We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrew Couldwell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Andrew, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
Moving away from ‘home’. I used to think my life was rooted to where I grew up. I’d been struggling with depression for years, I was tired of the dreary weather, and I hated my job. I can’t remember what triggered it, but one day I realized, what’s stopping me just making a change? I was 26 years old when I moved to the other side of the country — to a warmer, prettier place. I loved it. I landed a great new job, made new friends, and I was happy. My initial move was just the icebreaker — I’ve since moved to, lived in, and worked in multiple countries, two continents, and three US states. In the process, my career has gone from strength to strength, which I’m sure is down to the experiences, network, and confidence I’ve gained along the way. I miss my family, but technology makes it easy to stay in touch and we all have a perfect excuse to travel/vacation to reunite. It’s a big world! You don’t have to only see it on vacation. Businesses and your profession exist almost everywhere. And the remote working world we live in now just made the world a lot smaller. So where would you like to live? And what’s stopping you?
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a freelance web/product designer and front-end web developer. Until a few years ago, I led the design of a product for Adobe in New York City, and before that, I was freelance in London, England. I am now freelancing in Los Angeles, working remotely for clients worldwide as well as here in LA. I recently wrote a book on design systems called Laying the Foundations (designsystemfoundations.com) that I’m proud/relieved to say has sold in 68 countries. One of the things I’m most proud of is a personal project, Club of the Waves (clubofthewaves.com). It’s an international showcase of artists and photographers whose work focuses on surfing and surf culture. I founded the website back in 2006 and have curated its content, features, and artists ever since. It’s awesome to connect so many amazingly talented artists with brands like Vans, Billabong, and Roxy. An important lesson I’ve learned is to strike a good work/life balance. And I don’t just mean, ‘don’t work too much’ — I mean, find ways to enjoy the work you do, and you’ll be happier for it. I love being freelance because I can pick who I work with and on what. When you do work you enjoy, and are proud of, it doesn’t really feel like work.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I have so many thoughts on this! I love to adventure and try new things. Let’s start with something fun: Go bar-hopping around the rooftop bars in Downtown LA. There are a few really great ones! The Broken Shaker is one, and I recommend drinks and dinner at the Perch for good views and great food. And during the day in Downtown LA, go eat in the Grand Central Market — I love all the choices of great food. Visit Venice for a lovely stroll around Venice Canals and take in some stunning architecture. I love the history in Venice, with the Zephyr Skate Team — I just love the vibe of the place. Watch the skaters at Venice Skate Park and eat and shop on Abbot Kinney Blvd. If you like shopping, Westfield Century City is the most immaculate shopping center I’ve ever seen — and while you’re there, treat yourself to a chocolate bread and a tiramisu at Early! I love taking a drive around Beverley Hills and West Hollywood and taking in the crazy rich houses. It’s too vast to see on foot, so just cruise around in your car. The best way to see a lot of Los Angeles is in your car, as crazy as that sounds. I used to live in New York City, and the best way to see NYC is on foot — walking for miles and miles. But LA is too vast to walk. I like to drive up through Beverley Hills or Hollywood Hills to and then along Mullholland Drive — then out of the city through Topanga State Park. Stop en route at Cornell Winery or the Rock Store. Then make your way down to Malibu and back to LA along the coastal highway and stop along the way and take in the coastal views! I used to live in the Silver Lake/Los Feliz area, and I really enjoyed wandering around the leafy hills of Silver Lake. Grab a taco at Tacos Delta and an incredible steak and cocktail(s) in the evening at Cafe Stella. Then grab breakfast at Fred 62 in Los Feliz and visit the La Luz De Jesus Gallery too. On Sunday, go get a roast dinner (lunch) at Bar 326 at The Original Farmers Market, which believe me — as a Yorkshireman (English) — their English beef roast with all the trimmings is wonderful! I think the Los Angeles Zoo is pretty great. It’s as much a botanical garden as it is a zoo so there’s something for everyone. For something more alternative, I grew up loving steam trains, so a little gem is the American Southwestern Railway at the top of Griffith Park, which is worth a quick visit. Obviously, go to the Griffith Observatory — their Planetarium show is fantastic. And if you’re in town when there’s a show, go see a concert at The Greek Theatre — it’s the best gig venue I’ve been to in the world. It’s a wild setting for a show! If you love nature, then you have to visit the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens. We loved it so much we got a family membership on our first visit. For morse coastal vibes, Manhattan Beach is cool. And if you have time, head down the coast to Laguna Beach (and Heisler Park), which is a really beautiful stretch of coast from Newport Beach down to Laguna (and beyond). Balboa Island in Newport Beach is worth a visit. The Camp in Costa Mesa and Anaheim Packing District are cool places to eat en route back to LA too. Oh, and I can’t wait to go see a Rams game at the SoFi Stadium! What an incredible stadium! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Early in my career, a Design Director, Paul Davies took a chance on me. I wasn’t the best designer he’d interviewed, but he saw something in me and gave me the chance to prove it. My career thrived from that point and I’ve never forgot the leg up and mentorship he gave me early on. And my family! I’m very lucky to come from such a kind and supportive family. And more recently, my wife, Meagan. With her support, I wrote a book! And I think we’re doing a pretty good job at life together, and hope to continue doing so for our baby twins, Ellie and Eli.