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Interview with Art Director Clara Goodger

Ella
14th May 2019

We spoke with Art Director and Designer Clara Goodger about her career path, colouring outside the lines and why feeling the fear is good for you. 

Hi Clara, Thanks for talking to us. Can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an Art Director? What did you study at Kingston and did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do at that stage?

I studied both my Art Foundation and Graphic Design BA at Kingston University. I never had a specific idea before Kingston of what it was I wanted to become, but that was half the fun of the exploration within Art Foundation! I joined with the prospect that I would most likely become an illustrator, as I was obsessive with making drawings. But the teachers told me that my drawings were over laboured and they guided me to look towards design instead. That’s when it started to emerge to me that Graphics was a much more natural fit in terms of how I approached projects in my thinking, taste and interests.

However even when I left university and was fresh into London, I still wasn’t completely sure of what path I wanted to follow. I have never felt like I fall perfectly within the realms of one particular field — I’m influenced by so much. 

What was your first job- what surprised you most about the industry? 

My first job was working as a graphic designer at the Swiss design studio BOB Design, who have a studio both in London and Zurich. The studio was co-founded by Mireille Burkhardt, who also co-founded Bob Books! Being at BOB for my first job was really the dream — the team are so talented.

I think it has a big impact on you being surrounded by intelligent people who love what they do and care about the reasons why you’re creating something, as much as how it looks. 

Nothing can compare to learning on the job. At university I felt I really developed my way of thinking, but on some level I would procrastinate to physically execute my ideas to the same level of thought. It was only until I was at BOB that I started to properly understand the act of thinking through doing — how to visually build your idea. It does makes the difference when the outcome is not just for you, but for another person who trusts you will come up with a beautiful solution! 

Of course when you’re fresh out of university you feel like a fish out of water, but bit by bit you adapt and learn the ropes. At BOB because everyone was so talented I really felt the pressure to produce something great each time, but this was a great advantage because it forced me to push myself even harder.

Image credit: Adidas Arkyn, Photography: Francesco Nazardo, Creative & Art Direction: Clara Goodger at U-Dox

How does one identify a great designer? How do you think they can stand out? 

For me great designers are people who are not afraid to be true to themselves. They trust their instincts and create something that unashamedly works for them. It’s trusting in your personal process. 

I’ve only really come to understand that recently. There are so many ways of approaching a design problem, and therefore it’s important to begin to decipher what your experience or personal interpretation is and learn to harness that within your work.

To stand out you have to learn to speak your mind and form an opinion. You need to be open to having discussions with people in your field and making yourself visible. You need to be active in engaging with the scene around you and taking risks. 

And you need to work hard. Really hard. 

I think there’s also a lot to be said for having fun with it all. In my experience all the best designers are the ones who don’t take themselves too seriously.  

Where do you take inspiration from? Art, music, fashion, travel? Do you have a process as such or is it something more fluid?

I find for me to get the best ideas and references I actively need to engage in lots of different outlets and mediums. Being in London means I have access to so many wonderful galleries, events and people to spark the imagination, and therefore I deliberately seek things which I feel will teach me something new.

Naturally I read a lot of magazines and books — I recently joined a great feminist bookclub called Ladies Lit Squad to force me to read books outside my comfort zone and engage with fictional tastes that aren’t necessarily mine. I think it’s healthy to broaden your boundaries beyond just subject areas that feel familiar to you.

I also tend to have a lot of discussions with friends, both in person and on social media, where we share things of interest with one another. These suggestions I favour the most because I am heavily inspired by the people I love and work with.

What I find has me the most excited though is travelling and meeting new people — I’m very lucky in the fact that the job I’m in now requires me to travel a lot and work with lots of different characters. I absolutely love it. Recently I went on a work trip to LA and just the difference in energy, architecture, foliage and even the even the quality of light, had me excited! I’m currently planning my next trip to Japan…design wise I hear it is a sensation…

I think the things that excite you stay with you somehow and unintentionally find their way into your work.

Image credit: Hunger Magazine / Hunger Magazine Annual, Design & Art Direction: Clara Goodger

What did you take from Rankin Photography? What skills do you think were most necessary?

Before Rankin I had never made a magazine in my life and when I joined the company both designers I was meant to be working alongside left, so suddenly I was leading the design team and creating things I had no real experience of creating. It was a very steep learning curve to say the least! But I was very thankful to Rankin for entrusting me with so much responsibility from the beginning. He taught me to speak up for myself and think on my feet.

I had to develop a bit of a “feel the fear and do it anyway” attitude. The team was built up of strong and talented individuals who all brought something completely different to the table, and all had something to say. These were people who are well known within their field and have worked hard to get there. It was always a high energy atmosphere. You had to know what you wanted to say and how you intended to do it, otherwise you would just get lost in the noise.

Having come from a design background, it was fascinating to start to perceive different creative perspectives through all the various roles that were involved in the making of one magazine or book. Watching the shoots gave me a taste for art directing — nothing beats the energy of being on set and seeing a beautiful image come to life before your eyes.

And tell us about your role at U-Dox now?

My role is Art Director at U-Dox. This involves coming up with a creative idea for a client and then working out how you aim to achieve that through image making, film, design and events.

You curate a mood and tone of voice. Then you choose a team that would best help you achieve this — finding a photographer who would understand the nuances you’re trying to achieve across a series of images, or a stylist who can take the product and make it feel personal to the model. It’s so interesting to dissect the tonality of an image in order to work out how to say what you want to say.

I still get to work with design but I am now more heavily involved in the image making side of things, however my background has helped me approach art directing from a much more graphically led perspective.

Image credit: Bob Design, Creative & Design : Mirielle Burkhardt, Aaron Merrigan, Kieran O’Connor, Clara Goodger

What would you tell aspiring designers, photographers? What's your attitude to social media, as a tool for creatives? 

I would tell aspiring designers and photographers to try and actively meet new people you’re interested in to have discussions about that they do and get an understanding of their backgrounds — this doesn’t have to necessarily be within the confines of fields of work you know. For each job I’ve had I haven’t had the ‘correct’ skillset or background required, but it doesn’t matter if you have a connection with your team and work hard. Take the risk!

I think social media can be a great tool and platform for creatives. I use it a lot in my role at U-Dox, particularly Instagram. How I source photographers, models, stylists etc are all now mainly through Instagram as it’s such a quick way to visually assess someone’s work — it’s like an online portfolio. Another great thing about Instagram is it’s a good way to connect with people in the industry and not feel like you’re encroaching on someones personal space. I find it can be quite a supportive space. 

There’s no doubt it can be used in an unhealthy way, so it’s trying to retain the balance between using it as a work tool and using it for personal enjoyment. I find it hard to get it right as I enjoy browsing on it so much, but I consciously try to not get too easily swept up in it all!

Just lastly, what would you most love to shoot, design, or create? 

There’s so many different styles of shoots I would love to work on but I think creating a music video wold be fun. Something like Hype Williams or a Dexter Navy music video would be great. I love a lot of music and visit a lot of live gigs and DJ sets, so to merge those two interests would be the dream! 

Thanks so much! You can follow Clara on instagram at  instagram.com/clara_goodger

Image credit: Adidas Sobakov, Photography: Jack Bridgeland, Creative & Art Direction: Clara Goodger at U-Dox

Image credit: Hunger Magazine / Hunger Magazine Annual , Design & Art Direction: Clara Goodger