shaped my professional experiences as well as how I operate in life in general. Alex was born and raised in Brooklyn, a true New Yorker. The city and what it offers is why I am here and it’s the first tenet in our connection and collaboration, and therefore it’s integral to our conversations.
Do you usually plan out specific topics for each episode or do you just start a conversation and see where it goes?
We have been having these deep cultural conversations for as long as we’ve been friends. So there is no shortage of topics. The focus of the podcast is on how any topic relates to a creative life.
Planning is right up my alley. I thrive in running multidimensional projects. We learned very quickly that we have to be organized in planning out a season as well as structuring each episode. We try to balance out heavier, more serious topics with more light-hearted ones. For example, we followed the Race and The Creative Profession episode with a career advice episode, Networking for Creatives.
We also learned that recording multiple episodes in advance limits us from addressing the current events as they come up. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, honoring her legacy was important to us so we focused on a creative perspective talking about how her imagery, from the Biggie crown to the dissent collar in our Pop Culture Legacy episode. As much as we plan, we still leave room to expand.
That said, each episode, whether it’s a new topic or one we’ve been talking about requires a new take to pinpoint what we want to say and what the final take away is.
Has anything about the process of starting your own podcast surprised you in any way?
Where do I begin! First, the amount of work. It is so much work! Coming from managing and executing client projects that are multidimensional, I don’t look at it as just recording an episode. My approach to the project calls for each episode to be visually represented with unique cover art, produce additional visual content and have that reflected on all media channels we use whereas Alex focuses on the script and sound.
Second, it’s a cathartic process. We really hash out ideas and topics. It helps us better understand ourselves, each other and our place as leaders in the creative community. It’s very grounding.
Lastly, the joy and pride of each episode and the body of work we produce. There is a sense of accomplishment with every episode. I create the cover art every week and find myself extremely proud of how the overall presentation has been. It’s not just plain beautiful but also has evolved over time. I am surprised that that feeling of joy and pride comes up every single episode. I know Alex feels the same way about his process as well.
Of the episodes you’ve recorded thus far, which one is your favorite and why?
This is hard! Every single episode is too close to my heart to choose one. I am most fond of the Love Letter to New York City episode. September 11th fell on a Friday this year and we wanted to show our love of the city that made this project possible. We walk around SoHo, the setting of my first design job where I met Alex, the indie film theaters we used to go to that started the cultural discussions and how the area has changed over time. It has been our most popular episode, too. The audience responded to the authentic conversation and reminiscing about their own New York memories.
The episode I am most proud of is Visual Activism. Using social media activism as a starting point, at the tail end of the Black Lives Matter protests in New York, we were able to stay relevant to current events, looking through a creative lens and critical thinking and topped it off with a positive and productive message. This is the first episode that bridges our cultural interests with current events.
As for Alex, I believe it would be the Movie Night: Point Break. We get into the characters, the script and compare the original to the remake. I love the part where we have our own picks for who should have played the main characters in the remake. It’s a great episode.
Do you anticipate inviting guests onto the show? Would any guests be involved in design to some degree?
Absolutely. We want to interact with creative minds in a GATSBY FRIDAYS style creative discussion and will explore collaborations in 2021. Guests would be from different backgrounds, not necessarily just creative professionals. We want storytellers and thinkers from all kinds of backgrounds. One of the most popular parts of the show, also our favorite, is the cocktail we make at the end of each episode. Collaborating with mixologists to feature cocktails for each episode’s topic is another connection we want to explore when the world opens up again.
Is it exciting to create a podcast that explores a creative field that just doesn’t get talked about very often?
In my experience, design conversations have evolved around either teaching skills and tricks of the trade or networking events. We have not experienced a source of inspiration and guidance on how to live a fully engaged life as a creative. We wanted to approach the creative life as more than just a profession because that is what it is to us. A creative life is more than just your job, more than just your hobbies. We feel like we found our niche in that we do offer advice based on our experiences but also dig deep into how our creative minds expand to every aspect of life from our role in current events to things we collect to how we talk about movies. So yes, it is very exciting to have found a unique voice.