FAQ | How I became a Creative Director

Aja Hitomi Photography

Aja Hitomi Photography

I thought I’d start this website by telling the story of how I became the Creative Director of BUNCH Magazine. This is hands down the question that I’m posed with the most from people who are curious about what the role entails to those who question how I secured the title at a young age. My journey has ultimately been about trying new things, following your own compass, and asking for what you want.


Background:

  • Art classes since birth lol
  • Picked up my first DSLR at 10 years old
  • Venice Arts raised me
  • Had my sights on being a movie director since 14 years old
  • Went to Seattle Pacific University (SPU)
  • Ended up majoring in Visual Communications (Graphic Design) and two minors, Art History and New Media
  • Interned everywhere under the sun my undergrad career
  • Graduated (with honors...aye!!) from SPU
  • Interned at BUNCH Magazine the first summer out of school
  • Became Art Director of Matte Black that fall
  • Graphic Designer at C Magazine a year later
  • Became Creative Director and helped rebrand the magazine the next year
 

So now that you have some stats, here’s the story.

I had just graduated from Seattle Pacific University with plenty of graphic design skills under my belt. Coming back to LA, I didn’t really know where to start. I knew my ultimate goal was to go into business for myself, but was also open to what that journey would look like.

I spent the summer toiling around with plots on how to conquer the world, via design, which really meant Internet stalking creative entrepreneurs, cool businesses, and blogs. My plan was to redesign my portfolio then apply to “serious design jobs” come fall. What actually happened was a lot of hanging out, Netflix, dating for food (don’t judge me, I was poor), and getting acquainted to life as an adult (why does every penny go to a bill?).

Through a deep hole of internetting one day, I came across BUNCH Magazine’s website.

They were PRETTY but moreso, they were highlighting cool creatives and their work. I immediately emailed them asking to be an intern with my resume, portfolio, and cover letter in tow. I got a “hell yes” back (ok not really), and would start by designing a layout per print issue. I did about one issue and realized my interests didn’t stop there. Next thing I knew I was asking to design graphics for the website, come to photoshoots, be a part of brainstorming meetings, and more and more and more. I couldn’t stop.

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BUNCH WAS THE FIRST THING I FOUND MYSELF TRULY PASSIONATE ABOUT.
 

Passion is such a romanticized word. But have you ever stopped to look at the definition?  The first definition is suffering. Passion means TO SUFFER. Then later it’s watered down as intense emotion. Either way, it’s not cute and passion can screw up a lot of the other things in your life, but that’s a topic for another day.

For BUNCH, I’m talking about that up until 4am, not eating, sleeping, drinking, and putting intern work before my paid client work, type of passion. I was in love. It was the only thing that didn’t feel like work and the only thing I could get lost for hours in. I had found my thing.

I should plainly say that I’ve always had a million jobs at once. During the time of going from intern to graphic designer, I became art director for a small marketing firm (yea, crazy right) and then went on to work for a monthly print magazine that worked on a much larger scale. I was able to bring all those skills back to BUNCH and add even more to the brand. At the time, I had no way of understanding that all the seemingly unrelated jobs I had all worked together for a greater purpose. So enjoy where tf you’re at.

Creative Director & Re-branding

As I spent more time with BUNCH, Lizzy Okoro (Editor-in-Chief) and I both noted that we should talk seriously about some changes. After picking up a lot of steam and getting feedback about the magazine, we realized there was a disconnect between our brand and our audience. People thought the magazine was so pretty but had no idea what it was! As you can imagine my brain was bursting with ideas of how to make our message clear.

“Let’s add section dividers in the magazine so people feel like it’s a guide.”

“But a guide for who?”

“Guide for a creative!”

“What kind of creative?”

“Guide for a cool creative? Guide for a rebellious creative?”

“Guide for a daring creative? Guide for a daring creative!”

And it goes on and on.

During this process of rebranding and making our message clearer, a lot of changes were happening within BUNCH and I simply asked if I could become Creative Director. Just like that. Lizzy didn’t hesitate to say yes (probably because I was already working way above my initial title, took initiative, and had the right aesthetic) and gave me the creative freedom I needed to shine.

A lot of people asked if I was afraid and a lot more people asked if I was even qualified for the position (insert rolling eyes emoji). The answer was proudly HELL NO on both accounts. Not one moment was I afraid because I was completely aligned with what I was doing. All my random skill sets that I didn’t even know I had got to come out to play. And, if there was ever a moment of nervousness I turned that into excitement and drive.

The answer to if I was qualified as a non-seasoned designer at 23 years old was that I was qualified because I had the balls to ask and a crazy work-ethic. The real question is when are we ever truly qualified to follow our hearts and do that next big thing? Probably never! My favorite thing Lizzy always says is, “What qualifies me to be an editor-in-chief? I just decided to become one, that’s what.” BooM.


Keys:

Research – Look into brands that share your values and figure out how you can add value to their team.

Be Bold – Cold email the right person from the company. Make sure your email leaves them with no other option than to say yes.

Do More – Whether you’re at a startup or established company, it doesn’t matter what position you come in as. Do your job to your best ability and then do more. Always have new ideas and don’t be afraid to share them.

Have No Fear – A lot of this seems simple because IT IS. What I realized is most people let doubt and fear get in their way. Especially the fear of asking for more or feeling unqualified.

Know Your Next Goal – You can’t ask for something if you don’t know what you want or why you want it. No matter where you are, make sure you always know what you’re striving for next. Once you get that, set your sights on the next goal.


Do you have stories of success, getting an amazing job, or have any more questions for me, leave a comment below! :)

Photos by Aja Hitomi