We love the opportunity to get to know our DA friends better, so were happy to get the chance to speak with Sara Fraser of Sartoria about her career, creative process, navigating (and learning from) challenges, a love affair with Cuba street, and must do’s for creatives visiting Wellington. Friends want their friends to succeed. Help Design Assembly keep going & growing, by becoming a DA Friend today. Your friendship will allow us to better support you with a bonus of discounts on all DA event and workshop tickets. Sign up here.
Can you tell us a little about the highlights of your career so far and what lead you to founding Sartoria.co.nz?
My first foray into design was a role at Creature as Studio Manager. At the time we produced an array of projects for primarily the Arts sector – it was a perfect introduction into production / sourcing and supplier management. Janelle (CD) noted my eye for the creative and propelled me into studying design. So I combined night-school study, freelancing & raising two daughters.
I was super fortunate to land a Junior Designer role at Tardis the week I graduated. I pinched myself at the chance to work there – their work was beautiful, well-crafted and it was a dream to be thrown into the boutique FMCG & wine category with all their incredible clients. My mentors, Helen Milner & Julie Muir, were so generous with their knowledge & training.
Sartoria was born when Tardis closed & moved dimensions. I’d been considering going solo so I could better juggle work with family-life. I was incredibly lucky to have built strong relationships with clients and started with a number under my wing. Clients have grown through word of mouth & the wine industry advocating for my work (winemakers really are the best at referrals!). A recent highlight is my move into a studio space in the heart of Wellington’s Cuba St. I literally hugged the landlord when I signed the lease as the light-filled space is so inspiring. I’m sharing it with a team of creatives & love that we have an inner-city creative place to call our own.
How would you describe your creative process?
Tardis had a very good eye on process improvement and taught me the groundwork. I’ve refined my briefing documents so they lead the client through prompts & often do a reverse brief back to fully scope the project. I’ve found that putting in the groundwork here works best & you get a good feel for gaging that a new client is equally keen to put in some work upfront.
For new clients, I’ll also request as much upfront – like brand values, personality, promise & purpose, audience… which means some homework before we get started. I’m certainly naturally curious – and love getting to know as much as I can in this investigative phase.
I’ll work with brand strategists if we recognise this element is missing & needs diving into before concepting. If clients don’t know what they want, then they certainly won’t like what they get – so laying these foundations pays off.
I love the conceptual stage – where the opportunities can feel limitless. Here, I do rely very much on instinct, intuition & the insight from the briefing process. For wine branding or concepts, I’ll rapid fire options in a discovery phase which gets a bit messy, but creates some of the best ideas. These will then be distilled down into three creative directions. Rendering a realistic-product and crafting the visuals can take more time, but its something I’ve learnt is more compelling for the client at the concept stage.
What do you love most about design?
I love the interdisciplinary nature of design and how it crosses so many boundaries. I’m continually excited by other industries – fashion, art movements, contemporary architecture, travel…
A trip to Japan a few years ago was an eye-opener for inspiration – seeing the country through a designers lens. Their packaging is next level inspiring – from standard supermarket goods to their sake & the natural wine movement – which was very inspirational too.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve got two major brand evolutions for wineries on the go – plus I’m in the investigative stage on an exciting new spirits range. There’s generally a range of bottles around my desk… sometimes it sounds like a post party-clean up!
Do you have a project that is memorable because it challenged you but that you ended up loving and being really proud of? If so, what lessons did you learn from that project?
A recent brand identity for the Hawke’s Bay hospitality sector is one of the most memorable, mainly due to the crazy circumstances. I worked with a completely new team of passionate stakeholders and we created a brand identity for their covid response to encourage locals to support and dine locally.
‘Hawke’s Bay at home’ was dreamed, conceived and launched within 3 days. Given the circumstances of lockdown, and the challenge of a design sprint & evening zooms – I’ll remember it for some time!
It felt good to donate to and contribute back into this community where clients have supported me over the years. I certainly learnt some good skills in how to roll with a fluid process and campaigning for the creative so that it would cut through visually & remain distinctive.
Do you have a dream project or collaboration you aspire to?
A friend and I have talked about a collab on a perfume. It would be a dream packaging project to explore and have creative reign … maybe one day, watch this space
Your studio is based on Wellington’s vibrant Cuba Street – how (if at all!) does the environment & culture of the city shape your ideas?
Cuba Street has always been a Wellington love affair for me, so I couldn’t think of a better studio home. My building houses a wonderful collective of infamous illustrators, writers and designers upstairs from me – and the uber-cool McLeavey Gallery with an ever-changing contemporary focus next door. So I certainly don’t lack inspiration on the block.
We’re still discovering all the restaurants nearby (it will take a few years to try them all!) – and we try to schedule a weekly Curry Friday lunch with other creatives.
What do you recommend creatives visiting wellington check out?
The best scones, sweet treats & all day fanfare are at Floriditas, the best fish pie – Lorettas. Coffee is a tied-medal placing, with Floriditas, Milk Crate and Supreme in my block. It’s easy to find a fab wine list at Noble Rot, Puffin or Egmont St Eatery. Espresso Martini fans must try The Old Quarter’s version… ah-mazing!
Finally, given the challenges facing the industry right now of what do you hope for the future of Aotearoa Design?
I’d like to think the future is bright – I’m thinking positively about the return home of some ex-pats bringing with them their world-experiences. Aotearoa is a country with such rich potential and I’d like to think we develop quality brands with longevity. Brands which tell our stories and that are driven by authentic beliefs will always have a place and I’m committed to raising the bar and contributing my small part through good design.