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People to Watch in 2011 BACK FORWARD

Sarah Williams
sarah williams


As Creative Director at Beardwood&Co, Sarah Williams views every project as an opportunity to see the world with fresh eyes and discover a solution that is not only creatively invigorating, but makes her proud. A “design explorer” for almost a decade, Williams is always scouting out new inspiration from the tip of Patagonia to Tokyo’s Design Week to Zanzibar. Her design adventures at Beardwood&Co span from telling the punk rock story of legendary CBGB’s, to delivering girly glamor for Bath & Body Works, and channeling her inner scientist with Pfizer’s next blockbuster brand. Not bad for a small-town girl from Michigan, who set off for New York City with a one-way ticket and $50 in her pocket. Williams began her career in branding at Landor developing a new national airline brand, Song, and repositioning Blackberry for a mass market. She also conducted major branding projects for the NYC Olympic Bid, Burger King and Clairol. Williams joined Beardwood&Co to build an energized studio environment where designers could thrive on cross-pollination of ideas and diverse projects. She fuels her creativity by writing for The Scout (thescoutmag.com) and makes every weekend into a design safari.

Where were you born, where do you live, did this effect your design style or sensibilities?
I was raised in Saranac MI; population 1,326. I dreamed from age 14 of one day moving to New York. Small-town roots ground my work, and I often relate to it when thinking about how to reach an audience through design. I made my dream come true; live in Brooklyn and work in SoHo. I love being in an epicenter of creativity. There is a contagious energy to pursue your passions and make it happen.

If you were not a designer, what would you do?
In my wildest dreams, I’d be a rapper. I’ve always been riveted by hip-hop; the rapid-fire cleverness of the lyrics collaged over obscure samples, and the way 100 different ideas can be communicated in less than five minutes. It’s a powerful form of music with the ability to synthesize culture. There are many parallels to design, and depths of inspiration.

What advice would you give a design student or a young professional just starting out?
Be voracious in your education and resilient in your creativity. Push yourself until you’ve run out of ideas, and then push some more. Align with teachers and friends who will make you better. Once you get your first internship or job, do it all over again.

Design Hero?
Paul Rand, Josef Müller-Brockmann, Geoff McFetridge
Favorite Color?
Favorite Typeface?
Futura, in a Wes Anderson film
Favorite App?
Nike+ GPS for running & highly motivating info-graphics
Favorite TV Shows?
Bored to Death, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Nature on PBS
Favorite Books?
The Medium is the Message by Marshall McLuhan, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, Wim Crouwel Alphabets, This is New York by M. Sasek, How to be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy
Favorite Movies?
Powers of Ten, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars Episodes 4,5,6
Favorite Music?
Old Hip-hop & Punk
Favorite Fine Artists?
Sister Mary Corita Kent, Raymond Pettibon, Ed Ruscha, Matthew Brannon
Favorite Gadget?
A globe
Bookmarked Websites?
thescoutmag.com, ffffound.com, friendsoftype.com, graphichug.com, ohjoy.blogs.com, eatmakeread.com
Worst Habit?
Trying to keep too many ideas alive.
New Year’s Resolution?
Continuing to work with cultural institutions. Keep doodling, writing, running. See new parts of the world.