Roanne Adams

An award-winning designer with a sixth sense for branding, Roanne Adams is the founder/director of New York creative studio RoAndCo. With a client roster that includes the likes of Nike, Refinery29 and Ulla Johnson, Adams no doubt has her hands full. But that didn't stop her from launching her own magazine, Romance Journal, earlier this year. Dedicated to exploring the issues of the day through the eyes of inspirational women around the globe, the magazine just wrapped its sophomore installment. Adams, who lives in Brooklyn with her husband and young daughter, (miraculously) found time to chat with The Caret about the current state of her industry, her meditation app of choice and why it’s ok to sometimes slip your kid an iPhone.

Hi Roanne! Let's dive right in, shall we? What does it take for a brand to stand out in today's crowded digital landscape?

A powerful idea. People have been focused for so long on creating the pretty picture, thinking that was going to create aspiration for their brand. People today want/need more. Not only do they need a product that fits within their value system, but they need something to stimulate them – make them think, inspire them, change their minds, make them mad, even.

And, it seems obvious, but an ownable aesthetic. With endless scrolling habits, people are primed to glaze over until they’re beckoned to stop and look.

Storytelling across all channels. We live in a time when a logo is no longer enough, brands need to tell stories across the ecosystem and back again...from e-commerce to email marketing to digital advertising to social media and through influencer channels...

Last, with influencers attaching their names everywhere, it’s only powerful when they authentically align themselves with the brand. Otherwise, it won’t resonate. People social media stalk these influencers, they know what they like!

What new sites are impressing you right now?

This is a tough one to answer. The websites I tend to like the most are the ones that are so elegantly designed and developed you don’t even notice them...the sites that I’m kind of into: (Pure e-commerce is an interesting direction for luxury brands to go in.)

Who is doing neat stuff in e-commerce?

Gucci, Kenzo, Chanel — these brands are great at social and video. For integration of content and commerce: Ssense.

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“I want the website to awaken people, get them to observe their thoughts, emotions and actions and help them find clarity, calm and joy.”
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What's the next big thing(s) in online design/branding?

Online design right now is all about embracing the unexpected and creating immersive and interactive experiences. Integration technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality online are something I see becoming a larger factor in the next few years.

What trends are you sick of?

I'm sick of startups in the tech world all doing the same safe/boring/mass market thing...everything to everyone. Tech startups still have a lot to learn from the fashion industry. And vice versa, the fashion industry can learn a lot from tech startups in terms of using technology. Sick of blogs. Sick of inspiration posts. Sick of everyone ripping everyone off.

Why did you make Romance Journal a print product? How do you translate it into the digital realm?

I’ve always wanted to create a print publication. In design school, I took all the experimental publication design classes. Print magazines command your attention in ways that online publications can’t. The idea behind Romance Journal is to get people to live in the moment, be present, connect with themselves and with others...a tactile print object feels special. We’re strategizing how to bring that feeling into the digital realm without just replicating the print content into a digital format. I want the website to awaken people, get them to observe their thoughts, emotions and actions and help them find clarity, calm and joy.

Where do you go online to find inspiration?

Wikipedia and Google.

Where do you go for beauty?

I go inward or I go to nature.

You meditate, are there apps or digital resources you rely on?

I like the meditation app called Calm. I use audiobooks through Audible and podcasts to dig deeper into subjects. I’m into Spotify — it is essential to shifting the energy in a room.

We hear you make amazing office playlists, can you make one especially for The Caret?

Here you go. Some old songs, some new...from Shoe Gaze to goth to 90’s hip hop (shout out to my husband Johnny Wahba for a lot of these songs!)

What did you stream last week?

Podcasts: "Unstyled," "Sounds True: Insights at the Edge," "On Being With Krista Tippert," "Radiolab" and "Fresh Air."
Audiobooks: "Moving Beyond Words" by Gloria Steinem, "Why Buddhism Is True" by Robert Wright and "Witch" by Lisa Lister.
Movies: "OKJA" and I revisited "I Am Love" – Tilda Swinton in both :)

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Roanne Adams in Los Angeles. Photographed by Austin Hargrave.

“When you’re out at a restaurant and your child is raging at the table, turning on the iPhone to let her watch a movie or play an alphabet game is totally worth it.”

As a mom, what is your "screen time" philosophy? Does your daughter have an iPad?

I was very strict about screen time the first 3 years of my daughter’s life. We tried our best to keep screens/TV away from her. She attended a Waldorf school for 2 years which actually has a no screen policy. They believe that screen time takes away from the child’s development and ability to connect with their spirit, nature and others. I agree with this philosophy...but I also think that when you’re out at a restaurant with your family and your child is raging at the table, turning on the iPhone to let her watch a movie or play an alphabet game is totally worth it. I also think that most of my inspiration comes from TV, movies and pop culture I absorbed as a child…so all in moderation.

How can smaller e-commerce labels compete (or at least coexist) with Amazon?

That’s the question I ask myself very often. If I knew the answer I think I would be a billionaire!

No, really, what I tell my clients is that they need to create an experience their customers won’t forget. They need an incredibly beautiful e-commerce site that has the quickest path to purchase but also gives the customer the feeling that they are immersed in a brand that’s connected to a lifestyle and greater purpose. I’ve seen smaller labels have a lot of success from getting the omnichannel right...having a beautiful/functional e-commerce experience, a gorgeous brick-and-mortar store and a really engaging social presence. Smaller brands can’t compete with Amazon so they have to essentially ignore Amazon and do what’s essential and true to their brand.

That said, what’s the last thing you bought on Amazon?

A handheld steamer.

What are your favorite shopping sites?

These are sites I actually shop joke.
Moda Operandi — designed by RoAndCo :)
Loeffler Randall — designed by RoAndCo :)
Ulla Johnson — designed by RoAndCo :)
Apiece Apart
The Line

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Working in tech, do you ever encounter a gender bias? Do you make a special effort to hire female developers?

Totally! Finding female developers is not easy, but I’ve found a few great ones thanks to Rachael Yaeger :) We need more in the world. More women in tech in general. I work with mostly women both as employees, collaborators and my POV is different than most. But I know that out there in the rest of the world we need more women sitting at the (tech) table...with equal pay and equal say!

You juggle so many great clients, what tools help you mangage workflow?

Definitely Google Docs, Hangouts, Slack and Dropbox have probably been the biggest game-changers for business efficiencies and workflow. We also use Harvest to track our projects and Pipedrive to track our new business leads. It's great to have everything available in the cloud now, so that I can work virtually anywhere.

Who are you favorite people to follow on social media?

Ugh, I don’t know, the Instagram algorithm has me pretty much just following my best friends or people with cute kids ;/

You've shared so many good recommendations (we can't wait to read "Witch") - anything else you'd like to add?


Keep up with Roanne:

t: @RoanneAdams
i: @roanneadams