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Julie Faktor — Yonder
Having just returned from a well-earned vacation, Julie Faktor, Writer and Creative Director of Surry Hills studio, Yonder, took some time out to chat to AGDA about travel, culture-shock, working with some of the biggest brands in the world, and what it feels like to win an Emmy [I’m not even kidding].
In 1997, Julie won the lottery! No, not that kind of lottery, an even more valuable one – the US Greencard Lottery which allows foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the US. It was a move that really shaped her career. “I first took my portfolio to LA and then San Francisco. At that time Silicon Valley was going bananas. There were all these great little boutique agencies, in San Francisco especially, so I stayed,” says Julie.
“There was so much opportunity and the work was astounding. Apple had only recently launched their Think Different campaign, so you’d be driving down Market Street in San Francisco and there were these giant billboards with their campaign featuring Albert Einstein and Gandhi. I couldn’t believe such a place existed, where there was so much great work, everywhere.”
In 1999, Julie started work in San Francisco at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (GS&P) — a full-service advertising agency renowned for their Got Milk? campaign. Here she got the opportunity to work with some huge brands, which also meant working with budgets that were gigantic beyond all comprehension: all a big learning curve, and integral to shaping Julie as a creative.
“In a funny way, moving to the US felt like going to finishing school. I went from working in Sydney where initial concepts were presented as scamps (rough drawings) and often by the account management team, to San Francisco where ideas were fully developed, written and designed, even for a first presentation. It was a lot more competitive, but definitely a great experience,” reminisces Julie.
One of the campaigns she worked on during her time at GS&P was a television campaign for the Marin Cancer Project. It was a pro-bono campaign, and it won the agency its first Emmy. “It was a big deal at the time,” Julie admits. “We collected the award and then carted it around with us for the rest of the night. It was always front centre at every bar. We thought we were pretty fantastic for a night.”
Julie stayed in San Francisco for six years, but it was not to be a permanent option. Her home beach — among other things — was calling.
“In truth, I always had one foot in Australia. I missed the beach. Everyone says how similar San Francisco and Sydney are, but it’s actually much colder than you think and you can’t swim in the water without a wetsuit.”
Twelve years on, with two children and a busy studio, Julie still stands by her decision to leave. “Moving back to Sydney is always a compromise in terms of the scale of the work. It’s near impossible to access the kind of global accounts you get in the US but you can’t really compare the quality of life we have here.”
Back in Sydney Julie worked for Moon Communications for a number of years before leaving with a fellow creative director, Benjamin Gay, to start their own thing, Yonder Creative. “We’re a hybrid studio. Ben and I both come from backgrounds that cross between advertising and design and we’re very happy occupying both spaces,” explains Julie. “The kind of ideas that come through in advertising are very exciting, and when you pair them with the craft and consideration of design, you can get really exceptional results.”
Founded in 2013, Yonder has in a short time attracted an interesting mix of clients. “We’re small but we’re working with some pretty amazing people,” says Julie. “Right now we’re doing a lot of work with Goodman Group, who are great, and we’re also about to roll out the new identity for MCRI (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute). They’re an incredible organisation. Based in Melbourne they’re one of the top research institutes in the world in child health. They’re very close to a cure for the peanut allergy and they were part of the team that discovered and then found a cure for the rotavirus. They’re phenomenal and most Australians have never heard of them - which we’re helping to change.”
Building and strengthening the creative industry is also close to Julie’s heart — in fact, she is so into it that she has had to consciously temper her efforts in order to leave enough energy and time for her studio work and family life.
“It was a challenge when I was on the AGDA council. I’m passionate about getting more writers into AGDA — and getting more recognition for the role writers play in the creative process — but I had also just started a business and I ended up being stretched pretty thinly.”
“I do find it frustrating that writers are usually brought in at the end of the process; like a supplier. I’m used to working on projects from the get-go and I’ve never liked working on the periphery,” says Julie.
“For a time I was on the AWARD committee (Australian Writers and Art Directors) as well as the AGDA Council. In advertising writers and art directors work together, which is great, but women are grossly underrepresented — so I had my work cut out on that front too.”
To paraphrase every flight attendant in history: you’ve got to put your own oxygen mask on first, only then can you help others. “The decision to rein in my involvement was a difficult one,” Julie explains. “I believe it’s important to take an active role in shaping the industry, but unfortunately at this point in my career, my business needs me more.”
Australian designers are lucky enough to have a richness of events to help us retain perspective, stay motivated, and give back to our community. AGDA Shot Down events are one of Julie’s particular favourites to attend.
“I love the AGDA community, and especially that we can get a group of people together each year who are brave enough to stand up and talk about their failings. There is a no-judgement attitude and a camaraderie that I haven’t found anywhere else. It’s also a great event to catch up and meet some of the new people in the industry,” says Julie.
By breaking down our expectations of self-perfection, as Shot Down does so effectively, it humanises the design practitioners and demystifies their processes.
“We’re always told we should be open to making mistakes, that it’s part of the process,” says Julie. So it’s great to hear about other people’s professional disasters. Not that you want them to do badly — but it’s good to hear that it happens, and not just to you.”
For more about Julie and Yonder's work, head to http://www.juliefaktor.com/ and http://www.yondercreative.com/