With over 140 creatives on The Jacky Winter Group books, I can't even begin to imagine how busy the crew at JW HQ must be! Today's interviewees, Fushia O'Hara and Charlotte Ghaie, provide us with a insight of how they manage all those client projects and organise special events. All this whilst looking so effortlessly gorgeous?! Amazing! - Jenny x
Until I met Monica, the only time I would ever use the word 'Gushing' in a conversation would be if I was referring to a deep flesh wound, or the long-forgotten American snack-pack candy. But now I find myself using the word every other hour both in my head and out loud when referring to my insanely amazingly talented, hard-working, beautiful, just downright make me want to be a better person every day staff members. Fushia O'Hara and Charlotte Ghaie are two sterling examples of this, and I am so delighted that they have taken the time to share their experiences with you today.
(Jeremy Wortsman) JW: Fushia! Charlotte! Hello! I'm waving to you from across the hall, but you don't see me. Anyway, lets get started by talking a bit more about what you do. What's a typical day for you like at the agency?
(Fushia O'Hara) FO: Jeremy! Hi! Okay, let's get started. A typical day for me at the agency is a busy one - and involves many different aspects. I just looked over my 'sent items' from yesterday and there were over 60 emails sent! The first one being from my iPhone (in bed) before 7.00am to a NY client and the last one (also sent from my bed) at 11.00pm to another NY client. This last one was explaining that an artist could not talk properly after visiting the dentist and asking if we could please postpone our early morning conference call the next day. So, a typical day for me is definitely not confined to the usual 9-5 hours.
Most of my time at JW is spent managing the production of briefs from start to finished art, working across briefs for illustration, animation, storyboards and photography. At one time I'm usually managing around 10 active jobs and working on the same amount of jobs in the quoting and production schedule stage. Each day I receive a few new briefs and work with each client to complete their brief to the stage where I can suggest a range of artists who would be appropriate for their commission. Sometimes a client knows exactly what they want (love this) and I can go straight into estimating costs and timings, other times I work intimately with the art buyer and art directors to get to this point. There is a lot of references sent to one another to establish the exact look and feel that is required.
During the production of each job I'm constantly managing client and artist expectations, maintaining and updating milestones in the timeline and ensuring client feedback is clear and understood by the artist. I ensure this is carried out properly and dive straight into damage control if anything doesn't go according to plan. When I'm not producing jobs I'm busy working with the team on new promo material to keep the jobs coming in, archiving final art, maintaining the licenses of previous commissions, meeting with clients to touch base or discuss new briefs, looking for new talent, working with Jeremy and Dom at 21-19 to fine tune the running of our new animation agency, Flutter, and of course, playing with Levi and discussing what's for lunch with the girls!
(Charlotte Ghaie) CG : A 'typical' day at Jacky Winter doesn't exist! One of the most endearing (and slightly chaotic) traits of working at JW is the variety of jobs that need to be done, usually all at once, while making sure Billie isn't eating your CIBI muffin off your desk.
At the moment, the Field Trip is playing a HUGE part of my day. Luckily Australian Infront and you (Jeremy) have been amazing at organising it, and I am so excited for the conference! It feels a little bit like the lead up to the end of year Christmas concert, except once it's over I don't get candy canes and school holidays :(
JW: One of the many hats you both wear would probably fall under the traditional role of a producer, in terms of seeing a job through from start to finish. In the hundreds of jobs that you have produced, what would you identify as the three most important qualities of an artist that make a job successful?
FO: Our hand picked roster of artists at JW are the finest commercial artists in Australia, so being seriously talented goes without saying! I'd say the number one quality to accompany this talent is communication. We deal with a lot of unique personalities in the design industry, so having the ability to communicate clearly with them all, to be able to extract the information required to understand a brief, to articulate ideas objectively and to discuss expectation openly is very important in making a job successful.
Along with this, adaptability is very necessary for a commercial artist. Sometimes a brief requires something a little different to an artist's usual style or subject, or we're working with picky art directors or a clients with strict visual legals - having the flexibility to take a plunge and try something new is part of the recipe for success.
Lastly, just being a 'yes' person. Saying yes to that weird brief or the job that is due tomorrow before 9am‚ that final art could be the work that wins you a huge brief next month or keeps that client coming back for more.
CG: One of the best things about working for JW is the variety of artists and personalities we work with, and each artist has their own strengths. So, without generalising TOO much:
1. Having an open mind! Some briefs do sound a little crazy, but the finished product is always so good!
2. Being a tight deadline junkie - seriously, it's like it's their adrenaline hit. The Fast and the Furious meets pencil sketches and file sharing.
3. A love of their agency - we are here to do all of the annoying bits and pieces they don't have to do so they can produce the best quality work in Australia.
JW: What about on the other side? What qualities would a perfect client have to earn them a spot on our heavily coveted holiday gift list?
FO: I'm going to put communication here as number one too! I'm big on communication. The typical 'holiday gift list' client communicates clearly, concisely and consistently. I love a short email which is to the point!
Another attractive trait in a client is knowing what you want. Providing a brief with lots of references, a list of deliverables, rough scamps where necessary and advising me on usage details and deadlines at the first point of contact will definitely warrant a gift at Christmas time. Another admirable quality is trust. We love clients who love our artists, trusting in their style and experience is always going to produce the best outcome!
What else? I think it's pretty important to be nice, it's amazing what you can get away with when you ask nicely.
CG: An appreciation of emoticons ;-)
JW: Fushia, you also have a background in communication design. Are there any skills that you picked up that have been particularly useful in your current role?
FO: Yes, definitely. Firstly there is the love and appreciation of what our artists do, I guess this isn't exactly a skill so to speak, but it is essential.
The main skill that I carry from practising design to managing it is the language. Just like mathematicians need to know their square roots and trigonometry, we need to know our .tiff's, resolutions, 'above the lines' and the difference between vector art and bitmap art.
Along with having a vocabulary in design we also use a lot of design programs. I've always got the basics from the Adobe Suite open as I'm constantly producing presentations for clients, creating templates and timelines, and photoshopping photos of my colleagues.
JW: Charlotte, you also come from a very diverse educational and vocational background, yet managed to seamlessly fit into a role that doesn't have a very traditional pathway. Can you tell us a bit about your background and define some particular characteristics from your former lives that have played a part in being a successful producer?
CG: This is tricky, because it's the first time in while that I have worked in front of a computer all day, and not had to use a glue gun, or fold jeans, or work on an install til 4am.
I studied painting at uni years ago, and I was once told by a lecturer that even if you don't learn anything, an art degree will make you a better person...? Fingers crossed that old guy knew what he was talking about.
I think that the most important lessons I have learnt from my good, bad and very bad jobs, that I can apply to producing at JW, are that hard work is key, and never expect everything to run smoothly! Also, ask everyone as many questions as possible, embrace the chaos and be nice to everyone. I do this at Jacky Winter daily, or at least I aim to. I definitely ask a lot of questions. Annoying much?
JW: While a great deal of our work is done over the phone and email, I think many of our successes are due to our strong presence in-person. What do you think makes for establishing a positive interpersonal bond with clients and artists?
FO: We are really big on making sure that we are not just an email address and a voice on the end of the phone - who wants to deal with that?! Whenever it's possible we will meet with our clients to receive a brief. This isn't just because we like to check out fancy design offices, it's because we like to get to know the people we are working with and know that there is definitely a mutual appreciation of this.
Because we are based in Melbourne and half of our clients and artists are in Sydney, we make sure that we visit Sydney regularly too. Late last year I had the honour of taking Spanish artist, Alex Trochut, around to some of our favourite agencies in Sydney and Melbourne to do a little presentation of his working methods and meet chat with the art directors. We had such a positive response to this that we decided to host a conference this year.
I definitely believe that our involvement with our artists and clients outside of managing and producing commissions has everything to do with being such a successful agency.
JW: Charlotte, you have particularly honed this skill from previous experience in retail environments. Did you pick up any tips and tricks that you think would benefit design and creative businesses?
CG: Experience in any customer service role sets you up really well in any job you pursue, as you understand how to read people and interpret their mood ("leave me alone", "no, I don't want to try on a size smaller" etc.) But seriously, I think that understanding your client/artist is much like that. Have respect for them, and listen! Retail is in my family, my brother and sister own Blackhearts & Sparrows Wine Purveyors, and they have taught me that you and need to know and pay attention to your product/customer. Oh, and don't forget your manners!