In an age of instant photo filters and multiple personal blogs, creativity isn’t hard to find. But to meet someone who oozes creativity, integrity and ambition with every piece of work they produce? That’s rare and rightfully defines our next ArtMaker.
Creative Director of The New York Times' T Brand Studio, instructor at the School of Visual Arts, founder of the Creative Jobs List and part-time globetrotter, Rachel Gogel is an atypical Parisian living the dream in the Big Apple. Known for establishing and optimizing efficient teams, producing phenomenal creative work and building a kickass personal brand, Rachel is a go-getter with a #lifeistooshort attitude.
But she didn’t get it from her mama (or her papa) working in creative realms. Her exposure to art and design—besides living in Paris, the most cultural city on the planet—came from taking tons of design and art courses during high school and while attending the University of Pennsylvania. Senior year of high school, being on the yearbook committee inspired her to pursue a career in media and publishing, but hard work and non-stop innovation is what has earned her accolades from the 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30 for Media to the 2016 Inc. 30 Under 30: Movers and Shakers in the Content Industry.
“All my side projects have helped me in my day job, expanded my mind and built my brand.”
Rachel worked as a freelancer after graduating with a degree in communication design. Her gigs included working with Diane Von Furstenberg, USA Network, Travel + Leisure and many others. With a portfolio that ranges from book covers and flash banners to documentary film posters, Rachel is the embodiment of a content creator and innovator. Peek at her website if you want a nudge toward taking up a design course.
But she remembers well the times where she felt lost and had no control. “I took up communication design because I wanted to be entrepreneurial about the work that I would end up doing. When I graduated in 2009, the job market wasn’t great and I was stressed because I didn’t have a job. I knew I wanted to move to New York and that I would figure it all out once I got there.”
Carve Your Own Path + Carpe That Diem
A few weeks prior to college graduation, Rachel came across a two-week masters program in typography in Italy led by Steven Heller, a well-known design critic and historian, and Lita Talarico. She applied hoping that she would get immersed in the art community and get inspired. She got in. “There was a moment at a book shop when I was looking at magazines, writing down on a piece of paper the names of all the art directors and designers at magazines where I saw myself working. I still have that paper hidden somewhere in my apartment.”
Once in Italy for the program, Rachel researched and sent out approximately 70 emails to art directors and designers whose contact she found. Only a handful responded. But she was determined to make it in the creative space. In 2009, she moved to New York without a job in hand. It was a time of hustling hard, crashing on her sister’s couch and fielding a couple of job offers that all fell through. She finally earned an internship with DVF and accepted after some hesitation—after all, she had always wanted to work at a magazine instead. “The best thing I did was to be open-minded and take a chance to see where it would take me.” Four months into her internship, opportunity knocked in the form of a design director from GQ, who finally responded to Rachel’s contact attempts. To work at GQ had been Rachel’s dream from the beginning! But, with no GQ opportunities available, she was connected to someone at Travel + Leisure. In 2010, Rachel started as junior designer at Travel + Leisure along with many freelance gigs. “My roommate would make fun of me because I stayed up working on the couch till 3 AM every night. I had a weird energy level. I was very determined to get my name out there and it was genuinely fun.” Shortly after, she was given the chance to work as an Associate Art Director at GQ at the age of 22. Point being: build it (your portfolio) and they (dream jobs) will come.
One of her strengths is knowing the value she can add to any company. At GQ, managing older and more experienced employees was a challenge, but Rachel credits the culture at GQ for how well her peers respected her. Within a few weeks of starting, her boss quit. Rachel instantly was in charge of rebuilding the team, learning how to manage people, and ultimately, understanding the do’s and don’ts of starting something from scratch. Over three years at GQ, she managed the art department, launched new initiatives for the company, including a mobile app powered by Augmented Reality, and got involved in public speaking engagements. Hence why Rachel was offered a position as a Creative Director within the ad sales unit at The New York Times.
When she resigned, her GQ publisher told her, “Rachel, all the things you sound like you want to be doing, I don’t think it’s possible. It will be very hard for you to find a place where you can do that.” Fast forward to eight months after she took the position at The New York Times, he said, “I’ve been watching you and everything you have been doing. I was wrong.” Well, he’s right about being wrong! What started as a 4-5 people studio has now grown into the 80s. Last year T Brand Studio made close to $35 million in revenue, making it the fastest growing team at The Times.
“Being on-camera was a life moment—hair, makeup, a 28-page script, and the whole crew. I enjoyed every bit of it.”
A rock star networker, Rachel has always had a knack for leveraging connections to her and other’s advantage. She’s spoken at multiple conferences. Teaches a course at the School of Visual Arts. Strutted the runway for Carrie Hammer’s #RoleModelsNotRunwayModels show during New York Fashion Week. Not to mention she’s been reviewing final edits of her upcoming online course, “Designer’s Guide to Building a Brand Story” for The New York Times' new education initiative. Now we call that an all-rounder!
“I like paying it forward, it gives me a sense of purpose.”
Plenty of women can relate to Rachel’s story: “My manager at Travel + Leisure was a mentor. She taught me a lot of what helped me get to where I am today. But at some point, I wanted more.” Since then, witnessing a lack of women in the creative space and the gender disparity in pay, it has become her personal mission to help women succeed and find their strength in this cutthroat industry. “Because I am still young and can identify with this generation of people, I want to be able to share my experience and expertise. They are constantly seeking inspiration from entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs.”
Her personal project, Creative Jobs List, a subscription based newsletter with 2,400 active subscribers, does exactly this by referring young and passionate creatives to vacant positions in the industry. “I don’t care to be known as the most talented designer. I would rather have my name associated with mentorship and helping aspiring designers, especially for women in this business. There is a lot of work to do because even if there are many women designers, they are not getting paid well enough. I have always pushed my rate higher than the previous job—not in the context of being a woman, but in knowing my personal worth.”
If you would like to grab coffee or collaborate with Rachel on her next creative project, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put you in touch!