Sarah Foley

Graduated – 2005


After graduation Sarah settled back into the East End of London working at the prestigous design company Stylorouge before and founding her own enterprise Dots of Joy. She specialises in Art Direction and Creative Design for a wide range of industries but with particular focus towards the music industry.

She has built up a network of contacts including leading designers, artists,
photographers, multimedia and marketing teams. Her clients inlude EMI International, Sony, Warner Music, Warner Music Vision, Atlantic Records, Island Records, Mercury Music, 4AD, Glastonbury Festival and Greenpeace.

The Disciples of Design Q&A

How and where did you secure your first job? Did you do a placement year?
For me these two questions crossover into one answer. Yes I did do a placement year and would recommend it to any student. I had a fantasic time and learnt so much about the design industry. Our tutors set myself and the rest of the class up with interviews in London. Like most I had two and although both companies seemed impressed with my portfolio I didn’t get either.

As soon as I heard the news I took a deep breath and picked up the phone. I called my top 10 favourite companies specialising mostly in the music industry. I’d made an effort previously to send letters and examples of work and now it was time to chase them up. And chase I did! I got a further three interviews in London and this time secured all three

I worked through each one until I landed at Stylorouge and there I stayed until it was time to go back and finish my final year at uni. I must admit it was quite hard getting back into the swing of things but in the end I made it through with a very jammy first. I’d constantly been in touch with my great new friends at Stylorouge and when the year was through I was asked to go back and the rest is history as they say.

What or who inspires you?
No one thing in particular, I think people do, my colleges, friends, past tutors, family. I always get inspired by people who just live and breathe creativity. They have a much greater motivational influence on me than just pictures on a page.

Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
Of course! Every path leads to another and I’m very happy with the path that Preston lead me along.

Looking back, is there anything you’d have done differently at University?
Probably just gone in more! Maybe experimented more, used more of the facilities and just generally been a bit more free to roam (in a creative sense).

How do you come up with ideas?
In an ideal world this would be the formula to my thinking: Research. Live with it. Discuss (with just about anyone who will listen). Experiment. Live with it. Apply and deliver. In the real world it’s not quite like that. Most deadlines are ridiculous so it’s more like a tornado of ideas bashing about and getting bashed all over the place until the clock stops ticking and lightning strikes. Sometimes it strikes when I am dreaming or half asleep, it can come through clear as a bell and I sketch it down in the morning.

I think what I’m trying to say is every project is different, but all of the above methods seem to work.

How much of an average day is actually spent designing things?
In the past I’ve spent whole days emailing and making calls to clients and/or commissioned artists. I actually love doing a bit of production and budgets but on the design side what I hate is too much initial discussion, weeks and weeks of talking crap when no one really knows what they want until they see it. There are times when I would like to shout out and I think it did come out once, “I just want to design!”

I think being able to guide clients easily, gaining their trust instantly is one of the key points to success in commercial design. Either that or just choose your clients really carefully! It’s great when you just instantly click with a client, it makes the whole process so much easier and I think it shows in the results too.

What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
I don’t necessarily feel I’ve found myself a ‘style’ as yet. I’ve dedicated large amounts of time and loyalty to clients making sure they are happy and always try to stretch their briefs to lengths beyond their own imagination, offering advice on all levels and making sure the work created is to the highest of standard.

What time do you start and finish on an average day?
Whilst at Stylorouge the working day was officially 10 – 6.30 however, most days everyone worked overtime. Some deadlines are so tight you will work through the night and in the past attended full shoots that were 20 hours long and back again the next day. At the moment things are at a perfect pace and I work generally when I want to. Please note that this is only because I worked every single hour that God sent for almost a year straight and need a break! I’m sure I’ll be putting my foot back on the accelerator before the year is out.

I think generally though work never really stops. One is always looking for inspiration, noticing things that trigger new ideas and intrigue, it’s constant, it’s just the pressures that increase and decrease.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that it’s the thing I love doing the most and I get to do it every day.

What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?
Portfolios? I actually like a less corporate approach. Something that lets me see ideas flowing almost like a window to the owners personality. Of course it has to look great too with excellent presentation anything less would not do. Work that is big and vibrant, a portfolio that screams “I love what I do and I’d jump through hoops to do a great job!”


Tour Poster - Blur