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katie cadwell

she/her | site | twitter | nda podcast

Hey Katie, how’s things?

Hello Megan! I’m grand, thanks for asking.

For those that don’t know tell us about yourself

The short answer is I’m a designer, and have been for just over a decade. Welsh born, Falmouth trained. I’ve been working in Sydney the past few years but now I’m back in the South-west. I literally love branding, which is uncool to say but true. I’m also a motion designer but that takes a back seat these days, as I’m freelancing in some awesome studios as a Design Director.

Okay so firstly the NDA podcast. Give us a quick explainer as to what its about

It’s a discussion. A series of chats with interesting people, about difficult topics. Things we haven’t historically talked about that give the creative industry a bad rep. The underbelly I guess. Importantly, the guests are from all walks of life, different levels, different backgrounds. Adding some new voices into the rhetoric that surrounds the design industry.

Why a podcast?

It’s the closest thing to replicate having a chat at the pub, or over Friday lunch, or while the kettle is boiling. That’s when all the good stuff comes out. You chat to people and share experiences, which help you feel less alone and more like you belong. I missed that so much in the pandemic. But I’m aware podcasts aren’t for everyone, and there are millions to choose from. It just felt the most authentic to the aim for NDA.

I think it is fair to say that since its inception it has had a huge impact. What do you think drove this?

People are ready for some honesty. That’s a generational thing too, the newer people to the industry don’t have this “It’s always been this way” attitude. Things are changing naturally, but whatever we can do to speed up that change, we should. We hear about some topics a lot, and others not so much. Even though so many people can relate. Shared experience is so powerful in helping people feel like they are valid in the industry. What they’ve been through won’t be what those behind them go through.

Your following on Twitter alone skyrocketed before you even released an episode, how has this been for you?

Ah, stressful. I’m a classic designer that needs deadlines, so it put pressure on me to keep moving. It also helped me cast the net wider for guests, though I’m happy to say the success of season one should make that even wider in the future. Without putting the intention out there and people being invested in it, I’m not sure if I ever would’ve gotten to publishing. It’s way more work than I realised. So going into it with naivety and some expectation from people was the only way to get through it.

You are obviously the face of the podcast, are there any contributors you’d love to thank?

Despite me constantly saying ‘we’ it is just me behind the scenes. I pay an editor to help me do the initial cut, then everything else I’m doing around the day job. I’m so grateful for guests taking the time to come on, because truthfully, it’s already costing me quite a lot, so I could never pay them. I also reply to and thank every person who messages about episodes or just to say they’re enjoying it. They mean more to me than they know.

Talk to us about the design, what inspired the visual language of the pod?

It has to feel cut-through. A bit provocative, disruptive, but also neutral. NDA is the platform for other people's opinions. The name does a lot of the hard work for me, it’s loaded with secrecy and suggests off limits information. I have also been trying to use FK Screamer in a project for years, so this was my chance.

One of the things that I personally love is you, the host being impartial. Talk to us about why that's important. Has there been any moments where you struggled being impartial?

Yes and no. I’m pretty well known for being opinionated, and I certainly have an opinion on every topic. But I also strive really hard to be open. Open to learning, to hearing others opinions or different sides to the argument. Honestly it’s a relief to take a back seat and not get too involved, I enjoy it more than I thought I would. But people do message to ask what I think!

Are there any topics that have received more support than the others?

There’s the same amount of energy and love for each episode, but from different people. Not everyone will relate to them all, but I hope people listen to understand other experiences. Working Class hit a lot of nerves, it seems mad to me it hasn’t been a bigger topic of conversation before now.

Are there any topics you have covered in which you believe you’ve only scratched the surface?

All of them? I have a list that goes on for pages and pages, but I've earmarked a few to revisit. Especially when people reach out with a point of view I haven’t heard of. Then I’m like, damn that would’ve been good to talk about.

You have tried to make it as inclusive and accessible as possible, talk to us about what you have done and why its been important to do it.

I’m tired of hearing from the same people over and over. I want to know what students think, or how someone with a disability encounters in a big studio, or how someone non-binary navigates design crits loaded with gendered terms. That sounds so much more interesting to me than ‘I’m a CD and this was my journey here’ which is usually very similar to the next person's journey. It takes a lot of time to create the Youtube content too, but having closed captions as an alternative option was non-negotiable. Also anyone can be a guest, which makes finding people so exciting. No limits.

Designer, Writer to podcaster what is it that drives you in life?

I want to enjoy what I do, work with nice people, for nice clients. And always have something on the go that I’m passionate about. But the honest answer is I work to live, I don’t live to work. So whatever I need to do to enable a full life, spending time with the people I love, I just do that.

Has this always been the planned route?

Not at all, but I don’t think there ever was a plan. It can be quite a short-sighted career in my experience. The ‘I have to work there’ studios change every year. Sometimes going it alone is trendy, other times working for big brands… It’s easier to go with the flow.

You have highlighted the importance of mentoring and education, why is this?

Working with designers that are so out of touch with the modern experience in the industry winds me up. I don’t really care what boring task you had to do on your placement, aren’t you glad things have moved on? I get more out of mentoring than I think my mentees do (you’ll have to ask them if they agree!) Sharing the lessons you’ve learnt could help someone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them too.

Who are your standout creatives?

Huy Nguyen — I had the pleasure of working with Huy and his approach to design is so considered, the work he makes is beautifully poetic.

Gabrielle Adam — I worked with Gabrielle recently at How&How, and she turned the TikTok corn song into a typeface. That’s the type of energy I need in my life.

Alice Ishiguro Tosey — Alice was a guest on the pod, and I’m extremely jealous of how she’s continued her education. There’s a humility to committing to learning, even when you’re as successful as she is.

For my final question, what’s next for you?

Finishing season one and then a very, very long nap.

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