Dealing With Grief in the Time of Coronavirus

Be an irreplaceable human

Kat Gordon text
A creative reflects on her late partner's spirit—and typography. Kat Gordon
Headshot of Kat Gordon

There’s no shortage of grief in the world right now. Yet somehow a new breed of heartbreak has managed to find my address and pound down my door.

My long-time creative partner, Marguerite Lutton, died suddenly in August.

The news didn’t just hit me hard, it hit me with an undercut. I think I’ve figured out why.

When you lose someone who was your collaborator on countless past projects, you also lose the possibility to collaborate with them on a single future project.

It’s this last piece that stings. When you have the good fortune to find that creative recipe that works—low drama, high trust, true kinship—it is like winning the lottery. You get to hang with a friend you love and make stuff (and money).

Kat Gordon

It doesn’t get any better than that. The place you can go when you know you need to get it right and you know just who will make that happen. How many of our texts began with the words “Wanna hop on a new project with me?”

Never knowing the last one would be the last one.

Marg was that rare breed of art director who’s the full package. A brilliant illustrator in her own right. Obsessively fixated on typography. A mental Rolodex of photographers like none I’ve seen, with a special knack for the birth of a brand. Her logos were so spectacular that she upped my tagline game.

We made so much work together. Heaps of it. Back when the internet was new, we did much of that early advertising then various tech clients and startups. In recent years, she helped with 3% Conference design whenever we needed it.

One day, I brought gummy bears into our office and Marg fanned open her Pantone color wheel and parked each bear on its corresponding color chip. That was peak Marg: seeing color and humor and whimsy in everything.

Marg’s New Yorker essence was all artist, zero attitude. It’s poignant that it was on a trip to New York that she died, as if even her death belonged to that city. And to young designers out there, here is a Lutton legacy list that will serve you well.

Before you design, discover

Take as much delight in the process of searching for inspiration as you do in creating the final product. Marguerite’s journal about the 35-page mood book she created before designing the logo for the Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn restaurant is a master class in inspiration seeking.

Remember there are no boring clients, just boring work

Two of the more recent campaigns Marg and I did were for a dental startup and a kids’ lice treatment clinic. Yes, I said lice. And no, Marg didn’t run for the hills. Instead she brought this stunning visual identity to life.

In an industry of takers, be a giver

The ad world can be transactional and ego-driven. But it’s faulty math that overlooks that kindness is a multiplier. Marg didn’t just know this; she modeled it. She gave her gifts to countless nonprofits over the years and was generous with introductions. She checked in on people regularly, not for networking purposes, but out of genuine friendship and care. Anyone can be a talented designer, but being an irreplaceable human is what the world really needs more of right now.

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@katgordon Kat Gordon is the founder of The 3 Percent Movement.