We get the chance to pick the brains Wellington based Capital Magazine‘s Art Director, Shalee. Shalee shares with us the traits of a great intern and 9 killer tips for getting started in the creative industry!
Where do you gather inspiration, on and off the web?
I am the undeclared Queen of Pintrest. It’s the ultimate design solution – it’s solved a problem I wasn’t aware I had. (And no, I’m not a bored house-wife). Pintrest has allowed me to keep boards for each project, gather inspiration, share them with fellow collaborators & get their feedback. And I can access that information on loads of different formats, like on my laptop with a client or an iPhone at a shoot. I was always that student ripping pages out of miscellaneous magazines & whacking them into my workbook the night before the project was due. Inspiration for me, was always a very internal process, a gut instinct, a thought, a feeling. But as I progressed with my studies, I learnt the importance of documenting your processes and why. You need to be able to articulate your inspiration & thought processes with a client. It’s also helpful to know where your idea has come from to see where it’s going.
Tell us about where you are today and what you love about your job! Today i’m on a juice cleanse & we’ve got a chocolate tasting shoot this afternoon. Wonderful luck. In the greater scheme of life, I’ve worked my way up from the bottom – from Mac Operator to Art Director. I’ve worked the ludicrous hours, put the OE on hold (for ten years!) & sacrificed the lunches/holidays/gigs. And because of it, I have a satisfying career which I’m grateful for. I’m currently Art Director for Capital mag – it’s one of those ridiculous jobs you’re actually excited about every morning. I get to bring my mad ideas into fruition, with the help of talented people, everyday. I spend my time creating wild scenes at the studio, picking local talent to cover in the mag and having meaningful conversations with interesting people. I read ‘A Whole New Mind’ by Daniel Pink a long time ago and it rang a bell with me. It’s about the commodity of ideas, feelings & meaning in a world of excess. To ensure we’re successful in the creative industry, he believes we need to master six human abilities – Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning. I live & die by these values as an Art Director.
What has been some of the biggest lessons youve learnt along the way? Art direction is: 30% the idea. 50% being organised. 20% knowing the right people for the right job. You don’t have to be the best designer – you just have to want it the most. University/training is a formality. Design is a trade. Learn how to work your tools & your ideas. Make good decisions: Being decisive is important. Knowing when it’s not working is important. Knowing what to change is important. Work hard on everything, always. You don’t know where something might lead.
Whats your take on internships? and do you take interns now? I’ve always taken on interns. There’s such massive talent floating around Wellington, I’d be silly not to. They’re particularly important for Capital mag. Without their involvement, we miss that younger voice. Each intern brings new interests, connections and conversations. Their ideas are just as important as the extra set-of hands they provide. We put a lot of time & energy into our interns. We ask them their strengths & interests & tailor work towards those. I want them to get the answers & experience they need. And I expect them to work hard while they’re with us – to use initiative, listen and be clever. They need to be adding. It’s also important for me personally to help young people navigate the industry & mentor them. I admire people who want to make opportunities for themselves. I don’t know that I ever had someone to give me advice and support when I was starting out (I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway, cough cough). Personally, to watch somebody develop from an opportunity you’ve given them is humbling. It minds you of where you started & the challenges. Plus, I currently work with loads of my interns from years ago, so I know internships work.
What advice would you give students starting out? Oh my god, I have so much! 1. Don’t worry about your marks, focus on your portfolio. And with that portfolio, edit. Make sure you’ve got the most relevant & fresh 5-7 pieces for each job you apply for. 2. Don’t be a sheep. A lot of people coming out of Uni have similar aesthetics – I’m pretty good at picking which Uni someone has studied at, just from their portfolio, now. 3. Do free work, get experience. I still take on free jobs if they appeal to me creatively. 4. Get fast & efficient. 5. Make the phone call, send the email, take a packet of bickies & meet with people. The amount of times someone gives me a call at the time we’re needing help is creepy. 6. Make sure you’re easy to work with. 7. Be dedicated. If it’s due – bring your dinner. And you definitely won’t be going to the gym for awhile. 8. Be multi-talented. Have many strings to your bow – you’ll limit your options otherwise. 9. It’s a hard industry to get into. You’ll need blind confidence, wild ambition & fresh ideas.
What does a typical working day include for you right now? I Art Direct two magazines, Capital & ArtZone, contract with a design company, Haines Attract & freelance in any spare time. I’m also a solo parent to one very spunky four year old. So my days are joyful-chaos. My role as Art Director with Capital is one of the conductor – I make sure everything is in harmony & singing the right notes. It’s about the big picture stuff, rather than details. A lot of my day is spent communicating a vision – I write briefs for our photographers & illustrators. I tailor each brief to specific people. It’s important as an Art Director to know each person’s strength so you’re both getting the best finished product. I also style fashion & interior shoots, take care of the general look & feel of the brand and manage our little creative team. I’m lucky each of my jobs utilises different skill sets & fulfils different interests. Capital is where I set the parameters, Haines is where I am given the parameters & freelancing is where the only parameters are my own skills. I’m veracious with work, which is a nice way of saying I still haven’t learnt to say no. I just accepted another freelance job literally 10 minutes ago, after telling myself I wouldn’t take anymore work on this month. So call me a slow learner – a very happy, grateful, slow-learner.