In reading one of the many thought-provoking interviews Libby has been a part of, we came across a description that seems to encapsulate the way this fascinating, soulful woman lives her life. As a soloist -- which is defined as the desire to live in a richer, slower, more engaged, and self-determined way. To find one’s groove.
That’s not to say Libby does everything…alone. As co-founding partner of Mechanica, she certainly doesn’t work solo. But her approach to her work inside the agency and her passions outside of it is thoughtful and purposeful. Whether she’s creating a brand campaign for a running shoe, helping to empower Nepal’s youth, or she’s capturing photos on her morning walk, it’s obvious Libby reaches deep down into a spiritual place to tell a very human story.
Libby’s work has won many industry awards and has been featured in publications such as PRINT, Graphic Design & Logo, Fast Company, Communication Arts. She has also been profiled by BBC for a series called "The Chain" where leading figures name the woman who’s inspired their success. We have no doubt the thoughts she shares here will inspire you, too.
Is ageism in the industry something you thought about in your 30s? Your 40s?
I didn’t think about it until I was the old person in the room. Waaay baaaack when rubyliths, stat machines and kerning by hand were the name of the game it felt as if there were many more sage creatives in the building. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing and it was the people who had been in the game for a while where I learn how it all worked. Jim Mullen, Paul Silverman, Steve Haesche, and Edward Boches were wildly talented, competitive and the perfect balance of guide, inventor, coach, guru and instigator.
Is ageism something that’s affected you? What are some of the challenges you faced as a person who was getting older in the business? Do tell.
I went fully grey at about 33 so I think it may have been confusing for some. Is she old? Is she old and young? What the bloody hell is going on? In a subtle and odd way I think I may have felt subtle ageism earlier than most because of the cultural signal grey hair sends.
That being said I think the way ageism can most profoundly affects us elders is around the concept of “relevancy”. Do we actually know what is going on? Can we possibly be relevant to the cultural conversation? Advertising at its best has the opportunity to create and shift culture, therefore not only does it take a strategic and insightful concept it also requires an understanding of the energy, trends, momentum of the now.
"I went fully grey at about 33, so I think it may have been confusing for some. Is she old? Is she old and young? What the bloody hell is going on?"
Tell us about your own creative journey. What are your thoughts on where you are now, compared to your mindset when you were in the beginning of your career?
My path has been anything but a straight line or a dream come true. It also isn’t very interesting. I have taken a very circuitous route. Despite the fact that I love typography, a beautiful photo and working with a squad of outlandish creatives, I easily could have been a Park Ranger in Yellowstone.
Work and life balance is a crap concept. Work is part of life, so is play, so are friends, so is family, and on and on. Work and life are not in opposition. It’s all life. Be mindful of the truly important stuff. Oh by the way that may change over the course of time.
Also, there are a few things that require zero talent and can have a profound impact.
Be on time
"Work and life are not in opposition. It’s all life. Be mindful of the truly important stuff."
What is your advice to people who are nearing or over 40 in the ad industry?
Keep this shit in perspective. Everyone thinks they are the best this and that and this and that. It’s boring. Keep doing the work and make one thing better today than yesterday.
In general it feels as if advertising in one of the few creative fields where age can become a disadvantage. In many creative fields craftsmen/artists grow into their voice, their craft. With confidence comes creative clarity and bravery. Flip the narrative, make your curiosity, experience, unflapableness, resilience, humility and ability to fail over and over a superpower.
How are you approaching the next 10 years? What does your future hold?
This is the Out Of Office message my colleague Ted Jendrysik at Mechanica wrote for me recently. It sums up the next 10 years quite accurately.
“‘Namaste’ everybody. Which, according to Google, roughly translates to “Libby isn’t here. She’s in Nepal.” You’re probably thinking “What? Libby? In Nepal? That’s so off brand.” Believe me, I’m as surprised as any of you. I had her pegged for a Disney Cruise, or possibly some quality time at Atlantis in the Bahamas. You know, some beachy resort where she can kick back with a fruity rum drink and enjoy the ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet. But no. She’s surprised us all by going on some kind of wacko spiritual walk-about. That’s what happens when you drink homemade Kombucha I guess. Weird shit. Anyway she’s gone. If you are a follower of her morning walks you can look forward to some mountainy stuff. Also, some deserty stuff as she’s stopping off in Dubai too. Where I think we’ll all be very lucky if she doesn’t get arrested for wearing her “Future is Female” T-shirt in public. Or busted for a “DWF.” Driving While Female. She somewhat facetiously left a return date. It’s February 25 if you’re interested. But between you and me, I wouldn’t hold your breath.”
What do you see as potential solutions for ageism in the industry? Any thoughts on possibly unionizing?
I think the practice of reverse mentoring is my secret weapon. There are a few people who are half my age that I partner with to share thoughts/learnings/insights/new music/memes/how to’s. I always leave those sessions inspired and feeling ageless.
"I think the practice of reverse mentoring is my secret weapon...I always leave those sessions inspired and feeling ageless."
What are some positive things you’ve experienced as you’ve grown older in the business?
I can identify the bullshit faster.
If something is authentic and real it is original and you can feel it.
Being a beginner at something is a direct line to humility, and humility is where true creativity lives.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
Anyone who is brave enough to show up and create, day after day. Creating is an intimate, vulnerable and thrilling act.