Leadership, Creativity, Unicorns
How Our Creative Director Makes Leading a Top of the Line Team Look Easy
Jul 29, 2016
Directing a bunch of mind-blowing creatives can get crazy. Sometimes being a natural leader isn’t enough – you have to be able to show that you’ve done it all, and that you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty. Our very own Creative Director Juniper Sicat is a part of Downtown LA’s thick plastic glasses & cardigan sweater community, and she loves to spin.
When not at her desk, she can be found traveling the globe with a backpack jam-packed with snowboard & SCUBA gear, collecting unicorn chachkes, or critiquing font selections under her breath. We sat down with her to see what it takes to wrangle a team of creatives to create stunning visuals day in, day out.
Tell us about your upbringing; how has it influenced your creative mindset?
My creative interests began to spark around 5 years old when I started experimenting with fine arts like drawing and painting. Picking up a pen or a brush seemed as natural to me as picking up a pencil and writing; those passions are still the foundation for all of the creative work I deal with on a day-to-day basis.
It’s funny because my parents are the complete of opposite of artistic, so I was responsible for my own inspiration and path – BUT I will say they were incredibly supportive of my passions. Throughout high school and college, I was also very interested in photography, so I’d say I don’t limit myself to one specific medium when I’m creating. I think that’s really helped me as a Creative Director as I’m able to understand design and expression through a bunch of different platforms and styles – it gets a lot easier to communicate with your team when you have the knowledge to help them, and have the interest to learn more.
So what ended up drawing you to the ad tech industry?
Back in high school I worked closely with art instructors and mentors that told me that my creative process was tailor-made for graphic design. Personally I wasn’t able to see it because it was so natural for me – I see everything in grids. I ended up taking it to heart and majored in Graphic Design and Fine Arts. While becoming familiar with digital, I was also still focusing on my passion for painting and drawing, as well as teaching elementary school kids fine arts in my free time. As I learned more about Graphic Design I came to understand that for me, every pixel counts. Any single part of your composition is essential to the whole, and I’ve always thought that way, even when I was practicing on a canvas.
After college, I was heavily involved in re-branding and art direction at several major fashion companies. But the spark began to wear off for me after awhile – I wanted something new, but I wasn’t really sure what that was. After taking a long time off to travel, I came back to the US to an offer from SteelHouse (I had been doing a bit of freelance for tech companies here and there). It was hard to say no – the challenge in such a fast moving industry seemed too good to be true. From day one I had a feeling the people I was going to work with were going to be incredible, and it’s safe to say I still feel that same way.
Give us a bit of insight into your process of bringing an idea to life; what are the steps that you feel are necessary, and also things that people sometimes miss?
I’m a big fan of the HBO show Silicon Valley, so for those who are avid viewers, think mood boards. I like to start of my process by compiling a folder or board of inspiration that helps me figure out the tone of the project I’m working on. Anything from colors, images, videos, pieces of clothing, billboards; for me, anything and everything can be inspirational so I spend a good amount of time preparing my mind and getting entrenched by envisioning what I want my piece to look like, feel like, and say. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily unique, but it’s integral to my technique.
Something I feel that many creatives miss when dealing with projects – especially in tech – is working with the right developers, who should always be side-by-side with you on your projects. Knowing the fundamentals of code and UX is such a massive advantage for any creative; if you are unable to communicate clearly and effectively, your work will fall short. Being able to optimize your ability to create freely while also knowing what is possible and what isn’t is so important during the process – you have to know where you’re going before you jump in. When I started working here at SteelHouse, my desire to expand my skill-set led me to enroll in UX classes; once I saw how integrated our devs and creatives were here, I realized I needed to know as much as I could.
I’m so glad I got to expand my arsenal of creativity, and I really think every creative could benefit from technical knowledge.
As Creative Director, your main job is to oversee, not necessarily to get into the weeds and create. How do you satisfy your desire to express your creativity?
Luckily, I’ve worked with this group (both individually and collectively) for a long period of time so we are all on the same wavelength. I think one of the biggest advantages that I have with our team is that we spend a ton of time face-to-face. We all ask each other tons and tons of questions, hash out creative direction for projects together so that we are all on the same page when tackling things from 10 different angles. We’ve all earned each other’s respect over the last few years and I think that’s given us the ability to be honest and concrete with our perspectives.
If I’m not in the office, one of my favorite hobbies for dealing with stress is traveling. After working at my last two companies outside of tech, I took a year off and went all over the world, exploring new cultures and fostering new ideas. That year was really instrumental for me in my career as a designer. When I came back and started working at SteelHouse, it really rekindled my creativity and I haven’t looked back since. Sometimes you just have to get out your routine to find out what actually means the most to you.
You’re in charge of a bunch of different creatives, designers, and art directors. How difficult is it for you to direct so many different mindsets and specialties? How do you make sure everyone stays focused?
I’m with them all the time; I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of working at SteelHouse is that the culture is really transparent. They know they can come to me anytime, and it goes both ways. The biggest hurdle that any director faces is finding people you work with well – I want every member of our team to be comfortable enough to ask any question. If anyone needs my help, I’m always here and available, especially for people outside our department. We work with so many other groups within the company that I want to be sure they feel like they can ask anything. They might not get the answer they prefer, but I want them to at least ask!
I also think a way of being on top of everything is by being on the ground level. I believe that directors limit themselves by not being willing to get their hands dirty – I feel like the only way you can create your best and most meaningful work is by getting into the weeds with your team and tackling things together. It creates a bond between you that you can fall back on; our foundation in the Creative team is built off of trust and that takes time to foster.
Let’s end on a fun note. What’s something about you that virtually no one knows about?
I have an absolute obsession with fake food. Like anything from the fake fruit you see in Z Gallerie to miniature, penny sized fake food dishes. My favorite account is probably Mimine Miniature. I can’t really describe why, but it’s awesome. ?
A very special thank you to Juniper for taking the time to answer our questions and give us a peek into her beautiful mind. If you want to learn more about Juniper, feel free to check our her portfolio or Instagram.
Interested in learning more about SteelHouse? Visit us at www.steelhouse.com