Finding your Voice
What got you into art direction and graphic designing?
Amber Strahl: I had just finished up a foundational Arts program at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, BC, and was enrolled at the Ontario College of Art and Design institute in Toronto, trying to find my way into the art scene. I loved fine art but wasn’t sure what my next steps were. My roommate at the time was enrolled in a graphic arts program and the work she was doing was inspiring, combining art and typography together. I fell in love with the idea of graphic design where art and technology both meet. I bought myself a David Carson book; quit art school and enrolled in a graphic arts program. The rest is history. It was a good fit.
What’s the course of your journey as an artist been like so far?
Amber Strahl: My journey has been pretty great! I got into a top advertising agency (TAXI) young and had so many amazing mentors from that very beginning. My journey in advertising took me into retail design at a top print company (Transcontinental), where I grew in art directing as I was on set every day. I have been so fortunate to have worked with so many fabulous photographers, producers, and creative directors along my journey and I am thrilled that I can continue to work on design projects that come my way!
Please share some of your most valuable lessons from your 15 years of experience.
Amber Strahl: Trust in yourself – that little voice knows a thing or two. Don’t let people treat you badly in the workplace – we are all equal, no matter what role we play in an organization. Hone in on your craft – take courses to better your knowledge and work collaboratively with other creatives on projects.
When creating concepts for clients, create the option the clients want to see but always push yourself to create that option you want to create as well – chances are that your creative will be chosen. Think outside the box and nudge your client to do the same.
“In most of my experience working on these brands, I had a producer, production team, and account manager working alongside me. This allowed me to focus solely on my role as a creative. Fast forward to my freelance career now, I have to wear many hats.”
What are the challenges of coordinating across all aspects of a project, from concept to art directing on-set to print-ready materials?
Amber: Sometimes there are many moving parts such as a copywriter you are waiting for a copy from; a printer who hasn’t gotten back to you; a web designer that works remotely in Costa Rica you need to connect with and so on. The world is so much smaller with the use of the internet and programs where you connect and chat online. It’s incredible! But you have to learn how to solve problems; be organized and make sure all the moving parts can come together to create some great work.
How do you manage your time/effort as an artist while having a family with 3 boys?
Amber: Well, it can sure get busy. I am super duper organized, which helps a lot and I have an amazing partner who supports me, as I do him, and we make sure that we can handle anything that comes our way. I am lucky that I get to do what I love and my family sees that.
They understand that sometimes there are demands and even the ‘Mommy is in her office again’ kind of days. But showing my family, especially my boys, that I love what I do and that it comes with lots of hard work and dedication, will hopefully impact them and help them with their career paths and decisions.
Please highlight your most significant project so far, from brief to final execution.
Amber: Being part of the Koodo Mobile advertising and print campaign launch was incredible. Here we had a brand that said go for anything and make it crazy. It was so liberating. Working with other creatives to make a mobile company look ‘cool’ while showcasing people in 80’s style workout gear was pretty awesome too.
How do you acquire so many clients like Canadian Tire, TELUS Mobility, Koodo Mobile, MINI, etc?
Amber: Honestly, for me, it’s the connections I have made over the years in advertising. Working for different agencies you just gain contacts and opportunities. Most of the top-name brands I worked on were when I either freelanced or worked full-time at the agency that had the brand as a client.
What’s your experience been like working with such varied brands?
Amber Strahl: In most of my experience working on these brands, I had a producer, production team, and account manager working alongside me. This allowed me to focus solely on my role as a creative. Fast forward to my freelance career now, I have to wear many hats. It can be a challenge. But I love the flexibility of working as a freelance designer.
What role did you play for top companies like TAXI, Cossette, The Marketing Store Worldwide + TC Media?
Amber Strahl: I was a graphic designer and art director.
What’s your advice to young artists just starting?
Amber Strahl: The world is truly yours. Knock on all the doors; don’t give up; sometimes you may have to knock again. And follow your instincts; know when to stay at a company and when to move on to a better fit for you.