Sarah Berends is a commercially focused, global Creative Director with experience developing brands from the non-profit sector through to luxury markets. Driving her strategic, creative vision for over 30+ consumer brands, Sarah has delivered major campaigns for Sephora, Amazon, Starbucks, The World Wildlife Fund, and Pfizer.
1. What was your very first job?
My first job was working as an intern in the branding department for Perry Ellis in New York City. My professor from the School of Visual Arts was the creative director and she invited me and a couple of my classmates to work there through the summer. It was inspiring experience to see behind-the-scenes of the fashion world and be a part of the energy.
2. Please describe, in your own words, what your job is and what work it entails.
My job title is Art/Creative Director, but at the heart of what I do is help people make decisions. This is both internally and externally through the creative and every day it is evolving. Technology and data have made the possibilities exhilarating.
3. How did you discover that the creative world was right for you? Was there a time in your life that you credit to this discovery? Was there a train of events that brought you to where you are today?
My father and grandmother have the creative "gene" so I was brought up in a crafty household. However, I didn't realize it was possible to pursue art as a career until much later in life, and after much floundering. I come from a small, rural, Midwestern town in the US. Back then we didn't travel out of the state often and the world was very small.
4. In a constantly changing world, how do you find inspiration to keep your work fresh, innovative and relevant?
My work is rooted in communicating human truths. I'm driven by an insatiable curiosity when it comes to getting to the truth of the story, the why behind it all. So in that way, it is constantly evolving and changing and never out-of-date.
Recently, there has been exciting progress in the field of behavioral economics facilitating our understanding of decision making. This understanding filters through every aspect of what we do, why we do it, and what we might do next. To me, this understanding is imperative to drive communication.
5. If you had to pick one piece of work or project that you are most proud of, more for the creative work and innovation it required, rather than its recognition or industry “success,” what would it be?
A few years ago I took the plunge and starting my own business. It was an online flower delivery concept with national delivery capabilities. While ultimately we decided to close the business, it had tremendous wins and forced me out of my comfort zone in astounding ways.
I chose to invest my own money which meant I had to come up with clever ways to execute on things. I had to learn digital marketing, accounting, fulfillment, PR, and customer service on-the-fly. I feel like I came away with the equivalent of a Master's Degree in Business. It was an invaluable experience and translates to all the work I do for clients today.
6. Which creative disciplines do you commission most, and are most interested in seeing more of and why? Which of these disciplines are you most interested in seeing at CONNECTIONS? (ie photo, film, production, social, experiential, vr, cgi, animation etc)
During my foray into business, I taught myself product photography in order to save on costs which led me to discover one of the great loves of my life.
Photography is experiencing a democratization thanks to social media and digital photography. There is a truth cord being struck which reverberates through culture and media at every level. I believe video is the next iteration of this and something we've only begun to realize the potential for.
Concurrently, truly great photographers continue to develop work that will withstand the test of time. Those photographers are firmly grounded in the past and leveraging it to propel photography forward. That is thrilling to see and support.