”Being away from home teaches you a lot about yourself”

Back in high school, Isabelle Kristiansen and Sarah Turner knew they wanted to work with something innovative and creative, and at the same time make an impact on people’s lives. They applied for Berghs Bachelor program in 2013 and completed their studies in San Francisco. Four years later, they are hired as a creative team at Grey in LA.

Hello Isabelle and Sarah! First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Isabelle: I’m from Gothenburg and I love photography and travel. Nature and friends make me smile!

Sarah: I’m half English/Finnish but born in Stockholm. I spent most of my baby days in the UK and then moved back to Stockholm with my mother when I was 6. I love travelling, laughing and reading good books.

The “Bachelor Journey” started back in 2013 for you guys. Can you remember what made you apply to the program in the first place?

Sarah: I’ve always wanted to work in “media” without really knowing as what. When I heard that Berghs was a great school, applying there became an instant goal. I hadn’t figured out what I was going to become so after high school I moved to London to study marketing and PR. After taking an advertising class I knew that was my field. 6 months later I was accepted to the bachelor program.

Isabelle: In high school I studied film and photography and I knew already back then that I wanted to work with something innovative and creative, and at the same time make an impact on people’s lives. Berghs seemed like the perfect fit and I took the chance and applied.

What  are your strongest memories from the semester at Berghs in Stockholm?

Definitely Berghs Rock! Our mentor Rebecca Leo swinging from a cannonball on stage isn’t something you easily forget. Also, the level of creativity and drive at the school is unlike anything else.

After that, both of you decided to move to San Francisco and attend  Academy of Art University. Why SF, why AAU, and what did you decide to study?

Isabelle: San Francisco was a city that none of us had been to, so I thought why not?

Sarah: I’d never been in the US before moving and San Francisco seemed like such a beautiful city. Isabelle studied Art Direction and I studied Copywriting but we both took a lot of classes outside our major. We definitely recommend taking additional design classes if you’re studying to become an art director, and the same applies to writing. Really sit down with your advisor and look at which courses you can take and stay on top of it each semester so you get the most out of your education. If you show your ambition early on the instructors will push you until you produce the best work possible.

Can you describe your years at AAU?

Isabelle: AAU is a school where you learn how to be disciplined and to look at your work with a critical eye. You’re challenged to take responsibility and to learn from other very talented students around you.

Sarah:  The years at AAU have been filled with self discovery, not just creatively and at school, but also as a person. I would definitely recommend studying abroad and would do it again in a heartbeat.

What would you say are the main differences between studying in the US compared to Sweden, in your opinion?

Isabelle: I love being inspired by other cultures and people from around the world and San Francisco and AAU had all that. Also, being away from home teaches you a lot about yourself as an individual.

Sarah:  Just moving to a new country makes you grow so much as a person. I think classes are smaller at AAU so it’s a more of an intimate environment and you get more one on one time with teachers and so many new cultural influences.

At  the end of your last semester at AAU, the two of you decided to work as a team – how come? What made you decide to apply for jobs together?

In our last semester at AAU we had a portfolio class where we put all of our work together, preparing us for  applying to jobs. Our instructor mentioned that in some cases it can be easier getting a job as a team. So, we started creating projects together the same day. We liked each other’s work and felt like this is someone I can spend a lot of time with. Now we both work and live together so we’re basically  married. Have that in mind when looking for a creative partner.

Tell us about the move from San Fransisco to Los Angeles! What made you move?

Sarah: Work really. I love San Francisco and wouldn’t say no to going back but the opportunity arose in L.A.. I’m a believer in taking every chance you get and always giving things a try.

Isabelle: I was very curious about L.A. so when we received the good news about the job, I was just so excited to start a new journey! San Francisco is still the best city in the world though!

How did you land the job at Grey in L.A.?

Isabelle: Sarah contacted the recruiter at Grey N.Y. and she came back with the super interesting opportunity of interviewing for a new office they were opening in LA. In her interview she told them that she worked with a talented Art Director so they called me up and within a week we were moving to LA.

Tell us about your life today! Describe a “normal week”?

Sarah: Work takes up most of our time. Usually we’re either in concept stages or out on set for the next production. One of our accounts, Hasbro, has a lot of things going on at the same time so it can be up to 5 products we need to shoot for in a week. Production is long hours, but concept stages is a harder grind.

You’ve been working with an idea of the “modern princess” – please share!

Sarah: Our main client is Disney/Disney Princess and we create all their global TV commercials. We always try to modernize the “princess” approach and create a new image of what being a princess entails. We believe that she doesn’t have to wear fluffy pink dresses and look pretty. We want to empower young girls to be so much more than that. If our work can move the perception at least a little bit further away from the bias “girly” princess advertising, and be able to show all types of girls from everywhere in the world, I feel like we may have accomplished something positive.

What would be your Top 3 tips  to Swedish students or young creatives dreaming of making it in the US?

Isabelle: Be you, stand for your own opinion, be kind.

Sarah: Listen to your gut, take chances and believe in yourself.

Speaking about the future: what are your dreams, plans, expectations?

Sarah: We were lucky enough to be the first international graduates that get a 3 year working visa and after that I’m planning on sticking around for as long as I can. I’m eager to create more norm challenging work and get my hands on more clients before moving back to Europe.

Isabelle: Same as Sarah! We’re planning on working together for as long as we can, I feel like we have so much more to learn as a team, but we would never stay in each others way if an opportunity arises  for the other person. We have a happy marriage!