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SARAH FOELSKE OF BMD ON THE 99%

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  • Sarah Foelske of Bruce Mau Design: On Creativity, Collaboration & Jay-Z
    By: Jenn Godbout

    I recently sat down with Sarah Foelske, an associate creative director at Bruce Mau Design in Toronto to chat about being present within the creative process, and the unique challenges of leading that process as a female designer. Over the years, Foelske has worked at Wieden + Kennedy, Laird + Partners, Mac Cosmetics, and Morgan's Hotel Group and collaborated with clients including Nike, Gap, ESPN, and Avon -- so she knows from where she speaks.

    How do you get the ideas flowing when you're on deadline?
    There's usually a time in any project when a stuck moment happens, and I find that getting away from the computer and the busyness of the day is the most important part in successfully battling that. Even if it's only for 10 minutes. When you rest your mind, the ideas will come easier. I find any exercise and meditation really helpful, as creativity is all about being focused and present to me.

    I also have tons of things that I've saved, dimensional items, whether its tear sheets from magazines or invitations to events that I liked, or beautiful packaging, or just anything that inspires me. And, I have these books that are not categorized by anything but are just full of visual works, so I'll flip through those for ideas.


  • What's your take on managing clients? It seems to be a perennial challenge...
    I think it comes back to making sure everyone's part of the process so that it's not just clients making decisions or just creatives -- it should be both. Every time I've become stuck in a client relationship, it's because I'm trying to make too many decisions on my own and it's because they're not included in the process. I think, as long as everyone is included at each stage of a project, it tends to go better. 

    What was it like to work at Wieden or other agencies that tend to be male-dominated?
    Good question. I think my design used to be more gender-specific to being female, but I've realized just how important it is to design for the masses, which is why I've looked for variety in my career. I think almost any project is more successful when it's not too masculine or too feminine. Sometimes it's hard being a woman in this profession. Especially when part of my value system is to be kind and compassionate, but being a successful Creative Director is about being decisive and blunt at times -- that can be a challenge for me. Not that any of these traits are masculine or feminine, I've just had to learn to be direct and compassionate at the same time. 

    When have you had to be more blunt than you wanted to?
    When I look back at my career, the people that I admire most are the ones who can lead with compassion, from a place of teaching, rather than being "the boss." I just try to form relationships with people I work for and with. The only time I am uncomfortable being firm or blunt is if the rapport is not there.

    Read the full interview on the99percent.