Q&A: Lacey Engelke, Adobe
About 10 years ago I joined VDT’s marketing department as a graphic designer. Back then, we were known as the graphics team, which consisted of myself, Stephen Killion and Lacey Engelke, who I met back in 2007 at UW-Milwaukee (our alma mater). Back in school, Lacey had submitted a winning sticker design for a conference that I was planning for the AIAS, which in turn, kicked off a relationship that has spanned many years.
Fast forward to today, I am now Principal of Media-Objectives, our in-house experiential branding studio; and Lacey is our client at Adobe—and a valued collaborator. Her passion for design and instinctive ability toward creative problem solving make her an absolute joy to work with. Who knew that stickers could keep two people together for this long? Keep reading to find out more about Lacey, a truly inspirational woman.
-Joe Lawton, Principal, Media-Objectives
You have taken a very unique path to get where you are now. Early on, what made you want to transition from Architecture to Environmental Graphics?
I’ve always been a creative. I’ve been an actress, theater director, set designer, musician, painter, so when I was in high school architecture seemed to be the best degree to pursue that would encompass as many of my creative outlets in one. In architecture school, I totally found myself in my element, among like-minded people. It was my sophomore year, I was sitting in a lecture and the speaker was presenting his experience designing environmental graphics. It was at that moment that I knew that that is what I wanted to pursue professionally. From there on, I supplemented my architectural courses with as many graphic design courses as I could get into. I was taking a 100 graphic design course at the same time I was taking a 400 level graphic design course. My graphic design projects where very architectural, and my architecture projects all included environmental graphics. My first jobs weren’t designing environmental graphics, but I never lost sight of my desire to pursue environmental graphic design.
Over the course of your career, your work seems to have crossed various disciplines, from architecture, marketing, graphics, onto various types of art and design. Can you speak to the change of working with various brands to a single company, and how this affects your workflow and creative thought process?
That is true, and each discipline has taught me skills and have given me a refined perception on my work now. Working for multiple brands you have to be a jack of all trades, whereas working on one brand, I’ve been able to focus and become the expert. Being in-house I actually have more stakeholders and have had to established long-term partnerships that are non-project specific. I also have to be thinking about upwards of twenty projects all at unique sites at a given time. In order to be successful, I’ve established these partnerships, as well as guidelines and processes with buy-in and or collaboration from my partners so that we can scale across many projects and many countries at once.
By leading and designing strategically, it actually frees up more time to be creative, to dig
into the details which is the most exciting part.
Can you speak about Adobe Design: who makes up the team and what you do?
Adobe Design is a global team of designers, researchers, prototypers, content strategists, program managers, and more who work across Adobe’s three product lines: Creative Cloud, Document Cloud, and Experience Cloud. As for me, I’m something of the outlier since the medium in which I design is in the physical space. I design under the same thought leadership and as much as possible, leverage the creatives in our team to create custom wallpapers for our offices. I find this group of people very inspiring, and always pushing me to keep improving.
Your role at Adobe now seems to blur the lines between business and art, and your skillset seems to align to a sort of Creative Strategist. As you continue to evolve in your career, do you see your work focusing more on business strategy or artistic expression?
Ha! I ask myself that all the time! There is a lot of value in a creative applying themselves as a strategist, business or otherwise. In doing so, I have found that I have a further reach. By leading and designing strategically, it actually frees up more time to be creative, to dig into the details which is the most exciting part.
Having worked on Adobe projects worldwide, what’s important in creating unity among these different offices? And how do you balance an international brand with local culture?
That is one of the challenges. With every project, I can speak to the Adobe Brand mark as the consistent component. The graphics throughout the rest of the space are creative expressions of our company and local culture. It’s in these graphics that we always find ways to tie in a local story albeit through local artists, local color palettes, local employee art. My experience in striving for and achieving that balance has lead me to coin the term Globally Consistent, Locally Relevant. GCLR is something I’ve leaned into, shared with stakeholders and kept in front of me as something of a North star.
Has Adobe studied the impact of environmental graphics on the workplace? What leads you to believe that this is worth continuing to pursue?
It is a subjective matter to measure. We have received antidotal feedback that people feel more connected to the brand when the office has undergone environmental graphics and branding by my team. I’m also happy to report that our workplaces are now backdrops for Instagram and films. Do I have metrics on the impact, no. If someone figures out how to measure it, please let me know!
Your active participation in design makes your relationship with Media-Objectives very unique, in the sense that the work is continually produced as a collaboration. Do you have a philosophy when it comes to creating original and innovative design, as well as collectively working with a team of creatives?
I am ultimately responsible for the creative output, so the closer I am to the design, the more effectively I can pitch the design solution to my partners and the stakeholders. I was also a one woman show in-house for Adobe for years, there’s nothing that M-O and I work on that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. Through the partnership, we can, however achieve more. I strive to bring expert information to our collaborative conversations whether it is the brand philosophy, user research, or design strategy. I’ve realized that all of the information that I can share will inspire and put the designer in a better position to be creative. I think it’s also important to build a report so that when designs go sideways, we can have the conversation that puts us back on track.
Are you working on any creative projects outside of work? What inspires you?
Yes! I recently started watercoloring again. It feels good to go analog, to not have reliance on ctrl-z. As for inspiration, the people in my life inspire me and also everything about the Mediterranean has been the biggest inspiration to me, it’s energy, it’s inviting waters, the calming winds, the sparkle of the sun.. it’s like I’ve lived there before and the art that I create that is inspired by the Med is trying to tell me something. So I keep painting, and maybe one day I know what it is…