Erika Morales is a Partner & Creative Director for Lemon Yellow, a branding and design agency in Miami that Erika co-founded in 2005. Erika is obsessed with fluency and functionality, and she balances form and function in the same fashion she balances her clients and their audiences. Recognized internationally, she has contributed to numerous art and design exhibitions and publications both in Miami and abroad. Inspired by the world of architecture and industrial design, she is a naturally creative problem solver whose elegant solutions put the “art” into “smart”.
What was your first job in the Arts?
I gave guided art tours during one Art Basel | Miami Beach and basically walked visitors through my favorite pieces at the time (Yoshitomo Nara being a highlight). “This isn’t art, I could have done that” was a recurring comment (yawn).
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
Not to get pissed off at people for making the above comment.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
Coming across the work of Peter Saville during the 90s and being heavily involved in the blossoming music scene happening in Miami at the time. I had the opportunity to design flyers and posters for bands like Mouse on Mars, Interpol and Cat Power playing gigs at Poplife. It was that mix of finding a purpose in something that I was already passionate about that lit the spark.
What do you do now?
I co-run Lemon Yellow, a Branding and Design studio.
Where are you from?
Born in Venezuela, grew up in Miami.
What is the arts community like there?
I left Venezuela too young to be able to offer any real insight. But as far as Miami goes, well, it tends to be defined by a true pioneering spirit. There isn’t that “been there, done that” attitude here which you may find in some other cities because in many ways, Miami is still developing and people tend to be very welcoming of new ideas. You have more of a chance to stand out I suppose. But at the same time, the arts community here isn’t as strong as it once was. A few years back we had a massive exodus of artists move to L.A. and not to sound nostalgic, but it just seems like it hasn’t been the same since. That said, we do have Art Basel Miami Beach and great sister fairs like Untitled which add to the “arts community” in some recurring way.
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
Not sure I’m conscious of it if so.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
It’s a piece of advice that was handed down to me once. Someone rightfully said, “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Sticking with my business partner of 15 years and making that relationship even stronger as the years go by.
What has been a challenge for you?
Managing the business and creative side that comes with running a business. And trying to prevent the creative from suffering in the process.
What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)?
I use my under-desk stationery bike!
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Spend time with a numerologist / healer client who invited us to experience a session which ended up making everybody cry.
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
Someone who cares and takes ownership of whatever it is their doing. And a boss that empowers them.
What do you think makes a person hirable?
Someone who’s going to bring good energy to the rest of the team.
What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview?
Just be yourself and be natural. I find our best interviews feel quite organic and no one is trying to impress the other person. We just end up talking about all kinds of things (sometimes completely unrelated to the job description) but you end up getting a good insight into the person by way of their interests, habits and general likes / dislikes.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
Find your own voice and don’t try to emulate or please anyone else. In the words of David Bowie, “don’t play to the gallery.” The minute you try to please the client or do what you think they expect from you – you will be delivering your worst work.
Any other anecdotes about your working experience that you would like to share?
We had a highlight a few years back when we relocated the entire studio to Savannah for a month while the new office was being built-out. We found it to be a great opportunity to bond. I always look back at that time very fondly.
What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?
That’s tough due to COVID. But prior to that I went to the Venice Biennale and really enjoyed the Belgian pavilion’s ‘Mondo Canne’ by Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys.
If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?
Ellsworth Kelly, Imi Knoebel, Donald Judd, Thomas Struth and Helga Paris.
What artwork is in your home office?
‘Die Welt’ by Ellsworth Kelly and Le Corbusier’s ‘Carpenter Center’ b/w photographs taken by my husband, Stephan Goettlicher.
What is your go to snack in quarantine? And your go to soundtrack?
Hazelnut Quadratinis. My workout playlist with Beastie Boys, Janet Jackson, Prince, Happy Mondays, Kula Shaker, Elastica, Pet Shop Boys, Run DMC, David Bowie, the B-52s and Kraftwerk (among others).