From Singapore to London… and back again. Art director Zara Kok’s creative journey has seen her leave her homeland, hang out in the big smoke and, recently, fly over to New York where she was chosen to represent Singapore at the ADC’s Portfolio Night All Star event in New York. LBB’s Addison Capper spoke to Zara to find out more.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what kind of child were you?
ZK> I was born and raised in Singapore and completed most of my education there before leaving for University in London to get my degree. I have many great childhood memories growing up in Singapore. It is a small place so you end up growing up with the same people you've known since you were... three? You start to grow a bank of experiences together that really builds a strong foundation for your friendships and I am very grateful for that strength and closeness. Family life was also a large part of my childhood and my parents' involvement always reminded me about not forgetting your roots, no matter where you are.
I was a very quiet child, but I channelled a lot of my energy into my favourite subject: Art. I was constantly doodling in class, and I guess that was an indicator of things to come!
LBB> You studied at Central Saint Martins in London, but are now at The Secret Little Agency in Singapore. When did you make the move and why?
After completing my degree at Central Saint Martins, I stayed back in London to work various placements at different agencies- a mixture of creative and digital. I would not have traded my time as an intern for anything, as it taught me to persevere, and to take note of the best creative habits from different workplaces.
I would have been in London for five years when I made my decision to move back to Singapore. I missed home and it felt right to spend some time back in the place where I grew up, after being away. I also felt ready for a new challenge and wanted to hone my skills and with it, bring a fresh new perspective to the industry.
LBB> Creatively, how do London and Singapore differ?
London places a lot of emphasis on the 'conceptualisation' phase, giving time for the idea to marinate and to be pushed further. Singapore puts high emphasis on the 'execution' phase, ensuring that ideas are beautifully crafted and communicated clearly. I think they are both very important steps in the creative process.
What's great is that both London and Singapore are very global and cosmopolitan cities, and that contributes to the wonderful flavour of the work that comes out of them.
LBB> This year you represented Singapore in the Portfolio Night All Star competition at the ADC in New York. How did that initially come about? What did it involve and what did you take away from the experience?
ZK> I was really honoured that my book was picked out at the Portfolio night event held in Singapore- It was encouraging to know that people appreciated the work.
ADC flew all the representatives from 24 different cities down to New York where we worked in teams of Art Directors, Copywriters and Designers, on a brief for Ford Motors. Apart from the brief itself, we had the opportunity to listen to inspiring speakers such as Amir Kassaei from DDB and Rei Inamoto from AKQA, who gave us such invaluable advice. When we had some free time, we had so much fun just being out together experiencing New York City.
It was a wonderful experience working with creatives from all over the world- rarely do you get an opportunity like this to collaborate with different minds. I think we were all so different but had our own unique strengths- everyone could bring something to the table and make the idea even better and to push it even further. This also created the variety of work being presented, keeping things interesting. I think you realise that when you find the right chemistry, the right team members and the right energy, brainstorming happens lightning fast and it is something very exciting, and very special.
LBB> Which pieces of work are you most proud of and why?
ZK> I did some self-initiated work for WWF and Ella's Kitchen, which I enjoyed working on. WWF Habitat is a proposed website where users can donate a small fee to tune in, in real-time, to a part of the world inhabited by an endangered species. What I found interesting about working on the piece for WWF was the idea of making use of something that does not cost anything or is intangible, to help a cause- in this case, it was the idea of monetizing video time.
Ella's Kitchen was a fun project. I just liked the human truth about how dads get so competitive when it comes to their kids and felt it was the perfect way to inject some creativity and fun into the world of baby food products (where advertising is usually targeted at mums). Hence 'Race to the First Word' was born - a Facebook app that pitted Dads against Mums in a friendly competition to claim their newborn's first word. Perhaps Dad will win this time, since he has Ella's Kitchen to win favour with the baby!
LBB> What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
ZK> I try to travel as much as I can outside of work- I think it helps my mind stay fresh and open to new ideas. I also like to read, draw, take photographs and catch up on episodes of my favourite TV shows, while overdosing on tea. I keep a blog to archive my thoughts about interesting things that I come across on the web so that I can revisit it from time to time and feel re-inspired. Somehow the themes seem to revolve around the future, science-fiction and imagination. I think that appeals to me because I feel inspired by the way ideas are re-imagined so that they look and feel so out of this world. In a way, it's quite similar to advertising, because you're always trying to create something fresh and imaginative, that makes people think differently about something.
LBB> Where do you see yourself in 10 years' time?
ZK> Wow, 10 years is a long time! I don't think it's possible to project that far ahead - but I hope that whatever I am doing at that point in time, wherever I may be, I would be happy and would be producing great creative work.
Check out more of Zara’s work here: http://cargocollective.com/zara-kview more - Uprising