Fast Company editor Linda Tischler died Monday after a long illness. Linda started at Fast Company in 2000 and pioneered the magazine’s design coverage at a time when few, if any, mainstream publications paid attention to design. Through her exuberant stories on everyone from architect Michael Graves to industrial designer Yves Béhar, she highlighted both the business of design and the importance of design in business. It is much to her credit that design has evolved into a core business practice, embraced by companies large and small. Here, we asked colleagues and friends to share memories of Linda.–Eds.
Gadi Amit, founder, NewDealDesign
I met Linda at a Fast Company event, when the economy was in a rut. At first, I was quite shy about approaching her, but we started chatting and when I suggested that we should pay more attention to design for the middle class–and less for the 1%–she lit up. With her warmth and intelligence, she said, “Okay, why don’t you do that? Write something!” The whole discourse around the democratization of design–Linda had a huge role in that. She always had a social conscience.
Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design, Museum of Modern Art
I have great memories of Linda in many different places–at MIT’s Media Lab and at the Aspen Ideas festival, at MoMA at my marathon events and at evening panels with young designers. Everywhere, she was my kindred spirit, holding the design flag high with intelligence, open-mindedness, and generosity. Everywhere, her eyes pierced the air like curious, bemused laser beams, crowned by her bob that reminded me of my favorite Italian singer when I was a child. She was a force. She loved design and was able to explain it to all, very simply, honestly, and elegantly. I will personally miss her tremendously, and so will the design world.
Rinat Aruh, cofounder, aruliden
Linda taught me about what really mattered. Not just about design, but about friendships, business, and people. She always had to time to listen, looked out for me and gave the most appreciated feedback–straight to the point without any fluff! She was our biggest champion, constantly encouraging us to keep doing what we do while sharing her point of view with enthusiasm and humor! I will miss her dearly.
Caroline Baumann, Director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
LINDA=LIGHT. Linda Tischler spread light through her magnetic personality and that one-of-a-kind smile, and her unique embrace and celebration of design. She illuminated minds with the way she wrote and talked about design, and encouraged teens year after year to pursue careers in design at Cooper Hewitt’s Teen Design Fair. She was an irreplaceable model for them and for all of us—to share positivity, excitement and generosity. We miss you Linda.
Yves Béhar, founder, fuseproject
Through great times and tough ones Linda was a force with a smile. She was understanding and inquisitive, always curious about the world. I will never forget those qualities, and aspire to them. A couple of years ago, we spoke on stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival–it was fun and entertaining, it was just a solid human conversation about design and life. And this moment reminded me of how every conversation with Linda was always just that: a human story at the center of design. All of us designers are lucky she applied her talent and wit to design. I am lucky to have known her. It aches to say it: So long Linda.
Dror Benshetrit, founder, Dror
In 2002, I launched my design practice as a hopeful 25-year-old and shortly thereafter, met Linda. To this day, I count our meeting as one of my luckiest stars. Growing to become a supporter, mentor, and friend, she has been a pivotable force in my career, and I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom that holds true. In any instance, whether it be through her Fast Company articles, book with David Butler or speaking engagements, she radiated kindness, positivity, and love. Linda, I will miss you.
Tim Brown, president and CEO, IDEO
Linda was a great advocate for design thinking. My best memory of working with her was at the opening address of Bill Clinton’s Global Initiative conference. She was going through chemotherapy at the time, but you would never have known it. We were both sitting in the green room feeling very out of place alongside President Clinton, Queen Rania of Jordan and Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank. But once we got on stage we relaxed in each other’s company and had an inspiring conversation about the role of design in social innovation. Her willingness to stand up for design in business and society, even when she was going through her own health challenges, was a great example for all of us. Design will miss her voice.
Ken Carbone, founding partner, Carbone Smolan Agency
Every designer owes Linda their deep gratitude. Linda was a courageous champion for all design disciplines and no one expressed the value of what we do better that her. Through her brilliance, curiosity and generous spirit, her influence on design and business was nothing short of singular.
Beth Dickstein, founder, BDE
If you’re lucky, you get to work with good people. If your luckier, you get to make a great friend. I was luckier, as Linda and I were great friends. One I will miss tremendously. Her brilliance, humor, generosity and warmth were always there. When her illness was getting worse, I said, “I’ll pray for you everyday.” In her wonderful witty way she said, “Okay, better put it in overdrive, baby.” I know the industry lost a dynamo, a straight shooter, a true journalist. Her family lost an irreplaceable force. I lost an amazing and caring friend.
Tyler Gray, former editorial director, FastCompany.com
I took over Linda’s office at Fast Company when she stopped coming in. I remember finding the bottom drawer meticulously organized with clips and past issues of FC. I stacked them up and barely moved them because it felt like she was the steward of our archive. When people came in to ask about something we’d covered I half pretended it was me who kept that archive—not sure if anyone actually did other than her. The fib only stretched so far, though. She had dog-eared pages and Post-it notes on issues she clearly referred to often. Most people, including me, wouldn’t have the patience today for that kind of thing these days without some sort of digital interface with search capabilities.
Linda was a rare breed who could straddle the digital and analog worlds, with a mind that could slipstream through either. She commanded the respect of designers and architects and artists and brands—without ever seeming like she was relenting to anyone’s will than he own.
I’ve spent the evening reading through old emails we shared. I found this one, after she learned about her cancer, about the same time I learned about my mom’s.
“This stuff is scary as hell,” she wrote, then referenced a Boston cancer institution. “When they handed me my little blue Dana-Farber card I thought, ‘Shit! This is a club I never wanted to belong to!’ but there you have it, and I guess you have to play the hand you’re dealt. I’m going to give it my best shot.”
Miss you already, lady.
Walter Herbst, professor, Segal Design Institute, Northwestern University
Like all who met her, it was an instant love affair.
Linda visited our Management program in Product Design and Development at Northwestern University, some years back, which started it all.
I invited Linda to speak at our annual design event, Design Chicago, which I knew came at the same time as the Milan Fair. She quickly shot back, that she had seen enough chairs in her life, and agreed to come. She captured the entire audience, which included our own design and development master’s students as well as our Kellogg MBA’s, our engineering students, as well as the president and the Deans of the university. Her influential talk may have led to what Northwestern University has now–“Design” as one of our pillars.
We were always checking in, and she was always finding time to talk about our kids and of course design. I will miss her, as will everyone who knew her.
David Kelley, founder, IDEO and Stanford d.school
Most people know Linda for her hugely generous support of design. But what not everyone may know is how her work connected people. She was the first to break the story of my cancer publicly in a piece she wrote in 2009 about design thinking. For her to tell the story in such a caring, thoughtful, sensitive way helped me have the conversation with others. Her writing engendered so much empathy. People shared their stories with me, and I bonded with those who’d gone through it themselves. Knowing how difficult that experience was, I admired Linda’s strength in soldiering on and not making a big deal about her own illness. In the piece she wrote, she quoted me about the moment we started calling ourselves design thinkers: “I’m not a words person, but in my life, it’s the most powerful moment that words or labeling ever made. Because then it all made sense.” Linda was a words person, and what she wrote changed the world of design, and lives like mine, too.
Judy Klavin, president, Kalvin Public Relations
Nobody covered the intersection of design and business the way Linda did. We started working together in 2008 when I arranged meetings for her with my design firm clients. Before the meeting, we’d spend hours reviewing story ideas that we thought for sure she’d be interested in. Then she’d zero in on a completely different angle or something she saw on a designer’s desk that caught her eye. And, the story she’d develop and write was always smart and engaging. Shortly after, she was recruiting design leaders to be guest bloggers on the inaugural FastCoDesign site. She had a gift for encouraging the creative community to articulate their vision and bring it to life. I am so grateful for her friendship, honesty, insight and determination. Thank you, Linda, for uncovering so many stories that might never have been told. We all learned so much from you.
Cliff Kuang, founding editor, Co.Design
Linda was a giant. Our readers today often remark how Fast Company has brought design into the realm of business and innovation; Linda pioneered that ideal as an editor here in the early 2000s. Moreover, she kept with it. Through the relationships she cultivated in the profession, she helped make the very first iterations of FastCompany.com into a platform for designers to be heard. And it was because she believed in the power of design, and she believed in the optimism inherent in making the world a little bit better with the things you do every day. All of us at Fast Company, who’ve found our careers bringing design stories to the world, owe Linda a debt. Hopefully, we can repay it by continuing the work.
Stuart Leslie, president, 4sight Inc.
Conversations with Linda about design were always the highlight of my day and I looked forward to each one. Her enthusiasm in understanding the unique angles she was exploring was contagious and left me energized, thinking differently about design each time. What a rare treat it was to be able to escape the day to day routine and have a few minutes of thought provoking discussion to remind me of all the reasons I became a designer.
Bruce Nussbaum, writer
The truth is, I did not know Linda personally but professionally. She was my only real competitor covering the juncture of business and design, and I followed her work obsessively (because she kicked my butt consistently). So much written about Linda focusses on her warmth and humanity, and I’m sure that’s true. But the Linda that was in my life was the killer journalist who had the best sources and wrote the deepest analyses of the most important design issues of the moment. She saw design in terms of relevance to people and tools to solve social problems. I saw Linda’s immense humanity through the lens of her work. She made me a better journalist and a better person.
Clive Roux, CEO, The Society for Experiential Graphic Design
Few people from the media understand the role of design like Linda did. That’s a fact. However, what is perhaps less understood is the role Linda played FOR designers. She was trusted. We’re ideas and picture people. Words escape us usually. Linda had our back there. What made her stand apart was that she did not view design as another topic to be milked. She really believed in the power of good that it could do in the world.
Danielle Sacks, senior editor, Inc.
The first time I encountered Linda Tischler was through her words. I was 25, and had just started my first journalism job as a lowly fact checker at Fast Company. I was fact checking a colorful profile on Howard Dean’s campaign manager, Joe Trippi, written by a senior writer at the magazine—Linda Tischler—who I had yet to meet. I was taken with the story’s attitude, its writerly flair. I needed to meet this Linda woman.
Little did I know that Linda and I would soon become fast friends, despite the years between us. She became the person I decided I wanted to become when I “grew up.” As a young writer, she always took me seriously as a peer, even though I was learning what she had already been doing for decades. When she began immersing herself more deeply in the design world, she let me pick up the pieces of the advertising beat, which she had once carved out for herself. But she graciously relished in watching me take it on, and we’d gab endlessly about stories and reporting strategies and industry scuttlebutt.
She was able to do what very few writers can—she wrote just as she spoke. When you read her work, you could hear her whispering in your ear—her sharp sense of humor, her wit, her word choices, her energetic voice always filled equally with edge and compassion. She’d pluck a word out of thin air that wouldn’t reveal pretension, but her dimension, her worldliness, her many selves as a lover of language, of culture, of the arts. And she was timeless, ageless. Her stories had the hipness and energy of a twentysomething, with the depth and perspective of a much wiser soul. She could go head to head with anyone—and you’d want to be a fly on the wall to watch.
Thirteen years since we first met, Linda is still the woman I want to be when I grow up. She managed to raise two children whom she was fiercely protective of, become a grandmother (albeit, too briefly), a domestic goddess and a feminist, and a successful career journalist who left the field different than she found it. She has helped me navigate my journalistic career with two young kids, just as she did. She has been an incredible friend, making me laugh even during her darkest days with cancer. From a hospital bed, she managed to turn the most mundane, ugly moments into a rollicking, laugh out loud story. It’s hard to imagine a world without another Linda Tischler conversation.
Chuck Salter, senior editor, Fast Company
For years, I had the best seat at Fast Company‘s New York offices: the one next to Linda Tischler. Our friendship traced back to the magazine’s early years, when we bonded over our newspaper backgrounds. But we had always worked out of different cities. In New York, we became next-desk neighbors.
Hearing Linda do countless interviews gave me a deeper appreciation of her craft—how she tirelessly developed and worked her design beat, how quickly she thought on her feet to dig another layer deep, and how she treated people. No wonder her subjects trusted her enough to open up: She was fearlessly human—candid, curious, funny, empathetic. Long before facing cancer herself, she wrote memorably about the professional and personal impact of the disease on the designer Michael Graves and IDEO’s Tom Kelley.
Linda was a generous spirit in a business that’s often competitive and territorial. She shared sources, story ideas, an honest critique — and so much of her time. Her gushy emails when she connected you to a source could make you blush.
As anyone who knew her will attest, Linda was a force. A veteran journalist wired with the energy of a 25-year-old. A critical and creative thinker. A prolific and elegant writer. A devoted friend. My inbox is filled with emails that start more or less, “How are you?”—after a big story, the birth of my son, my mom’s heart surgery. Being friends with Linda made you almost like another beat that she followed with the utmost attention.
I will miss her terribly. Fortunately, her voice remains, not just in her stories, but in our wonderfully rambling email conversations over 16 years. In recent years, although I knew she was often struggling with chemo or pain, she sounded as vibrant and irreverent as ever. In December, she joked that the implant she was getting for pain might let her stream the new season of “Transparent.”
Cancer took her life but not her soul, and definitely not her humor. She wouldn’t let it. That much was clear from one of her earlier notes to me following her diagnosis:
I’m trying to think of this as a reporting experience. Taking notes. All of life is fodder, right?
Keep the jokes coming.
And later, from another note:
Love the idea of a line of Chemo Cupcakes. Maybe coded to specific toxic drugs. Tangerine for taxol, cherry for carboplatin, etc. Who could resist? Step aside, Martha [Stewart]. I claim this niche
That was, and to my mind, will always be, Linda.
Ravi Sawhney, founder, RKS
Linda Tischler was such an incredible person, one of the truly inspirational, loving, insightful and passionate ones. There was a certain spirituality in Linda that I always wanted to be close to and valued dearly. She showed incredible strength and optimism as she battled her cancer, never giving up. I feel blessed to have crossed paths with her, to have become friends, and to have had many conversations about life, design, politics, and mortality. There are those who not only touch your life but somehow become part of the fabric of your world. Linda was such a person, as all her friends and family would tell you. She’ll be so dearly missed.
Leslie Smolan, founding partner, Carbone Smolan Agency
Linda Tischler was my design hero. She could also be called a design aficionado, advocate, supporter, inquirer, explorer, groupie, devotee, maniac, evangelist and connoisseur. She loved design and designers. And she loved to tell the world about us — what we do, why we do it, and why it matters. Losing Linda means we’ve lost an incredibly important voice in the ongoing dialogue about design. And we’ve lost an incredibly kind and generous friend.
Bill Taylor, cofounder, Fast Company
I’m sure that many of the tributes to and remembrances of Linda will focus on her wit and smarts, her mastery of design, and the legacy of articles and books she left behind. But as I have reflected over the last two days, saddened and stunned at her passing, I thought back to that often-repeated quote from Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I will never forget how Linda made me, and all her colleagues in the early days of Fast Company, feel. She was an essential part of Fast Company during the crazy boom times, she was there for the dark and challenging down times, and she was my office next-door neighbor for a chunk of that time. Every single day, she was one of the few grown-ups in an organization filled (professionally speaking) with gangly adolescents. To many of the young people on the staff, she was a mentor and a sounding board. To me, she was a peer, a pal, a trusted colleague to whom I looked for advice and reassurance. Linda exuded a sense of quiet strength, of emotional and intellectual maturity, that is all-too-rare in the world in general, and in the world of media in particular. Those times when I would stroll into her office, pull up a chair, and say, simply “Do you have ten minutes to talk through something?” were some of the best times of my week.
Truth be told, I can’t remember much of what she said in those conversations so many years ago, or what I did as a result of them. But I remember like yesterday how they made me feel. And I feel so blessed to have known and worked with Linda.
Rick Tetzeli, editor-at-large, Fast Company
When I came to Fast Company in 2010, I arrived with one question: Why does this magazine spend so much time on design coverage? It didn’t take me long to figure out the answer, thanks to Linda. Editing her stories, and listening to her patient, humorous, skeptical, and good-natured explanations, I came to understand that the best design writing shows readers how gnarly problems get solved creatively. Linda had been doing this for years–she was a real pioneer. But she was wide open to telling those stories in new ways. One of my favorite experiences with her was working together on a story about architect Bjarke Ingels. As we discussed Ingels, she talked about his energy, his intellectual agility, his almost superhuman capacity for complex projects across the world. We decided that the best way to tell the story was through a comic strip, and the result was one of the freshest things I’ve worked on at Fast Company. The story delighted Linda, who loved the challenge of continually expressing herself—and highlighting work she deeply admired—in new ways. At its best, Fast Company encourages original thinking across creative enterprises. Linda lived this.
My daughters attend a school that’s just a couple of blocks from Ingels’ recently completed apartment complex on West 57th Street in Manhattan, which was featured in our comic strip. In the midst of that dreary neighborhood of glass blocks, Ingels’ building stands out for its angular optimism, a bold, light and unusual burst of energy. Kind of like Linda.
We will all miss her deeply. She had spirit to spare, and we are lucky she shared it with us.
Alissa Walker, writer, Gizmodo (via Facebook)
Even if you didn’t know Linda Tischler you very likely read one of her stories in Fast Company over the years. She was a true champion of the design industry, introducing this sometimes complicated world to the mainstream press and explaining its importance in an incredibly accessible way. She was also a great friend and mentor to me in those early days of my writing career. I will never forget her pulling me aside at one of Fast Company‘s first design events—after she had moderated a panel with her signature quick wit—and telling me that us ladies in design had to stick together. I will miss reading her work and knowing she was always on my side.
Alan Webber, cofounder, Fast Company
Everyone knows that magazining is a team sport. That’s even more true in the early days of a magazine, when it takes everyone on the team to figure out what it is you’re trying to do, not only in the pages of the magazine when it comes out, but also in the creation of the ideas that go into the magazine, the culture of the office where there’s no substitute for good energy, all the things that create magic and sustain it.
That was Linda. She got it. She relished it, for the very first moment of the first day. It was like she’d been invited to be one of the hosts of the very best party you could ever hope to throw or attend. You could see it in her smile, her enthusiasm for the whole venture/adventure. Infectious energy, unstinting generosity, unlimited colleagueship—and of course, remarkable talent, curiosity, work ethic, and heart.
One of the early tenets of Fast Company was that a great organization needs leaders at all levels. Linda was a leader—without seeking a leadership role. Sure, she was smart and able and good at her job. But the thing about Fast Company was, it never was all that clear what your job was, except to demonstrate every day that we were all in it together, and that none of us was as smart as all of us—and she was one of the people who lived that and made it happen.
A magazine is the people who put it out. We were incredibly fortunate to have Linda to help put it out. I loved her then and I will always love her.
If you’d like to share a story about Linda, email slabarre at fastcompany dot com.