How a Stolen Passport Changed One Woman’s Journey

We sat down with Creative Director and Designer, Lucia Orlandi, to discuss what it’s like making the transition to New York City as an immigrant and creative. Get to know a bit about Lucia before she shares her personal reinvention story at our town hall in New York City on Thursday, March 9, 2017. 


Lucia Orlandi is a Creative Director and Designer based in New York City, originally hailing from Limerick, Ireland. She has over 9 years of experience working for award-winning creative agencies, providing art direction to Fortune 100 brands. Lucia is currently an Associate Creative Director at R/GA New York, where she is building digital experiences through a combination of systems + stories for beauty, fashion and lifestyle brands. You can follow her on Instagram @luciao.

Tell us about your transition from Ireland to New York.

My dad is Italian, and my mom’s Irish, so growing up I was fortunate to spend time between Ireland and Italy. My parents always encouraged me to travel, and I have a bit of an adventurous streak that comes from my mom. My dad moved to Ireland when he was 16, and he emigrated for very different reasons back then, but a big part of why I had the confidence to make the jump from Ireland to New York was due to how I was raised and an encouragement to explore different places and cultures.

After I graduated university, I worked in Dublin for two years at a small studio, and in 2009, right as the recession was hitting in Ireland, I moved to Toronto as it was a bit more straightforward to get a work visa. I ended up working at an agency right as it was rebuilding its creative department, which was exciting. When I began to feel a bit creatively stagnant I started job hunting. New York was always a goal for me, and still in the back of my mind, so I started to pull my portfolio together. I ended up visiting New York for CMJ music festival by myself, as my friend got her bag stolen (along with her passport) the night before our flight. I reached out to one of my old Toronto colleagues, who was living in New York, and we went for a beer, and he asked if I would be interested in interviewing to join the team at AKQA as an Art Director. I think I barely let him finish the sentence, the answer was a massive yes. AKQA were an agency that I respected, and the chance to work there and in New York was a no-brainer for me. Thanks to visas, the process for me to actually get to New York in 2012 took about a year from when I first interviewed.

I’ve since moved on from AKQA, and I’m currently working at R/GA New York surrounded by an amazing (all female!) design team. I’m about to make a move again, transferring to our San Francisco office hopefully in May.


Being here on a work visa, how do you feel about the current turn of events and immigration ban under the trump administration?

I was absolutely heartbroken with the election results, living here for almost five years I felt very much invested in the election, despite not being able to vote. I guess the best way to describe how I feel is a sense of unease. A lot of my friends here are expats, and work visas are a frequent topic of conversation. You live in a constant state of fluidity, but now it’s got a whole new undertone to it.

I moved to New York (and America), because I admire the diversity here, and I’ve been opened up to so many different types of cultures living in New York. It’s the people that make it interesting and welcoming here, imagine how boring life would be if we were all the same? The country is built by immigrants, so if feels very wrong to me to blatantly discriminate and encourage an attitude of fear and hate. I am incredibly lucky in my situation, and can only imagine how those who have been discriminated under the immigration ban feel.

Out of all this, I think it’s sparked a need to find greater purpose with a lot of creatives, myself included, and continuing to remind myself to do something to contribute regularly in any way over the next few years will remain important.


What do you love about New York? What do you miss from Ireland?

New York is the most energizing and infuriating place to live. It’s a city filled with paradox, and that kind of suits my personality. I love how freeing it is living here – people are unapologetic about everything: how hard they work, their successes, their failures and aspirations. It’s kind of gives me a push every day.

What I miss the most from home is the people – my family & friends, and the craic (not the crack you’re thinking! It basically means banter, a good time). I actually just returned from a trip home for a friend’s wedding, and lately it gets more difficult coming back each year. It’s a bit hard to put into words, but the feeling of ease, the humor and straight talking of Irish people is something that I miss.  


What’s one of the most fulfilling projects you’ve worked on? What’s been one of the most challenging?

The most fulfilling project that I’ve worked on has been my work with Ladies Get Paid and the soon-to-launch newsletter re-brand. I got introduced to Claire through my friend Mara, at the time I was feeling very much in a rut at work and questioning my purpose in what I do which was also wrapped up in a career decision that I was in the process of making.

It’s been re-energizing to work on something that I feel so passionate about on such a personal level. It’s a cause that affects both myself and the talented women that I work with daily. Claire has been a great partner to work with, and it has been fulfilling to help define a unified creative expression for Ladies Get Paid. I’m excited for work to be released soon! 

As for the most challenging, something that springs to mind is an internal project that I worked on last year. Myself and a designer on my team spent all of our spare time on it, visual and prototyping and at the last minute it got killed. It was incredibly frustrating at that moment in time, and I was a bit disappointed in myself that I took it so personally.  Moments like this are so common in design and normally it’s water off my back – so it was an important reminder to myself on how to gracefully deal with failure and stay motivated in what I do.

See some of Lucia’s recent work below:



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