Amber Bonney wears many hats. As well as being the force behind her creative studio Edison Agency , she is a mother, wife, sister, strategic, designer, artist, writer, planner, mentor and mediator. Amber now adds the role of CWC President to that list. Prior to accepting the role , she was on the AGDA Victoria Council and spearheaded the development of their Professional Mentorship program. We chat with Amber on work, life, and the things in between.
Tell us about yourself
I was born and bred in Melbourne, a girl of the mid 70’s who is now resenting my slow metabolism and thickening waistline and enjoying my sparkling wine more than ever! I have 3 children aged 16, 14 and 4 and my husband and I have a blended ‘modern’ family so life’s pretty full-on… hence my love of sparkling wine! I come from a large family of 5 girls so life has always been big and hectic and I learnt early only how to hustle through life to get my needs met. As the middle child I have always been self-driven and independent and have developed strong mediation skills which have been useful as a business owner.
What do you do?
I am the founder of The Edison Agency, a strategic brand and design consultancy with offices in Melbourne and Sydney. We use strategy and design to help businesses make positive change. My role is Managing Director and Head of Strategy and I am responsible for the executive creative direction of all major brand projects. Over the past 22 years, I am proud to have been influential in helping iconic Australian and international brands maintain relevancy, define their purpose and vision, and connect with their audiences in a more meaningful way.
How did you get into this industry?
I’m a communication designer by trade, an Alumni of Swinburne University, and have been blessed with a single minded career focus all my life. My father introduced me to the industry through his career in the marketing and packaging industry. Since the time I was 14 and went to my first University Open day, I knew this was what I wanted to do.
When you get to know me, you will understand why people refer to me sometimes as “a bull at a gate”. My mind moves quickly (great for creative strategy and thinking on ones feet) but it can be mentally and physically exhausting so I do try to manage my overactive brain with regular mindfulness practices using my phone app (I appreciate the irony) and of course the odd vino! I’m naturally intuitive which helps me forge strong and lasting personal and business relationships, some of my current clients are people I’ve worked with for over 15 years.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I like to schedule my time and live and die by my diary! My day is spent straddling client meetings, internal planning of projects, financial planning, and working closely with both our Group Account Director, Design Director and CFO. We are a small team of 10, so about 10% of my time would also be dedicated to making decisions and planning around people and culture.
Typically when we have a large meaty project starting I am consumed by research and strategy phases – I tend to be more involved in the first half of a project to establish the vision and creative precedence and then required less as the project evolves. I have a highly skilled team of people propping me up!
What is the most important aspect of your job?
I am inspired by the potential design has to transform people, culture and business. Knowing that our work is helping make positive change for our clients is uber rewarding. Also, I am a sucker for complex design challenges. When I’m working on something difficult, I completely immerse myself in that business, brand, problem and deconstruct it until I can see and understand all the inputs and components. Only when I’ve done this can I put it back together and develop a strategic solution. I am obsessed with understanding “why” and go to enormous lengths as part of the research phase to really get under the skin of a brand or problem.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in your career?
I’m a proud feminist and I’m intolerant of the chauvinism our industry (and culture in general) is still accepting but I do see change and have high hopes for the world my daughter will grow up in. I’m a firm believer that it takes women banding together in support and advocacy of one another to truly make change. We are powerful, clever and innately resilient and this is why I believe in organisations like Creative Women’s Circle to shape the way women interact with each other, and within their industries.
What do you do in your ‘down time’ (and do you have a guilty pleasure)?
I spend most of my down time with my children down in coastal Victoria where I live. I am re-energized by the beach and am looking forward to summer where I can swim, play lawn bowls and make pina-coladas at home (guilty pleasure). My husband and I are both passionate mid-century design enthusiasts and we spent allot of time reading books, magazine and watching architecture and design-based TV series.
Best creative memory?
Seeing the first ad I designed in the weekend newspaper – think it was back in 1998! I think I still have it somewhere.
What would you tell your younger self?
You teach people how to treat you. Don’t accept sub-standard behaviour as it creates a pattern that’s hard to break. This is an important message for young women especially in the face of male dominated environments and with the rise of domestic violence issues.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to break into the industry you are in?
Be brave. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to ask the “dumb” questions. Find a mentor. Research every potential employer, every client, every project – always be prepared and understand the “why” in every design challenge.