Sarah Leonie Lewis
Even though I’d really like to specialise in drink packaging, my all time favourite project was for a charity that helps people with autism. I really love to work with people who are making a positive impact
Both art and science have been a big part of my life ever since I can remember. I was always fascinated by the connection between people, their environment and culture and as a teenager, I had a few fantastic teachers that really inspired me to try completely different things. Some great examples were my art and geography teachers who were married to each other and both had such an engaging style of teaching. My geography teacher even had a wild tectonic plate song and threw pens around the classroom to show glacial movement! Hard to forget.
Because I had a very creative family and an early interest in sculpture, it felt like I was supposed to go to art school and work as a creative. But I never liked when things felt easy and I had a really strong pull towards a career in science. One of the big factors that drew me to geology was the idea of working in the Arctic. There is something so adventurous and exciting about polar exploration and the His Dark Materials books I read when I was younger had a big impact on me. After completing my degree I realised that the academic setting was not something I actually enjoyed and in an interesting twist, I started to feel excited about creating again. During my time at University I joined the Whisky Society and fell in love with the packaging design and branding of whisky.
It felt like a relief to make the decision to go back in to creative again and I enrolled at university to study design. I never thought I would start my own business, partly because freelancing was framed as the backup secondary option to working for an agency. It was a very practical degree and we used to have industry professionals mentor us so we could learn from experts in the field. There was always some underlying feeling that if you got paired with a freelancer, you should be a little disappointed. It was only when I met up with a great family friend who runs an agency that I had my eyes opened about the opportunities of running your own business. She encouraged me to show initiative and go out on my own and not just rely on finding a job with someone else. As hard as it can be to run your own business, I am so happy that I started my design and branding business.
"Because I had a very creative family and an early interest in sculpture, it felt like I was supposed to go to art school and work as a creative. But I never liked when things felt easy"
What does your dream project look like?
Even though I’d really like to specialise in drink packaging, my all time favourite project was for a charity that helps people with autism. We were awarded a runner up D&AD award for it but I always felt that the project could have had so much more positive impact from the exposure of winning. It is a project I always come back to in my mind and I want to sit down and expand the project one day so that perhaps we can make it a reality. I love to work with people who are making a positive impact.
What is something that makes you feel stressed in your job?
Money is probably the biggest one. I really like to be spontaneous so making sure I take time to plan for the long term goals of my business and not just get bogged down in work is also a big one.
Where do you look for inspiration?
The best way to get inspired for me is to experience new people, places and situations. I try to get out of my office as often as I can to network, go to a gallery and even travel. Anything that can help me step out of my comfort zone is helpful. This means I also tend to say yes when friends ask me to join in their hobbies or try something new, giving some more balance to my everyday life. For business advice, I really like The Futur’s channel and support hubs like Google Digital Garage and Business Gateway in Edinburgh.
"Recognising the rise in automation and that people are being replaced by robots, it is creative problem solving and the personal touch that will be crucial to staying relevant. "
What challenges do you think the creative field will face in the next 10 years?
Recognising the rise in automation and that people are being replaced by robots, it is creative problem solving and the personal touch that will be crucial to staying relevant. One Skype call or face-to-face meeting is worth fifty e-mails. In earlier generations the creative professions were often frowned upon as a risky career path but I think they will be seen in a different way in the future. The definition of having a job will probably change as well, so being adaptable will help.
What is your best tip for growing your business?
Networking has been really helpful for me but there is a fine balance between meeting new people, making contacts and spending too much time away from your office. Recently, I have reevaluated and decided that the time I would spend attending events is better used to create a business strategy or updating my website. It is a balance and I think you have to test it out for yourself.
What is something you want to learn more about?
CAD and being able to visualise ideas for sculptures or creative concepts before you actually dig in. Another field I am really interested in is 3D and experiential design. I think we will see a lot more brands engaging with the way customers have a positive experience with their service or product and I would love to be involved in projects like that.
Do you have any tips for staying productive and motivated?
Find a company role model and see how they present themselves and the way they run their business. By having that example to follow, it can feel easier to prioritise what you need to do first. Also make sure you surround yourself with positive people that inspire you and try to not stress about the future too much. It is ok to make plans but sometimes we forget to be happy about where we are.
What advice would you like to give someone who is just starting out?
My top tip would be to just start. It is easy to feel like things have to be perfect before you put them out there but you will learn as you grow and can figure things out along the way. Learn from your mistakes.
Don’t get too overwhelmed by social media. There can seem like a lot of pressure to be on every platform but it is better to pick one you like and where your customers are and focus.
If you have to change your business or if circumstances in your life make it difficult to continue on a particular route, try to see it as a positive new challenge even if it doesn’t feel that way at that moment. In a way, you are just about to discover a new passion you didn’t know you had.