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Creative Ops

FatShiba’s Kerry Laster on the importance of transparency and honesty

February 22, 2023 · 5 min read

This is part of our 100 Creative Directors interview series. It has been edited for length and clarity. To return to the series homepage and browse other interviews, click here.

What kind of creative director are you?

At FatShiba, I am the Principal Creative Director and I'm a little different in the sense that I come from a writing background. I went to school for creative writing. I went to school for film. I went to school for graphic design. And I didn't finish the graphic design, I didn’t finish the creative writing, but I finished the film. 

So my goal coming from college was to do film, I wanted to direct. 

The issue is in order to make a reel, you need a bunch of work, and that takes a long time because you need other people. So I was trying to figure out what I could do that didn't require twenty people to make one thing. And I was like, ‘okay, well I could try graphic design.’ I could build a portfolio. I could possibly get in somewhere and maybe see where that takes me. 

So I got the Adobe Master collection and taught myself each program one at a time. I spent about six months on each program. From there, I started doing little graphic design work for clubs and stuff like that. And then going to clubs got me connected with musicians, and then I would do their singles. And then when someone would get signed to a label, I would do the artwork for the album. So, how I would have to think about the creative had to expand, and I had to think about how it lived in these different environments. So now I go from a graphic designer, to an art director…

In music it's got to be special. You're trying to stand out from the noise, you're trying to compete with this person who is way more popular than you, who just dropped their album. So how do we get something with your actual fan base that’s really going to vibe with you? 

So it was a lot of trying to be unique, trying to think, “okay as opposed to just being the design, we’ve got to think about all of it. We’ve got to think about the video, the photography, what’s the narrative that we’re coming up with for this album? Is there something interesting we can do that’s experiential activation?” And so I found myself doing that for Def Jam, Atlantic, and Universal.

I never wanted to be a CD who only watched people make things, like I like being in it.

I like being more like a producer or a chef. I like being in the kitchen making stuff - not micromanaging - just being able to contribute because I feel like if I'm always able to do that, then I'm always gonna stay sharp and I'm never gonna get stale and never be out of touch with what the current vibe is creatively.

How do you measure success?

Our team is under fifty, and the way that we measure success is really in quality: the quality of the output and the quality of what we’re contributing to the project: how unique we are in being dialed in with what the project needs. 

We’re big music heads so often we’re thinking about creativity like producers, and the brands and projects are the artist.

I’m really here to get the best out of that. I’m not here to try and put my spin on it so you know that like “Kerry CD’d the shit out of this.” That’s not the goal!

I’m really trying to align what the brand wants to do, what their mission is, and what creative is really going to do the best job for that?

What's the language? What's the music? What's the imagery?

Is it something that you need to bring in an outside collaborator because they're going to have a unique perspective that's going to elevate what we're trying to achieve?

Our ability to authentically do that is how we measure the success for everything. 

What would you say are three tools, or methods, or systems, or that, you could not do your job without?

  1. FaceTime and Zoom. Before the pandemic, we were very much about working remotely because the world's too big. The dopest animator for the project doesn't necessarily live in Bedstuy, he may be in London. I still want to be able to tap into that. It may mean working with someone in France or that some of the team have to travel back and forth to Brazil. So this is very much about having a way to always communicate. There are some things you do want to vibe for, but Zoom and FaceTime gave us that freedom to find collaborators from other places and bring them into the loop.

  2. Next thing is Slack and Dropbox. The remote server. You know that Cloud server be coming through. It just be saving the day [laughs]. Being able to have a Slack where we’re not beating up your phone, because we're big on mental health. I don't want to blow up your cell phone. I don't want to shoot you like a million texts because then there's no disconnect and it feels like we can't switch conversations. Having somewhere we can dump all the business communications is great.

  3. The last thing has to be food apps. Being able to get food to people. Again, we’re working remotely. So sometimes it's sending people cookies And sometimes it's doing remote group lunches. The world we live in doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all physically together. And these tools allow us to still move the same. To move as a unit. 

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

Always be transparent and honest with yourself and with your team. 

The greatest gift you have as a Creative Director and a leader of any team is your transparency and your honesty. That goes for the team that you’re leading and the clients you're working with. 

They want to work with you for that. They want to know what you think. They want to know why you think it.

They’re going to come with ideas sometimes and if there’s something in it that could potentially be a misstep or just not work, it’s your job to be honest. 

I'm not collaborating with you because I just want to make you happy. I want to make you better. 

Better is not the same thing. Better means I see a hole somewhere. I see something you’re not doing or something you could be doing and I’m going to call that out.

Me not doing that means that I’m not really helping you.I'm putting a Band-Aid on something. Or I’m fanboying you or doing some hypebeast shit or something like that.
If I’m not being true, it’s going to show in the work. It’s going to show in what we bring you that we weren’t being honest.

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