What Matters: Janine Toro On Connecting With People and the Kitchen as Creative Gateway

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Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.

Janine Toro is a user experience leader and advocate of digital product experiences as well as the users that interact with them. Currently, she is working as a UX Strategy Lead at Instrument, an adjunct professor at Pratt Institute, and serving on the AIGA NYC Board.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

Connecting people. Whenever I interact with someone, and I can feel their passion and excitement over a project they are involved in or a cause they care about, I immediately feel the urge to connect them to others in hopes a conversation or introduction might help them on their path in making a difference. 

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

Growing up Italian-American, I spent much of my time in the kitchen at a young age and throughout my life learning and preparing many generational family recipes. Most of which have been something along the lines of adding a few pinches of this seasoning with no exact measurements. Therefore I had to learn by adding and tasting with the help of my nana and mom. 

The other memory of being creative that comes to mind is I really enjoyed making dioramas for many of my projects in elementary school, especially one where I used plaster of paris to make an ocean.

What is your biggest regret?

I truly do not have any regrets, and I, like many others, have learned that most things happen for a reason. I acknowledge each setback as an opportunity to pause and re-evaluate. Decisions made quickly or without enough information serve as a reminder to do more research, ask more questions, and seek other opinions.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

Lots of reflecting and crying as a release to heal, along with self-care and self-work.

What makes you cry?

See above. But really, heartbreak and not having reciprocation. Also, loss and anger.

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

Never long enough. That is something I’m more mindful of, especially embracing wins, even the small ones. I reflect on those wins to see the effort and time to achieve the goal.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

Yes. It’s peaceful, equal, and you’re free to be as you are. 

What do you hate most about yourself?

My impatience with myself and sometimes others. 

What do you love most about yourself?

My perseverance and passion for learning and growing.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

Homemade spaghetti with pomodoro sauce topped with basil and cracked fresh pepper and parm with a side of cucumber tomato salad, garlic bread, and an Arnold Palmer with cubed ice and lemon. Creme brûlée for dessert for the taste and satisfaction cracking into it.