Next Creative Leaders 2020: Astrid Andujar
Posted on Oct 29, 2020
She / Her / Hers
Hometown and country:
Born in the Dominican Republic, but New York City is home.
Current employer, city and role:
Droga5, New York, Art Director
How did your upbringing, family or hometown shape you as a creative?
I’ve been a creative for as long as I can remember. My family had a very humble life in the Dominican Republic. As a way to make ends meet, my mom made and sold artisan souvenirs at tourist shops—I was her assistant, of course. The crafting of these items was my very first introduction to the creative world. This interest migrated with me to the Bronx and stayed with me through high school. As a teenager, I enrolled in a number of art classes and internships at museums — my love for painting consequently evolved into graffiti, graphic design and photography.
What’s your “breaking into advertising” story?
My interest in graphic design continued throughout college, but so did my love for art history — so much so that I ended up with an art history minor. I was also really enjoying my journalism and marketing courses. One of my professors noticed my greater interest in these fields and suggested becoming an art director — something I had never heard of until then. In fact, the idea was totally foreign and abstract to me. With that title in mind, my goal became to apply the same art principles I was raised with to websites, apps, commercials, etc. By the time I graduated, I was interning at KBS+P (Forsman & Bodenfors).
What’s the piece of work you’re most proud of and why?
In this industry, it often feels like you rarely get to work on a project that uses your creativity for good: opportunities where you not only satisfy the client's needs, but also your own. This was the case in our latest film for Shine, a daily self-care app created by two BIPOC women, featuring meditations voiced by mostly Black womxn and topics specifically geared towards issues faced by marginalized communities. The app allows you to create an emotional space for yourself and with this in mind we created a film that mimics a meditation — viewers could follow along and enjoy a moment of tranquility. From day one, the team working on the film reflected the cast we captured on camera — encompassing a diverse range of race, gender and sexual orientation to accurately capture the audience it was created for. Thanks to that inclusivity, we were able to create something genuine and beautiful and launched on World Mental Health Awareness day. I’m insanely proud of the service the clients created, the cast who brought the film to life and the learnings we all gained.
What does being named a Next Creative Leader mean to you?
This award is a signifier that my efforts of creating meaningful work is paying off. Being recognized by some of the industry’s powerhouses means the world, thank you.
Who has most influenced you in your career thus far?
My mom, of course! But within our field, it is the BIPOC creatives who have been a positive influence on my career. Through their support and constant push, they ingrained the idea of raising up and reaching back in me. Their excellence paved a path I can walk on, which I can only pay back by providing the same support that was given to me.
What is your secret (or not-so-secret) creative super power and how do you flex it?
I don’t think it’s a secret by now but I'm always pushing for realness and change. You’ll find me taking apart briefs and exploring ways to get our clients to give back to the community at large.
Your work for Sing Street was produced during Covid to raise money for a Covid-related cause. How did the limitations of sheltering in place impact your creative approach and the outcome?
The broken hearts from the Sing Street cast reflected ours. We were all mourning the loss of our pre-covid lives. This propelled us to make something excellent for everyone stuck at home and bring a bit of musical joy to them and to Broadway fans across the globe. We gave our online experience a new name, Sing Street: Grounded, and used the concept of being grounded at home to influence the work. This new platform informed much of our creative, including the promo videos (rehearsals filmed at home), our design aesthetic (meant to look home-made) and our donation drive (inspired by 80s telethon shows).
What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the creative industry right now and how would you solve it?
It’s been a challenging year and staying creative and motivated has been extremely difficult. So many of us struggle with asking for help and taking the time off for ourselves. Normalizing this and taking extended periods of time off should be something we are comfortable with and encouraged to do.
What’s the biggest lesson that 2020 has taught you?
Being comfortable with putting myself first.
How have you pivoted your creative process/the way you work while sheltering in place?
Creating boundaries has been difficult. Working and living within the same walls leaves very little room to be creatively stimulated/inspired. So now I take my brainstorming outside — a blanket, speakers and a sketchbook at the park has become my usual concepting space.
How do you “fill up your cup” creatively?
Before museums were open, I was watching tons of surrealist films. There is so much escapism in those films that it really ignites my curiosity and allows my mind to wander away from the day-to-day. If I’m short on time, watching Vimeo’s Staff Picks does the trick.
How are you caring for yourself during this stressful time? Any self-care tips and tricks you can share?
Not gonna lie, I’m just learning to put myself first and that acknowledgement comes from speaking with a therapist, which I wholeheartedly recommend. I took a few days off to just be at home (vs planning a complicated getaway) and it did wonders for my mental wellbeing.
How are you working to celebrate, support or elevate other marginalized voices and experiences?
Outside of work, reaching back has been one of my on-going career goals. Currently, I’m a mentor at the ONE SCHOOL, The Knowledge House and an Advisory Board member at ADCOLOR. But while at work, my projects focus on elevating the voices I don’t often see represented—whether that is by careful casting or unique storytelling.
Creativity can save the world. What real world problem would you want to tackle with creativity, if time, budget and logistics were not an issue?
I have so many issues I’d love to tackle! However, growing up poor and by the ocean meant I experienced both the lack of quality education facing developing countries, as well as ocean pollution first-hand. Without doubt, I’d tackle those first.
What or who is currently inspiring you?
The norm-defiers: the reggaeton artist swapping misogynistic norms for feminist and queer anthems, the staff who refused to work until their colleagues were paid equally, those fighting for DE&I, and the folks providing support at protests.
How are you leaving the work, the workplace or the world a better place than you found it?
Introducing unique POVs and stories, always adding an altruistic touch to all of my projects, and introducing the talent to the agency/projects.
If you could go back in time, what pivotal advice would you give yourself before your first day as a professional creative?
Take practical filmmaking classes, they’ll expose you to techniques, on-set knowledge and strengthen your art direction.