From FBI to Walt Disney to Freelance, UA Alumna’s Career Soars

  • September 14th, 2018
Laci Jordan

By Jamon Smith

For many people, graduating college early and working an internship doing special projects and surveillance for the FBI is a dream come true.

But for Huntsville native Laci Jordan, it was disconcerting.

She had been taught from a young age to find a job where she wouldn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck, and while she seemed to be well on her way toward achieving that, she wasn’t happy.

With only a few electives between her and graduating in three years from The University of Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Jordan encountered something at the FBI that grabbed her curiosity and took her down a path she never imagined.

“I wanted to do something that would be good for the long run,” she said. “I wasn’t considering my true passions. I never explored that.”

At the FBI, she was introduced to someone using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to lay out an arrest.

Illustrations for Hibbett Sports

“I thought that was cool that it could be used for that. I also had a roommate who minored in design and I found it interesting, but I never thought I could do that with my life because I didn’t think I was creative.”

With her remaining electives, she decided to take a textile design course. She loved it.

“It was really, really creative when I got into it.”

Her curiosity piquing, she went to the College of Arts and Sciences to ask what would it look like if she wanted to get a degree in graphic design.

A plan was laid out, and in 2010 she graduated with the degree she originally pursued in criminal justice. She immediately re-enrolled and graduated with a second degree in digital media in 2011.

“I finished in a year,” she said. “It was a lot of work in that year, including summer school. I took close to the maximum amount of hours every semester. I was really into it.

STUDIO 23 Jordan Brand patch designs

“What I was into then equates to me quitting my job now. I loved the freedom. You weren’t in lectures, but were creating your points of view in line with your assignments. It wasn’t ‘you have to do it by a book.’ You learn principles.”

Jordan said she found it freeing to be a creator, to tell her own story through her chosen medium without having to follow a fixed formula.

After her second graduation, she was recruited at the Ferguson Center to work an internship at Disney World. The program wasn’t something she enjoyed so after completing the internship she headed back to Huntsville where she took an IT job similar to the IT analysis work she did for UAPD while in school.

“I wasn’t happy with it,” she said. “It wasn’t in the design field so I constantly applied for jobs. I literally applied for jobs at nearly every major city.”

Disney, yet again, came calling — but this time to Walt Disney Imagineering in California.

“I got offered the internship on the phone while I was driving in Tuscaloosa for homecoming. I ended up packing two suitcases and took a one-way flight to California with $1,100. I’ve been here ever since.”

Website design and graphics for singer/songwriter Jamila Woods

In California is where she developed her artistic style that would later land her contracts with Jordan Brand, Hibbitt Sports, Footlocker and ESPN. Her work with these major companies has caught the attention of national media publications such as Forbes.

A portfolio of some of her past and upcoming work can be found at solacilike.com.

“There are definitely things in my past that shaped my style. I just wasn’t in tune with it. Being an Imagineer at Disney I was around a lot of creative types and I developed my aesthetics and tapped into it. Last year was the year when I heard people say ‘I can identify your work.’

“I love colors. I love utilizing geometric shapes. I don’t focus on urban art, but as a black woman my lens naturally goes to black culture. Most of my work usually represents something that is underrepresented, is colorful, bold and unapologetic.”

After two and a half years at Walt Disney Imagineering she took a job with ABC for six months before working for a talent agency, Creative Artists Agency, in Los Angeles. She learned how to do a wide array of design work there, but after three and a half years, she resigned, saying she was tired of working corporate jobs.

Illustrations for Hibbett Sports

“I am still doing projects for them. I would never go back to any corporate job again, unless they’re really, really cool. I don’t want to work in traditional structures. For right now, I think it’s better to do my own thing because I have more freedom in it.”

As an established freelance artist working the LA scene, Jordan is confident she can write her own ticket. But she wouldn’t have gotten to this point without her foundation at UA.

“UA has helped me so much. Alabama is one of those places that taught me so much in regards to friendships and resources. The friendships that I made there are still very vital in my career.

“The school gave me a lot of insight, resources and kept me humble.”

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.