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Jonathan Adler On Thinking Big and Forming Creative Collaborations


SoulCyle and Target. Starbucks and Spotify. MAC Cosmetics and Rihanna. Creative collaborations and partnerships are the new normal in business. Teaming up helps deliver a competitive edge, broaden audiences and build buzz. As a famed potter, designer and author Jonathan Adler has been ahead of the curve in this respect, having taken on numerous collaborations in his decade-spanning career. “I’ve done clothing with Lacoste, luggage with Tumi, phones with Motorola, candy with Sugarfina,” he says. “I’m a restless designer—the more I make, the more I want to make.”

Adler’s latest project: becoming the creative director for Fisher-Price. In his new post, he will consult on style direction for everything from baby gear to nursery décor to infant apparel. For the multi-talented artist, it’s a chance to stretch his imagination. “Working with a brand you love, adding your imprimatur to a new canvas, getting out of your day-to-day experience is so valuable and mind-expanding,” he says.

When it comes to striking up a union, Adler says to think broadly and not limit yourself too much. “I’ve heard about how you should only work with brands with similar philosophies or aesthetics or price points…and I’ve ignored all that,” he notes. “I work with whichever companies tingle my chakras, and I think that’s the way to do it.” It’s also wise to consider what value you’ll add, and how this aligns with your goals. “I want everything I make to make you feel even more glamorous and eccentric than you already are, and the same is true when I collaborate with another company,” Adler points out.

Yet, any partnership involves give and take. “Everybody’s passionate about what they do,” Adler says. “Respect that passion.” And if you’re hesitant about committing, ease into things with a short-term project. “Just try it—it may be unbelievably creatively fulfilling, it may be unbelievably frustrating, and it may be both,” says Adler. Regardless, you will undoubtedly pick up new skills. “I certainly didn’t know half of what I know now about early childhood development,” Adler says, adding that he’s figured out this much already: “The way to a kid’s heart? High-contrast color combinations.”

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