Three art directors discuss the balancing act between personal style and client expectations

7 December 2017

Part of the role of an art director is the ability to know the best way to tell a story to an audience. Nailing the concept is usually the first hurdle in a successful shoot, and working with photographers, stylists and set designers to align ideas and skills can be exciting, if a little stressful. In fashion there’s more elements to balance with the artistic and design aspects sometimes competing with what the client might expect and need. It can be a tricky balancing act, but one that David Moran, Gala Slater and Yossi Fisher have all taken on in their work over the past year.

While all three creatives have a passion for storytelling through fashion editorials, each wanted to develop their style and voice as art directors, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the industry. To make this happen David, Gala and Yossi enrolled in Mastered’s ten-month accelerator programme in Art Direction, which allows design professionals to jump start their career in fashion.

Each of the aspiring art directors is currently on a path of development in their work: for David, he’s keen to portray a distinct point of view in his fashion editorial shoots, for Gala it’s having the confidence to be bolder and more experimental in her work and for Yossi it’s gaining a true understanding of his role as an art director. Overall though, what each creative is learning is to be more adaptable, whether its personal style versus client needs or working on set when problems arise.

To get more of an insight into their journey, we spoke to David, Gala and Yossi to find out the different ways these creatives like to tell stories, as well as the skills they’ve acquired from the programme.

David Moran

Art director and retoucher David Moran first worked as a colourist on Superman, Batman and Supergirl comics. From there he transitioned into retouching which allowed him to work with big brands, photographers and creative directors in fashion and publishing. Drawing upon this experience and the skills he’d picked up along the way the next step for David was to become an art director.

“What I enjoy most in what I do is creating a story behind the work. I think it’s incredibly important to have a strong narrative and point of view and making sure it comes across in all platforms, whether it be for an editorial campaign or brand work,” says David.

The art director’s work mixes rich colours and graphic elements, while always making sure he’s pushing the story and himself. “I try to make sure the work I do doesn’t default to a typical standard. I make sure to try and touch upon all angles of people, in a variety of different narratives,” he says.

The Mastered Art Direction accelerator has helped David to hone this approach and develop his aesthetic, as well as overcome challenges. “The networking has been amazing… and I think one of the most important things I’ve learned is the ability to adapt. Something will go wrong on set or on shoot day and it’s important to be prepared for that,” he says.

As well as working on projects for Schon!, Interview and Dior, taking part in the course has led to numerous opportunities to work with Mastered in a professional setting, and one recent project saw David test his newly acquired skills. “We had an idea fleshed out of a wood nymph in the forest, we had a whole colour palette idea, look, and everything, and on the day of the shoot, it was storming,” he explains. “We had about 20 minutes to figure out what to do, tweaked our concept to adapt, and had about an hour of shooting time to fit it all in. The images look incredible and the energy of a team coming together and killing it made it all worthwhile. It’s my favourite part of working on set.”

When working with clients, David considers the project’s purpose through tackling the brief from all possible angles. “I rack my brain and start mood boarding,” he says. “I like to flesh out several different mood boards and, if I have the time, let them marinate in my head bit before I take another look at them.” This thorough approach leads to well-executed, thoughtful outcomes, all with narrative at the heart of them.

Gala Slater

British-born, LA and New York-based art director Gala Slater describes her style as “colourful, unexpected and clean”. Specialising in image creation and branding for luxury fashion and lifestyle brands, Gala says she likes to make a statement with her work.

“My background is mostly within fashion so I think the clean and polished feel comes from my commercial experience there, but I’m trying to push myself to be a little bolder and more experimental in my personal work,” she explains. “I’m constantly taking pictures so a lot of inspiration comes from daily observations such as colours or textures or just looking at people and the way they move.”

Gala’s portfolio mixes together the glossy commercial shoots with her personal work, and this variety is what drives her. She decided to enrol in the Mastered accelerator to gain experience in directing her own editorial shoots. “I had been directing commercial shoots for a few years and really loved that part of my job, but always felt pretty restricted in where I could take them,” says Gala.

The freedom Gala’s gained has led to her taking on many self-initiated projects as well as a day-to-day job. “I am currently freelancing at Apple in California which has been a really incredible experience so far in terms of commercial work, but I’m also directing my own fashion editorial shoots on the side to really experiment without the restraints of a client brief,” she explains. “My favourite shoot I did recently was for one of the Mastered briefs for i-D. The photographer and I were really aligned in terms of our tastes and vision so it was a great collaboration and, we were both really pleased with the results.”

Despite only being in the early stages in this facet of her career, Gala is excited at the possibilities. “I feel like I have become more confident in approaching people who I want to work with and much clearer on how to share my ideas with them,” she says. “I think the course has given me a real push to keep experimenting and not being scared if it fails.

Yossi Fisher

“I’m quite methodical when it comes to projects, and at the same time I respect the process of their unique evolution,” explains art director Yossi Fisher. “I need to know what the ultimate goal of the project is. I review the project from all angles and once I have a concept in mind I begin to break down its elements one by one to see how they stand together, and alone.”

This balanced approach has allowed Yossi to incorporate various influences into his style which he describes as a “progressive synergy between streetwear and high fashion”. As a result his portfolio is full of contrasts mixing the raw with the ultra polished. What Yossi enjoys most is “conceptual storytelling through imagery” by elevating photoshoots to absorb a more complex narrative that resonates with the audience on a deeper level. “I believe it’s the responsibility of fashion to push the limits of what people are used to seeing, and ultimately inspire social change. It’s the only way we as people will ever evolve, and I truly feel that fashion editorials give people the permission to embrace their unique human style in order to do just that.”

Up until recently Yossi had been self-taught and decided to seek out help when he felt he’d hit a wall creatively and in his career. “The course came up in one of my social platforms and my wife urged me to look into it. I read the syllabus and it was like a fresh wave of inspiration and excitement rushed through me. I applied that day,” he says.

The exposure he’s gain from other perspectives has meant Yossi now understands his role as art director a lot more and has an insight into where the industry is headed. “I definitely have a much deeper understanding of my aesthetic and what aspects of my career I need to focus on in order to achieve my goals moving forward,” he says.

Yossi has been able to put this into practice for his most recent projects including Refinery29, in which he had to convey the story of going to prom as an LGBTQ person, and not feeling like you have to hide your true self. He’s also worked on a film-inspired editorial shoot for fashion mag The Impression. “I really loved working on these two projects because they both make very important fashion statements,” says Yossi. “Refinery29 was all about creating something meaningful that is meant to raise awareness on social issues, whereas The Impression was all about having fun and just cutting loose.”

When working on client projects, Yossi feel nurturing the relationship is key in making himself happy creatively, while also achieving something that meets the needs of the client. “I need to respect the message they’re trying to convey to market, and they need to trust my vision to elevate and execute for them.”

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