Graduated – 1996
Sarah Roberts is an independent creative, working directly with her own clients and together with leading design agencies. With 15 years experience, she has been designing the world’s greatest drinks brands – Moet & Chandon, Glenmorangie, Glenfiddich, Courvoisier and Johnnie Walker to name but a few – and also a good measure of luxury brands – Selfridges, Harrods, Sofitel hotels, Cowshed and the fabulous St Pancras station.
Sarah was appointed Creative Director at Seachange, following seven years at Lewis Moberly where she became a Design Director. Prior to that she worked at Blackburn’s, after starting her career at Ziggurat Brands. Born and raised on a farm in North Wales, she has won and judged numerous design awards including D&AD, New York Festivals, Creative Futures, Roses and the alternative ‘Chip Shop’ awards.
The Disciples of Design Q&A
How and where did you secure your first job?
I was very lucky as Simon Pendry and Adam Ellis were already working at Ziggurat Brands. They had got in touch with the Preston Course and were looking for two junior designers. Rita Kinsella and I got the jobs and we started in August after
a long summer holiday.
Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
Definitely. It taught me how to think. To use wit and humour in my work. We were taught to think ‘laterally’ – I had no idea what the word meant before I went. Brainstorming (mostly in the Variety bar) was a big part of the process, bouncing ideas and thoughts. A good idea will last a long time – whereas styling and execution can always be updated.
How has the industry changed over the years in your experience?
When I first started out I hardly knew how to switch the computer on. Now everything is digital and the pace is much quicker. But I like to work quickly and to a tight deadline so that suits me.
Where do you get your ideas from? Do you prefer collaboration or thinking alone?
Well – in truth they come from the brief. John Blackburn always used to say ‘a job is as good as the brief’. Ideas can come from anywhere, when you least expect them – in the bath, in motion, back of a cab, out shopping or walking.
At Lewis Moberly it was a very competitive environment where designers worked alone, pitched against each other to come up with the best ideas. It was good training, so I mostly work alone now.
What would you have done differently at University knowing what you know now?
Can’t say I have any major regrets. Maybe joined some clubs and done some crazy stuff like pot-holing or whatever.
What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
Focus, and getting a good portfolio early on in my career.
What is the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
Perhaps not unusual but spent a week going around vineyards in South Africa with Moet & Chandon, searching for the ultimate South African wine. Ultimately they didn’t find it, but it was fun trying. Art directing a shoot with Jamie Oliver for Tefal was also a laugh.
What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?
A good brain and a good eye.
Any advice for students entering the industry?
- Focus and a bit of patience.
- If you’re stuck for ideas, don’t panic – something always comes up.
- Learn from the greats. Then carve your own way.
Packaging - Selfridges