Looking at the early years of art director Iris Teoh (above left) and copywriter Yasira Yusoff (above right), one can easily see that both of them are outside-the-box thinkers, each in their own unique way. While Iris describes her childhood self as ‘imaginative and hands-on,’ always stuck in DIY projects and non-stop doodling on anything, Yasira admits she was ‘quite the chatterbox,’ and quite disruptive in primary school. However, she found her ‘quiet moments,’ by burying herself in books, which later contributed to her love for language and writing.
Both of the creatives’ hobbies revolved around art and creative expression in one way or another – Iris was heavily involved with music between the ages of eight and 16, as well as with sculpture, pottery, drawing and painting. Yasira in turn, played tennis competitively until she was 18 years old, while always practicing arts and crafts, ‘whether it was painting, scrapbooking or building things.’
Art director Iris grew up in a traditional Chinese environment, which heavily influenced her value system when it comes to work and life overall. Meanwhile, Yasira grew up in a bi-racial family (her dad being Malay and her mom Chinese). “We grew up rather Westernised,” explains Yasira, “my sisters and I went to Christian schools and all of us speak English at home.” However, she describes growing up between two cultures as ‘eye-opening,’ and believes it cultivated in her deep respect and curiosity for cultures outside of her own.
At Nanyang Technological University, Yasira studied Communications, and Iris Visual Communication and Media Design at Singapore Polytechnic. Both describe their time at university as extremely enjoyable and rewarding. While Yasira fuelled her love for different cultures through various programmes in European countries, Iris relished the creative environment and being surrounded by ‘passionate, like-minded individuals,’ which never failed to inspire her.
Iris admits that during her time at university, she was ‘into making coffee’ and was a barista for about two years, during which she was quite keen on learning the intricacies of latte art. She even did a short course on coffee, but her barista ambitions saw their end some time after her graduation when she officially got into advertising. Yasira also dabbled into the barista life, although for a much briefer period, since she worked a bunch of odd jobs during her university years. Her first formal work experience was an internship in university, where she was ‘part of an agency’s client servicing team.’
This particular internship wasn’t much of a calculated decision for Yasira. “It was more of a ‘oh let’s try this out’ sort of thing,” confesses the writer. However spontaneous, this decision was a crucial step on the path to her current career – after graduation, she knew she wanted to pursue the creative path in advertising. “Luckily, an agency gave me a chance, despite my pretty non-existent portfolio at that time. The people I met there taught me heaps!” Similarly, Iris dabbled in the creative world during her university internship, which was with a local advertising firm. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to do back then, but in the back of my head, I knew it was something I wanted to try. I remember telling myself to take the chance if it comes.”
When talking about the most prominent lessons from the early days of their careers, Yasira states: “Pick your battles. Because in the world of advertising, you’re gonna have many. And not all of them will be worth your time or effort.” Iris, on the other hand, shares the valuable knowledge that ‘details really matter and it’s good not to underestimate them’. For her, there is nothing that cannot be solved. This is advice she keeps from her earlier years when she was ‘easily anxious and worried about everything that she was doing.’ Reflecting, she says: “Instead of spending loads of time worrying, you could use that time to make the quality of work even better.”
They both speak fondly of the excitement they felt with their first ever professional projects in the industry – Yasira’s being designing packaging for a chocolate brand filled with perspective-type photo props, and Iris’ creating a national souvenir and its packaging, which was picked up by clients during a school pitch. Remembering the project that really changed her career, however, Yasira goes back to a brand platform idea for a banking client: “Winning was the easy bit. Afterwards, we worked on the project for eight months on a sprint basis which meant churning out new creative twice a week. It was hell. But under such immense pressure, my most shiny pieces of work were formed.”
Iris doesn’t point to a particular project that turned her career around, but describes all of her work as something that has shaped her both as a person and a creative. The best part in creating that work for her is the process – ‘from ideation to executional work’ all the way to actually seeing the final project on print, TV or digital. Yasira’s favourite part of the creative process is ‘being able to elicit a reaction with nothing but her words.’
When it comes to professional challenges, the two creatives touch upon equally important perspectives. “I find trouble killing my darlings,” admits Yasira, explaining how for her most of the difficulty comes with trying to not be too attached to her work. For Iris, the complicated relationship between a creative person and the world’s criticism towards them, seems to be the biggest point of difficulty. “Criticism is good but understanding where it comes from is even more important,” says the art director.
Both Yasira’s and Iris’ professional aspirations lie with important social issues and making a true difference to the world – “I believe that really good ideas and writing have the power to start a change. And I feel like 72andSunny is the place to do that – there’s a strong creative ambition to do good work and you can feel it in every project,” explains Yasira. “The work at 72andSunny is both inspired and inspiring,” agrees her counterpart. Besides these aspirations, both agree that the prospect of ‘doing cool shit’ is perhaps one of the most exciting parts of their jobs.
Still involved with creativity in every free moment of their lives, Yasira and Iris enjoy film, music, drawing, illustrating and photography in their free time. For Yasira, running away from the fear that she might not leave much behind when she is gone has been the catalyst of all that creativity – “I try my darndest to create work that touches people or has impact.” In a similar vein, Iris understands that for a true creative ‘the possibilities in the world are endless’ and that in a world this vast, inspiration lurks around every corner.