'GATSBY FRIDAYS' is a podcast that, at its heart, is about creativity, and its hosts, Serra Semi and Alex Chimilio, are well-acquainted with many different iterations of creativity in a professional context.
With experience and expertise in visual arts, design, fashion, and film, the pair launched 'GATSBY FRIDAYS' as a way to explore creativity in its many forms, all within the setting of wholesome, friendly conversation.
We are joined today by Serra Semi, who, outside of the podcast, is a master in her field of media design and branding, and is the founder of creative studio Lumens, based in New York, which has taken on jobs from major clients such as Showtime, Stoli, and Vivity (Anthem Blue Cross).
Leaning on Semi’s exceptional creative business acumen, 'GATSBY FRIDAYS' is changing up the conversation around a creative and productive life and offering new advice and inspiration to everyone
Much of our interview with Semi focused on the formation and growth of the podcast since its inception, as well as the perception of design concepts by the average listener.
If you would like to dive into 'GATSBY FRIDAYS' for yourself, you can find the appropriate link for your listening platform of choice here.
Otherwise, we hope you enjoy our interview with Semi and learn a little something about design along the way.
Jam Addict (JA): New York has a very strong history when it comes to visual arts and design. Was this part of what motivated you and your co-host to create the podcast?
Serra Semi (SS): Being such a densely packed hub makes New York an incredible source of dynamic interactions and, as the center of art and fashion in the U.S., a constant source of inspiration. Living in New York for over 15 years has shaped my professional experiences as well as how I operate in life in general. The show’s co-creator Alex Chimilio was born and raised in Brooklyn, a true New Yorker. The city and what it offers is why I am here and it’s the first tenet in our connection, collaboration, and our conversations.
But New York is just one part of GATSBY FRIDAYS. We have already been having conversations around the topics we cover in the podcast. We have noticed a lack of representation and separation of work and life that isn’t true to the creative spirit.
On top of that, we have been active in the design community in New York, participating in events and workshops for years. Sharing the conversations we were already having as a podcast seemed like the obvious next step.
JA: Can you tell us more about Alex and his background within design?
SS: Our first interactions feel like a lifetime ago! I have known Alex for a long time.
I was doing my first summer internship during my junior year in college at a branding agency in NoHo, Graj+Gustavsen, when I met Alex. He was part of the design team. They were incredible in interacting with us interns beyond the office, taking us out to drinks, galleries, movies.
So after graduation when I was offered an entry-level position, I already had friends in the city. Alex and I started going to the movies every week and the discussions afterward over drinks is what solidified our creative connection.
Alex is the Creative Director for the sportswear brand Weatherproof Vintage. He is a talented artist, a storyteller, and a colleague who I respect very much. Undertaking a project like this requires respect for each others’ views, work ethic, and talent. He has been an incredible partner in making GATSBY FRIDAYS.
JA: Do you think the podcast has given you the chance to explain and explore your own creative sensibilities?
SS: From a production point of view, coming from managing and executing client projects that are multidimensional, I don’t look at it as just recording an episode. My approach to the project calls for each episode to be visually represented with unique cover art, produce additional visual content, and have that reflected on all media channels we use whereas Alex focuses on the script and sound.
There is a sense of accomplishment with every episode. I create the cover art every week and find myself extremely proud of how the overall presentation has been not just plain beautiful but also evolved over time. I am surprised that that feeling of joy and price comes up every single episode. I know Alex feels the same way about his process as well.
From a content point of view, it’s a cathartic process. I have been able to channel my reactions, positive or negative, into a productive outlet I share with the world. We really hash out ideas and topics. It helps us better understand ourselves, each other, and our place as leaders in the creative community. It’s very grounding.
JA: There just aren't other podcasts out there like this one. How does it feel to offer something so original to listeners?
SS: In my experience, design conversations have evolved around either skills and tricks of the trade, personal body of work, or networking events. We have not experienced a source of inspiration and guidance on how to live a fully engaged life as a creative.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a lack of representation and separation of work and life that isn’t true to the creative spirit. We wanted a holistic approach to creative life as more than just a profession because that is what it is to us. It is more than just your job, more than just your hobbies. We feel like we found our niche, in that we do offer advice based on our experiences but also dig deep into how our creative minds expand to every aspect of life from our role in current events to things we collect to how we talk about movies. So yes, it is very exciting to have found a unique voice we can offer to our listeners.
JA: Do you feel listeners are eager to learn more about design?
SS: Absolutely, the listener response has been very positive about the design content we offer. That said, while we are speaking to creatives, the way we cover our topics is for everyone. Everyone can find something they relate to. We have covered how we passed time during the first months of the quarantine this year with our very first episode Staying Creative during the Quarantine.
We have a movie night episode, Movie Night: Point Break, and we plan to turn that into a series in upcoming seasons with different movies. We have Book Club episodes on both Season 1 and Season 2. We even have an episode, Bridging the Gap, focusing on how to work with creatives for those outside of our industry, who hold the opportunities to engage with us. We invite everyone to listen and get inspired.
JA: Has the show challenged you to look more closely at your past work and how you've evolved?
SS: Choosing to do a podcast means you have something to say and the conviction that you believe what you have to say is beneficial or at least is of interest to others. A lot of the topics we cover aren’t new to us but deciding to invite the rest of the world into the conversation requires a careful examination of not only what I should say and how I should say it but what is the value I am offering. I believe my experiences offer value to others, which is why I joined Creative Huddle as a mentor when I was invited. It’s why I wrote 21 Years 21 Lessons to talk about immigration and the creative profession. So sharing isn’t new to me.
The Jam Addict team is a revolving door of writers who care about music, its effects on culture, and giving aspiring artists tools and knowledge to be inspired and keep on creating.
If you have any questions or concerns or just want to drop us a line, don't hesitate to contact us! We always appreciate the feedback.