The Working Assembly

We chat with Founder and Creative Director of The Working Assembly, Jolene Delisle, about how they went from side hustle to full-blown creative agency; making time for mentoring and networking, and the communities she's involved in including The Wing, HER, Lower East Side Girls Club. Plus, Jolene talks us through their internship program, and how they treat it like an apprenticeship, and their amazing new project 24 Hour Assembly — a creative incubator for female and/or minority founders.

How did you name your practice and what does the name represent to you?

The original concept was to be a creative collective that would always be “working” but “assemble” for projects. The Working Assembly was meant to be a side hustle, that allowed myself and my creative partner Lawrence O’Toole to always be generating work that we were excited about, that maybe wasn’t being fulfilled during our day jobs. We were seeing this startup culture in NYC ramping up and were excited about helping passionate entrepreneurs with brand building of their early-stage companies. We realized the impact design, messaging and brand strategy could have if we were able to help from the start, versus so much later down the line, like what we were responsible for most of the time “fixing” in our full-time gigs. As the client needs grew and the traction around The Working Assembly generated greater interest, we decided to formalize, going all in and moving to our first dedicated office in the Financial District of Manhattan in 2015.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

As the founder and creative director, my job is all-encompassing. We are still a team of less than 20, so in fairness, we all do a lot. I oversee all the creative output, particularly with our brand campaign work and art direction. I also manage new business development, meeting with and contacting potential clients and helping put together proposals for upcoming projects.

Design work by The Working Assembly The Design Kids interviews The Working Assembly work-2

Talk us through a typical working day include for you right now.

I try to arrange all my meetings in the morning, starting as early as 8:30. I like to meet with prospective and current clients, network with other female founders and also make time to mentor creatives who have reached out to me. I’m part of The Wing, HER, Lower East Side Girls Club and will often be connected with people through those communities. I get to our office in Flatiron around 9:30/10am, review work in progress and jump into lots of creative meetings. Often we have photoshoots or video production happening any given week, so my time can be spent on set too.

What’s your take on internships? (do you take interns now?)

We love interns and accept internship applicants all year round. We treat our internship program like an apprenticeship. You’ll be paired with a senior designer who you will work closely with, as well as be put on client projects where you’re able to make real contributions. We’ve had amazing luck in hiring two designers who started as interns with us. They are so talented and we feel fortunate they are part of our team.

Design work by The Working Assembly The Design Kids interviews The Working Assembly work-4
Design work by The Working Assembly The Design Kids interviews The Working Assembly work-4

My most successful moments have come from saying yes when I’m uncomfortable or unsure

Whats the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of advice I ever received is also the simplest—say yes. Too often, we’ll put roadblocks and barriers on why something can’t happen or we can’t do something. I always say yes, and try to figure it out or figure out a solution. Even if I’m not personally able to complete the task, I’m able to help problem solve it and that is valuable too. My most successful moments have come from saying yes when I’m uncomfortable or unsure. I also have found that people want to be around people who are willing to take risks, troubleshoot and work with you. When you say no or your instinct is first to be defensive or put up blockers, you’re going to miss out on great conversations, brainstorms, and opportunities. I also find the best designers are the most resourceful ones. The ones who are always willing to at least try and get there.

Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

Now that The Working Assembly has scaled both in size and client type, we wanted to take a step back and remember why we started this company to begin with. It was to work with passionate, like-minded entrepreneurs who honestly, at this point, may not be able to afford to hire us anymore. So this year, we started 24 Hour Assembly which is a creative incubator for female and/or minority founders (two of the most underserved and underrepresented groups in the VC world) to help provide a cost-effective brand and creative partnership of their early-stage companies. We realized that providing early access to a branding agency could be an incredible leg up and resource as they were fundraising and generating interest in their companies.

We also feel so fortunate to live and work in NYC. It’s my favorite place in the world and I’m so happy to call it my home. We wanted to give back to the local community and see if as designers, we could collaborate with local businesses who maybe are losing customers because they haven’t invested in brand development or any design to keep pace with the gentrifying neighborhoods and insane real estate costs. We are offering pro-bono branding to select “mom and pop” shops through our initiative called Local Works

Design work by The Working Assembly The Design Kids interviews The Working Assembly work-6
Design work by The Working Assembly The Design Kids interviews The Working Assembly work-6

Where to find The Working Assembly online.

Website: theworkingassembly.com

Instagram: @jolenedelisle, @workingassembly

Twitter: @workingassembly

Medium: @workingassembly

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