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Experiences that made me Lisa Riordan

02 July 2024

In this series, we ask Imagination talent all about the experiences that have made them who they are. This month we spoke to Lisa Riordan, Creative Director at Imagination London.

A bit about me… 

An Irish Londoner born and raised in Dublin, I’ve spent most of my adult life living in London - a city brimming with culture and creativity that inspires me every day. 

A passionate lover of design in all its forms, interiors, furniture, fashion, exhibition, theatre, visual media - anything that allows artistic expression. 

I began studying fine art and sculpture, before switching courses to study environmental design, which was a blend of theatre set design, furniture design, and interior and exhibition design.

An internship during university took me to New York and Cannes where I lived and worked for a couple of years.

I enjoy travel and my work has taken me to some of the most amazing places; Iceland, California, Al Ula to name but a few. But my favourite place on earth is West Cork in Ireland where I kick back and truly relax.

I’m a wife and a ‘fur mama’ to a seven-month-old Cavalier King Charles Puppy called Arnie.

My friends would describe me as a fast walker, a slow eater, a multitasker, a diplomat, a dedicated yogi, a recipe inventor, a culture vulture, a queen of one-liners and a ‘stylist' who loves to play dress up.

The creative experience that influenced me the most…

During a university trip to London, I got a tour of the Imagination building which included inspirational talks. One of the Directors told a story of when he was starting out, one of his projects was to create an incredible ambience for an event for a client who had little budget. His idea was simple yet theatrical. It was to blow up hundreds of balloons, fill the pool and garden and light them. The simplicity of the idea was what inspired me and showed me that with a bit of ‘Imagination’ you can create magical memorable moments. 

I never thought that years later I would one day get to work there.

My industry hero is…

A strong female figure in modernism; Eileen Grey. An Irishwoman who was regarded as one of the most influential 20th-century architects and designers. She was also an avant-garde artist who constantly reacted to new art movements. She brought a new approach to shape, line, colour, materials and textures. She was a pioneer of her time in lacquer work and the first designer to work in chrome. The Bibendum chair and the E1027 table are two of my favourite pieces of hers.

As a woman during her lifetime, she was somewhat under-appreciated for her achievements and contribution to design but she continues to inspire designers today.  I’ve been lucky enough to see a few exhibitions which showcase her work in The Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Design Museum and The Barbican. 

The piece of work I’m most proud of…

I have lots of projects I’m proud of for different reasons, but one of my hero projects was working with Imagination and Robb Report to transform a desert island in the Red Sea into a semi permanent luxury and adventure resort for over 300 guests and 60 superyacht owners. The project took seven months from brief to completion. I worked with a multidisciplinary team of interior designers, architects and production experts to design a welcome centre, two restaurants operated by Michelin starred chefs, a beach house, a spa, a boutique, an outdoor theatre and cinema as well as cabanas, and two jetties.  It was an incredible project that drew on an extended skill set of graphic designers, digital, sound, lighting specialists, creative producers and culinary experts. The five day experience was programmed to include a full range of cultural activities including open-air concerts featuring a line-up of Grammy Award-winning musical names to exceptional culinary events with some of the world’s finest chefs.

The piece of work that makes me cringe… 

I’m not sure I have a piece of work that makes me cringe. 

I always try to put a positive spin on most aspects of my life and learn from every experience.

The experience I wish I had created… 

Any immersive theatre or art experience. I’ve been to so many. The Blade Runner Secret Cinema experience was a lot of fun blending theatrical set design with technology and cinema. Punchdrunk’s Burnt City was very esoteric and abstract, but I enjoyed the exploratory nature of it. Frameless, which is a permanent immersive art gallery, is pretty amazing and awe-inspiring. 

Anything by Es Devlin. I particularly loved her public sculptural installation at the Tate last year in conjunction with Cartier. It shone a light on climate change and the species at risk in the capital. The artwork itself was made up of sketches, light and sound art. It came to life each evening with a live choir. Truly mesmerising.

Advice to my 18-year-old self… 

Focus on your unique talents, be confident in your abilities, and don't be afraid to speak your mind. Never give up the quest to learn. Surround yourself with interesting people who inspire you every day. Have no regrets.

What’s next? 

I’m working on a brand relaunch at the moment which is super exciting but I can’t talk about it yet. In my spare time, I’m also interested in the idea of dabbling in AI software - some of my colleagues have produced incredible visuals that are used as inspiration and mood. I find it fascinating. Outside of the office, I’ve signed up to do a ceramics course as I love the idea of making something and I’ve read that the creative process involved can have a profound impact on your overall happiness.

Lisa Riordan

Creative Director, Imagination

As a Creative Director at Imagination, Lisa directs and leads the multi-skilled Creative Team responsible for delivering award-winning experiences globally for a variety of luxury brands including Rolls Royce, Jaguar Land Rover and Robb Report.

With over 20 years of experience, her expertise and talents lie in the overall design and storytelling of engaging, highly creative communication solutions for strategically driven projects. 

Lisa has previously led teams in New York, Cannes and London for leading International agencies delivering cutting edge creative solutions for a range of clients.