2 Minutes With ... Linda Carte, Creative Director at Fuse Create

On Guinness' 'Surfer,' the Canadian Paralympics and her TikTok obsession

Linda is creative director at Fuse Create in Toronto. She has led brands including Visa, Frito-Lay, Starbucks, Canadian Paralympics, Ikea, Mercedes-Benz and Kia. Her work has been honored by D&AD, Cannes, The One Show, Communication Arts and, of course, the Clios. She has taught at the Miami Ad School, is currently on the faculty of Centennial College, and has been a visiting instructor at Ontario College of Art and Design (one of her alma maters). When she's not helping clients grow their business, you will find her second-guessing Waze and regretting it.

We spent two minutes with Linda to learn more about her background, creative inspirations and some recent work she's admired.

Linda, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now. 

I grew up in Hamilton (aka "The Steel Lunch Bucket," aka "The Hammer") and now live in Toronto. It's only an hour away from Hamilton, but for years my parents treated it like driving into NYC.

How you first realized you were creative. 

Kindergarten open house. I'd painted a picture of butterflies in art class that my teacher hung in the hall for the school open house. Parents gathered around it and were saying how good it was and that I was quite the artist. I thought, "Wow, these adults think I'm an artist!" I loved painting and drawing and all things art, so I just kept going; now, of course my repertoire includes more than just butterflies. My mom saved that painting (a feat in itself, as I'm one of seven kids) and I still have it.

A person you idolized creatively early on. 

Milton Glaser, Pentagram Design, Rankin/Bass.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life. 

When I went to OCAD it was a very competitive admissions process, in particular their communication and design program. I really wanted to get in, worked on my book, but didn’t make the cut. I took the maximum classes they would allow in C&D and my other classes were drawing, textile printing and sculpture. That whole year I felt like an outsider looking in. I thought that was it, I'm out—can I make a living cartooning, is that a thing? When I applied and finally got into my third year, I understood that this was what I wanted to do. 

A visual artist or band/musician you admire. 

Wes Anderson 

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring. 

I am a huge fan of the podcast, Smartless. Will Arnett, Sean Hayes, and Jason Bateman are so brilliant, funny, and off the cuff. I don't know if it's scripted, it doesn't sound like it, but their banter is absolutely hysterical. And timing wise, it’s one-dog-walk long.

Your favorite fictional character. 

Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. A true never-say-die kind of gal!

Someone or something worth following in social media. 

Well, I've become a TikTok addict as of late. It was perfectly timed for me when the pandemic hit and I … can't … stop! I think of it as a geographical core sampling of humanity. It's everyone and everything you could possibly imagine. I particularly like @sand.tagious. It's a massage for your eyeballs.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally. 

It reminded me of how much I love and miss working with people in-person in this business. Creative, funny, talented people jamming on ideas, grabbing coffee, talking about everything unrelated to solving the problem at hand and then solving the problem at hand. I'm an extrovert and a lot of energy comes from being around and in an environment where ideas, conversations and a little Sean Paul are flowing. I am a fan of the hybrid model though; I think it's indeed the best of both worlds.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on. 

I did a campaign for the Canadian Paralympics showing how badass these athletes are. It was important for people to get the message that these athletes don’t want your sympathy, they deserve your respect for achieving things most people will never come close to. The director was Mark Zibert and we shot overnight. The set was mostly comprised of actual firefighters, police, nurses and doctors. There was very little CG and we had to time out the scene perfectly to line up with athlete Alistair McQueen's run time. He qualified for the London Paralympics shortly after the shoot.

A recent project you're proud of. 

I am a huge believer in mentoring, so people are my recent project. I've taught part time at Centennial College for the past 10 years and also at Miami Ad School (I'm on their mentoring board as well). This is a hard field to break into and to understand the roles of everyone in an agency. As a creative, there is an extra layer of working with a partner. I am really passionate about this business, how it's evolving, the art and craft of it, the storytelling—I hope I pass that enthusiasm on to the next wave of people coming up.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Hands down it was Guinness' "Surfer," directed by Jonathan Glazer. It literally stopped me in my tracks. When the voiceover stopped, I held my breath. From the silent opening and the surfer whose eyes don't quite line up, to the heartbeat of the track, the visuals, the build, the yelling, the poetry of using part of Moby Dick for the v.o., the use of the silences in it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It's beautiful. It's powerful. It's a film, not a commercial.

Someone else's work you admired lately. 

This idea from a bookshop in the U.K. stood out to me last week in the onslaught of images and articles we skim every day. It's clever, timely, fresh, solves a business problem, controversial and above all, simple. 

Your main strength as a creative person. 

A sense of humor, being chatty, and genuinely interested in people, places and things. It was written on my grade three report card, "Linda talks too much in class and disrupts the other kids."

Your biggest weakness. 

Thinking one day I will organize the MISC REF folder on my desktop into photography, design, art, typography, articles sub folders. 

One thing that always makes you happy. 

Going for breakfast on the weekend with my husband and kids. Love it. Sometimes I can’t sleep the night before because I'm looking forward to it so much. It’s also the only time I will eat eggs over medium.

One thing that always makes you sad.

The phrase "it is what it is." I hate that. It's accepting defeat when there are always other ways to solve problems. It never "is what it is."

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

I'd love to direct a short film, documentary and/or animated film. It combines a lot of what I love about advertising. My problem would be deciding on the subject matter and format.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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