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Warrick Sears / Freelance Creative
With 20 years’ experience in large-scale local and international studios within the design and advertising industries, Hobart-based freelance creative Warrick Sears hit out on his own a couple of years ago and has been forging a successful path ever since.
“I run my own agency with an account service person as my business partner,” says Warrick. “We can do everything an advertising agency can do, you’re just not going to pay for a fashionable CBD premises or a BMW. You get to deal directly with us. We’re an agency without walls either working from home or wherever we’re needed. When we need to expand we hire from the plethora of talented people that we’ve got either here, on the mainland, or overseas.”
“That’s worked for us for the last two years or so. It felt like we were blazing a trail two years ago, but now not so much. It’s just over two-and-a-half years since I’ve been out [on his own] and it was quite rare back then. Leta Sobierajski & Wade Jeffree [Brooklyn-based freelance creatives who toured for AGDA last month] are a good example: people hire them for what they do. They don’t bend and shape work to come up with what the client wants, the client seeks them out because they want a piece of their magic.”
That kind of business model then negates the need to pitch, which is a healthy thing for the industry. But there are still those who do pitch and those who don’t, and likely will be forever.
“I went to the UK for a little while and designed there,” recalls Warrick. “But when I got back to Australia I fell out of love with design a little bit because the quality of jobs I was doing in Perth were down a bit from the stuff I had been working on in the UK where I had been working for a publisher [Bridgewater Books] mainly, and I got to work on some really cool stuff: the Guinness Book of Records and beautiful coffee table books for the American market. They published these great big coffee table books with lots of images and minimal text, so you could really let loose design-wise. Then I fell in love with creative advertising.”
To continue the August [when we had our chat] theme of Words & Design, we discussed the relationship between words and imagery within the advertising industry.
“There was definitely a period in advertising when they were like ‘No words! People don’t read anymore, it’s over, man. Words are dead. If you can’t make an ad without a headline then what’s the point, you’re no good,’” remembers Warrick. “I’ve noticed that’s shifted a lot, and it’s shifted on the internet too. Articles have gone from being 500 words max, back to long-form, so I think it’s a fashion thing; it waxes and wanes.”
“I do think it’s important: if there were no words in any design or advertising it would be a challenge to understand anything. It’s our original way of communicating, and visual comms is a whole part of it as well. I think they work hand in hand.”
As a word-nerd operating within a predominantly visual industry, I’ve found one of the best ways to get people to notice you and understand that you really do care about their industry [the design industry] is just to attend lots of events, to help out where you can, and be visible. I do wonder if it’s the same across all industries.
“Dave Droga — who’s one of my heroes — he’s a farm boy. Now he’s running one of the most respected agencies in the world in Droga5,” says Warrick. “The guy’s won 200+ [Cannes] Lions, let alone the other work he’s put in through his agency. And everyone said the same thing, he was just brilliant, he just had a completely different perspective.”
QI: 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of a teenage Dave Droga winning the Top Award at Awards School.
“I think that’s one of the nice things about advertising, particularly Awards School,” begins Warrick. “I worked with a guy in Perth who early in his days was part of motorbike gangs, then he joined the navy, got out of the navy, went and worked on the mines, then went and did Awards School and won Awards School and ended up in an agency. And the guy had never worked in advertising in his life. He’s rough around the edges but an absolute diamond. He came up with ideas that no one else was ever going to crack because he had this life of weird and crazy stuff that he’d seen. That’s my thing: if you can top-up on life experience that no one else has, chances are you’re going to have a unique perspective that you bring to your work — doesn’t matter if you’re a designer, in advertising, or music — it’s your influences that you draw on for your creativity.”
A heavy influence on any creative’s perspective and creativity is the environment in which they operate, And Warrick’s environment, Hobart, is a tight community.
“That’s one of the reasons I like it here,” admits Warrick. “It reminds me of Perth back in the 90s when it was a bit smaller and a bit friendlier.”
“Hobart was initially really hard to crack. But if you’re honest and willing to become a part of the local scene, people here respect what you’re doing. And if they like you, then the work comes to you. Lots of businesses work like that here, most people here are doing it for the love of it and making enough money to survive and to be able to stay on the island. Nobody here is making an absolute fortune, but those who are making it work just appreciate it because they love what they’re doing.”
“There’s not going to be a squillion bucks out there when automation takes over all of our jobs. People might go back to doing stuff they actually enjoy to supplement their universal income that they’re going to get from the government,” says Warrick with a slightly joking, slightly serious, and utterly spooky hint of prescience.
“I love the process of solving the problem, getting down and dirty. I do really enjoy the creative process. I love the feeling of thinking that you’re talentless and stupid and can’t crack the idea, and then suddenly having an epiphany, ‘no! I’m a genius!’, then going cold on it two days later, then shitting yourself before the presentation — all that stuff, I really enjoy it. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I have.”
The same applies/applied for the founders of AGDA, too, apparently.
“When we’re holding AGDA gigs [in Hobart] it’s hard to get international people here, so what we have done is have a lot of the founding fathers of AGDA come and chat, and they’ve all got that same attitude,” says Warrick. “They’re radically different personalities, but the one thing I’ve heard from all of them is that ‘We love doing this stuff. We loved it when it was crappy, and we loved it when it was great. We loved it when we were broke, and we loved it when we were making a million bucks — it didn’t matter ‘cos we were just having good fun doing it.’”