Choosing Change, Urban Landscapes, Walking, and Gelato: Creative Mornings Talk with Designer and Writer Alissa Walker

By Heather Parlato/Special to LAist

As a graphic designer, I’ve been reading Alissa Walker in various design publications for years. She’s been somewhat of a household name for designers and architects, but when I started seeing her name pop up with other credits, like Good, Fast Company, Longshot Magazine, helping produce DnA for KCRW, speaking on and moderating panel discussions—it seemed like she was suddenly everywhere. This is a great thing, however, because she writes about the things I love: Los Angeles, design, walking & gelato! I got my complimentary Coolhaus bacon ice cream sandwich (yum!), poured myself a coffee and got settled in for her talk as part of the Creative Mornings Los Angeles series.

Walker started off with a run-down of her previous writing engagements, starting with a hilarious hand-drawn zine she made at age 10, Think Teen, culminating with the impressive list of projects she currently produces. “It wasn’t always this way,” she admits, so she went on to share the ah-ha moment she had in Italy, when she decided she wanted to get paid to do what she loved: eat gelato and admire design and architecture.

How do you do this? Take cues from your obsessions, and decide to participate in them every day. Talk about them, write about them, self-describe with them, and people will start to take notice. Put yourself and your work out into the world, and as your work progresses, more people will recognize you as the person who is obsessed with this great thing you love. Over time, you may find your interests build on themselves, allowing you to engage audiences in multiple formats. Walker found that, adding her love of writing about design to throwing parties led to starting DeLAB, hosting events where she was able to showcase artists in a bigger forum, sponsored by organizations they wanted to work with. Same love of art and writing, but a whole new level of visibility.

And it doesn’t stop there. Bigger organizations then take notice. Good saw what DeLAB was doing and asked them to do a series pairing designers with civic leaders to solve urban problems, which not only did wonders for the credibility and influence of design—the designers would often be contacted by government agencies to collaborate on projects. One example includes the 30-year anniversary redesign of the Farmer’s Market to make it better fit the urban landscape, which may have started as a design project, but allowed Good to participate in food legislation in LA. Put energy into doing what you love, and you never know how they might grow to do good around you.

Another thing Walker touched on was changing your ritual, staying energized by mixing things up. Choose to do something different and commit to it. When she committed to stop driving and chose to walk or take public transit, Walker’s perspective and relationship to Los Angeles changed profoundly, from noticing hidden treasures to creating a strategic game of how to best use public transit. This has led to a new focus in her writing and a renewed love of LA.

Ever voraciously curious, Walker is in a new transitional phase, exploring what she can do to better advocate for the urban changes she’d like to see in Los Angeles. After seeing what she spun out of eating gelato and loving design, I have no doubt we’ll be hearing about all kinds of awesome developments in the works next year. The world needs more Walker, and we get the best of her right here in LA!

Creative Mornings' Los Angeles chapter, headed by Jon Setzen, is currently held monthly at Ford & Ching in Chinatown. Check their Vimeo account in the coming weeks for a full video of this morning’s presentation. In the meantime, follow Alissa Walker on twitter: @gelatobaby.