Sarah Bassett: Creative Journey

Sarah Bassett‘s path to becoming a Creative Director was anything but conventional. With a background that diverges significantly from the traditional routes into the creative industries, her journey was shaped by a blend of existential inquiry, self-education, and an innate drive to explore beyond the boundaries of conventional career paths. Raised in an environment that nurtured creativity over convention, Bassett found her calling not through a predefined ambition to lead in a creative direction but through a process of elimination and self-discovery. Her career, which spans from art direction in magazines to brand strategy on a global scale, reflects a deep-seated passion for photography, fashion, and beyond—fields she loved and engaged with yet chose not to pursue in their traditional capacities.

At the core of her creative process is the emphasis on clear, concept-driven work—a lesson underscored by her mentors and her editorial background. This process is comprehensive, encompassing idea generation, strategy, design, and execution, with a keen focus on how concepts translate across various mediums.

This feature delves into Sarah Bassett’s journey and ethos, offering insights into her process and the visionary outlook that propels her work forward.

Interview by Alexei Key.

Sarah Bassett
Sarah Bassett

Why are you a creative director? What made you want to become one?

I don’t think people grow up even understanding that being a ‘creative’ is a viable career — let alone what a Creative Director is/does. I was lucky enough to have a supportive home where my imagination was allowed to explore & having a ‘typical job’ was never going to be an option. After an existential crisis and a lot of Sartre and Camu, I found myself accidentally finding my way into Art Direction by a process of illumination. I always loved photography, but I didn’t want to be a photographer; I loved fashion, but I didn’t want to be a designer…and through a series of trial & error, I ended up in a magazine, which led me to an agency, which led me to a brand…and the rest is history.

How do you think technology (like VR, AR, 3D, AI) will change how we perceive art and photography in the future?

I’m simultaneously excited & terrified at the pace at which technology is supporting & overtaking the creative process. Spoken like a true millennial, I have always been very open & adaptive to new technology — but I also believe it must exist as a compliment to humanity, not as a replacement. I see the value in AI as a tool to help actualize ideas or concepts that would have normally been impossible or taken hours to comp…it’s an amazing extension of our imagination.

Could you tell us about a project or projects that have been especially meaningful to you?

I love to work on projects that reference/contribute to culture beyond just fashion. To me — fashion, art, music & technology are all expressions of the same ideas, just realized in different formats; I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. Therefore, projects that allow me to think about a brand, a product, or a concept as a 360 idea vs an isolated output/format are the most interesting. Over the last year, I have been so lucky to move from New York to Paris and work with a new roster of creatives, brands & magazines. This has been such a refreshing process to fall in love with your job all over again. From film/music special projects with Saint Laurent to a global beauty campaign for Rabanne, to developing an emerging music artist from scratch, to helping Gigi Hadid build a brand from scratch, to rebranding a heritage brand that I worked on 15 years ago — it’s all been a new & exciting challenge.

Tell us about your creative process, from the initial idea to the final image.

I have had the pleasure of working under some of the world’s best Creative Directors — who all taught me how to see the world in different ways. One of the best things I ever learned was from Ferdinando Verderi, who always pushed us to really have clear ideas/concepts behind our work, not just aesthetics. So this becomes the starting point now. From concept to creation, I am completely hands-on. For all my work, I do everything from the idea, the copy, the strategy, the design, the layouts, the deck, and, obviously, the execution. For me, coming from an editorial background, I see concepts in the context of layouts — where type, image & design all coexist. This is very important to me to be able to communicate the spirit of an idea; as it exists in the world & in various mediums.

What does beauty mean for you?

Honesty and vulnerability. Unfortunately, we live in a world now where social media has trained us to value perfection. I try in all aspects of my life, both IRL and URL, to be as open and real as possible. I think when you give space to people to feel like they can be themselves and lead by example, that is the most beautiful thing we can ask for.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned over your career so far?

Stay curious, never stop learning & always force yourself to be uncomfortable.

What is something about you that surprises people?

That I am creatively completely self-taught. I went to business school & have a degree in Applied Science. Everything creative came from taste, intuition, curiosity & learning through doing.

What career path would you suggest for someone aspiring to become a creative director? Are there specific experiences or skills they should focus on acquiring?

Go work/intern with as many of the different disciplines that you will end up collaborating with as you can so you have an understanding of what goes into the thing that you are asking them to do. This has been the most useful thing because now I hope I am fair in my expectations and communication with the people I work with, as I understand the practicality of what I am asking for. This makes the process easier and more efficient for everyone as a result.

How can one stay relevant and continually evolve their skills and knowledge in a rapidly changing industry?

I don’t like to think in terms of time. The word ‘relevant’ feels a little forced. I prefer to focus my work & approach more on a bigger idea or value set  — which I have found often falls in line with youth culture & a sense of coming of age.  I like to sit somewhere between now & then.

Who are some current and upcoming creatives who you’re excited about today?

I have always found so much joy in discovering creatives before they blow up and helping them with some of their first shoots. I find this the most rewarding & I hope I have honed this skill; because, in most cases — they have gone on to become huge industry leaders. So I am constantly excited about the new wave, the next generation. To limit it to 1 or 2 would be a disservice to an entire cohort.

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