Designers / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Bas Storch, Head Of Design at AFFINITY, Australia

Bas Storch is a designer, art director and illustrator, currently working as the Head Of Design at AFFINITY, Australia, a full service media and advertising agency.

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1. To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’m a designer, art director, illustrator, thinker, doer. I wear a lot of hats throughout the day. And I’ve worn a few more especially in the last decade or so.

I started my current role just after Easter this year. I’m Head of Design at AFFINITY, a strategically-led, creative agency that puts a strong focus on achieving business outcomes using science blended with creativity.

The way we do this, is that all our comms and ideas start with a clear goal which leads the development of a strong strategy informed by a mountain of data, research and principles which are based on psychology and behavioural science.

What exactly is it I do? In short, I’m responsible for all the creative output that leaves the agency.
It’s pretty bizarre starting a new job on Zoom but we’re all getting used to the new normal.

The team at AFFINITY has been great in terms of making feel welcome as a newbie without having met most of the team in person yet!

In terms of where it all began, in 2008 I was accepted for an internship at DDB Sydney whilst still at Uni. I loved it. After graduating a year later, I worked as an art director in advertising agencies, branding and design studios and ran my own brand consultancy along the way.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I get up reasonably early, around 6/6.30am – pandemic or not.

After I let my puppy, Archie, out for his business & then I go and get ready. For me it’s important to keep up the routine as if I was actually leaving the house to go to work. That includes showering and getting dressed!

Before I let screens and distractions cramp my morning I take the dog to the park for an hour to get moving and start the day on a high note. How good is puppy time in the morning!

Then I have breakfast, coffee, OJ and check my emails, catch up on the news and my inspiration go-to’s. I try not to look at my phone before then.

Around 8.30am, I sit down to start work. The first 30 mins are for admin and getting focussed. From then on it’s internal meetings, designing for print and digital campaigns, art directing brand concepts and client presentations.

Even though I work from home, time is really flying by at the moment; we consider ourselves quite lucky to be busy right now.

Usually for after work I try to mix things up to create a clear break, by seeing friends, me-time and date night. But at the moment my safe-haven during the week is another walk in the park (literally) and cooking a nice dinner with a glass of red in one hand.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

We’re all working from home at the moment, but under normal circumstances, my role at AFFINITY also allows for remote and flexible work as much as possible.

For projects where people need to be in their head space without interruptions, we are encouraged to work offsite – to be in the zone. But for the most part we are mindful to work as a team.

The way we tackle projects is very collaborative and we encourage open conversations and bouncing ideas off each other – in fact this is baked into our process. This way we can ensure we’re getting the best results for our clients and strengthen the team at the same time.

For the most part, I enjoy being surrounded by people and work the same hours. If I need space, I put my headphones on.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

This probably goes for anybody, whether they’re aware of it or not. If you don’t give your brain time to relax, every aspect in your life is going to suffer. I think this is especially true in regard to sleep.

If your work-life balance consists of 8 hours of work, 12 hours of ‘life’ and 4 hours of sleep, your balance is way off. I’m striving to pack everything I need to do at work into 8 hours. The way to achieve this is to be efficient with your time.

Don’t procrastinate. And if I catch myself doing so, I get up, make myself a cuppa, have a snack or simply go for a 5 minute walk around the office/house.

It’s important to have something just for yourself. I either work on a side hustle idea, create chalk illustrations or my new plan: learn pottery! For me it’s more about ‘life balance’. In short: priorities. Once you’ve got that down, things will flow (I’m still to master this btw).

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5) What do you think are some of the best habits or routines that you’ve developed over the years to help you achieve success in your life?

One thing I’‘ve learned over the years is: don’t pretend to be someone or something you’re not. And make sure you work with/for people whose values you share.

I think success is something everyone needs to define for themselves. To me, success means to be able to wake up in my own house every morning, in a city and country that I have chosen to be my home.

To be able to take my dog for daily walks and being able to go on holiday once or twice a year. The fact that I don’t have to work 80 hour weeks and that I managed to find a career where I actually enjoy what I’m doing. And if my work gets recognised, to me, that’s success.

My routines or habits that underpin this are simple. Be honest and put your hand up when you fuck up. It does happen. Stay humble, and when you hit a wall, get up and make yourself a cuppa (I do drink a bit of tea!).

It took me a while to arrive at not stressing so much about the little things.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m trying to enjoy as diverse a mix of visual and mental stimulation as I can. And it ranges greatly. I recently read Feck Perfuction: Dangerous Ideas on the Business of Creativity by James Victore. It’s a delight.

I love picking up my coffee table books that I have collected over the years. I can look at the craft of Saul Bass for hours, or get lost in intricate map illustrations. But with so much great work always accessible, Instagram has become my main source of inspiration.

There is so much local and international talent showcasing their creativity, it’s incredible. A good podcast I’m listening to is 99% Invisible. My favourite style/travel blog is Captain And The Gypsy Kid.

That’s another bonus about being at AFFINITY. Every week we have a dedicated 1 hour learning/reading/growth session where we can choose to learn whatever we like. No phone calls, emails or client work allowed!

The team have found it’s created good habits to find the time to stretch our knowledge whereas before they might have put it off for ‘another time’.

7) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

The most important thing is to have a good night’s sleep. And a list. Define the 3 most important things you need to get done. If you manage to achieve them, then it’s been a productive day.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Paula Scher.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Don’t stress about the little things. Everything else will follow. And drink more tea.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.