We had the good fortune of connecting with Joanna Todaro and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joanna, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I’ve been fortunate to work at some incredible companies and be part of teams of talented people, which has been essential to my growth as a creative. I had always felt a nagging desire, though, to see what it would be like to do things completely on my own terms – having autonomy over my projects, schedule, workload and location. I had a feeling I would enjoy the challenges and rewards of exploring that, and it has definitely been the case! I couldn’t have anticipated the ways it has pushed me personally and creatively. I’ve had to learn a lot more about time management, accounting and business planning, and I think I’ve become a stronger designer from working across industries and feeling a bit more freedom to explore mediums.
A few years ago when I made the decision to start my own business, I also had the mindset of, “If not now, when?” It was a little scary but mostly exciting, and I had saved up a safety net for peace of mind, so I felt comfortable taking the leap. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t at least try.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My work includes a mix of graphic design, art direction and illustration. Not too surprisingly, I am happiest and feel I do my best work when my interests and values align with my projects. I grew up in New Jersey in an environmentally conscious, vegetarian family. We spent a lot of time outside, at parks, the beach, or at a cabin in the woods that my grandfather built, and I developed a very deep love of nature and a desire to help protect it. I still spend the majority of my free time outdoors, surfing, hiking, camping and drawing.
As I got older, I wasn’t sure how I could integrate environmental advocacy with my creative career. I explored other paths before discovering my love of graphic design, and for a long time it felt like my personal objectives and professional work were separate, and even occasionally at odds with each other. I felt a growing need for the two to be in sync, and started aiming to work increasingly with brands and organizations who are actively working to operate more ethically and sustainably, and who don’t shy from taking a stance on important issues. Fortunately, that’s a very rapidly growing number.
I am grateful that I get to spend my days creating visual solutions that help clients see results, and have only grown to enjoy my career more over time. I enjoy pushing myself to try new things and cultivate skills. Some recent projects I’m most proud of include designing brand identities for the surf industry, small eco-friendly businesses and a global sustainability campaign, creating custom art and a mural for an exciting startup, and a challenging but rewarding personal illustration project about climate change that I shared on social media.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love getting visitors! If they enjoy the outdoors, we grab breakfast burritos and coffee from Groundworks and then head up the PCH for a hike and some beach time. Almost no one dislikes that plan. I also like taking friends to the Arboretum or Huntington Library, which are some of my favorite solo day trips too, since I love to draw botanicals. Spending a day at the Rose Bowl flea market is always fun, though no one ever has enough room in their suitcase to bring home all of their amazing finds! At night I like taking guests to a show at the Hollywood Bowl or an outdoor movie at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
For meals, I would eat at Double Zero every day. Joking not joking. It’s some of the best Italian food I’ve ever tried, and being half-Sicilian, I don’t say that lightly. It’s always nice to grab dinner at Gracias Madre or Crossroads Kitchen in West Hollywood, and a sunset drink at The Waterfront in Venice.
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?
It’s too hard to pick only one person!
My parents and extended family are awesome. We’ve always been close and encouraged each other. My mother and her side of the family immigrated from Argentina without much money, so from a young age I was taught to work hard, save, and not take comforts and opportunities for granted. On the other hand, my parents provided stability and encouraged me to figure out for myself what would make me happy, rather than pressuring me into following a certain path.
My husband John also deserves a shoutout because he was a catalyst in getting my creative career rolling over a decade ago, and continues to be an invaluable sounding board. When we first met, I was working in a different field and really wanted to pursue art and design professionally. He helped me develop the right mindset and start seriously investing in myself. Since he’s also a business owner (founder of Three Rivers Studios, a production company that specializes in documentary films), we get to trade knowledge and resources with each other to keep our businesses thriving.
I’d also love to give a shoutout to the many talented creatives whose work has been a great source of inspiration and motivation, and to the friends who have provided me with incredible support, advice, referrals, opportunities, and kind words that have meant so much to me.