Constantly Moving: Sabrina Han, DDB Chicago

Climbing is just creative problem solving plus physical activity—which are the two things I can never get enough of.

Sabrina Han
Art Director DDB
 

DDB Worldwide Inc.
Marketing/Creative Services
New York, United States
See Profile
 

Tell us a bit about yourself and what led you to Art Direction?

I was born in Korea, but claim Atlanta as my hometown since I grew up there. I’ve been in Chicago for a year now and that’s been really rad. Chicago is so underrated, especially in the south, but I freaking love it here. I have an older sister who’s in LA, and my mom actually moved back to Korea, so the fam’s all over the map, but we handle the distance pretty well! 
Growing up, I did a lot of different hobbies and sports. I just love trying new things. I changed my major five times in college before sticking with advertising. After my junior year of college, I decided to do the 10-week summer program at The Creative Circus, to really understand what a “creative” did. And that’s what really led me to understand the role of an art director.

 

So, what inspired you to try bouldering, and what were your expectations when you first began?

Growing up, my mom and my friends always said that my spirit animal was a spider monkey. So safe to say, I was always climbing things or jumping over things—just constantly moving. I started bouldering a little bit over a year ago, when I was back home in Atlanta, waiting to start at DDB. But I never really knew climbing was a legit thing ‘til, like, last year. I’d go climbing for, like, middle school parties and stuff, but that’s really the only exposure I got. Then when I started getting into it, I was, like, woah, this is actually, like, a sport that’s pretty big.

 

What is it about bouldering that keeps you coming back?

Climbing is just creative problem solving plus physical activity—which are the two things I can never get enough of. It’s challenging and fun, and I love how much it changes. You’ll find a new set of routes up every week, which is awesome, cause I get bored really easily and hate doing one thing for a really long time.
That, and the people. The climbing community is so cool. It’s one of those sports where everyone just wants each other to succeed, and more likely than not, there will be at least one other person who’s trying the same problem as you. There’s lots of collaboration—people will help guide and encourage you as you’re on the wall. I’ll be at the gym and realize three hours have passed and I still want to just hang. It’s so social and fun. And it’s cross-cultural. You’re speaking the same language if you go across the globe and go to a climbing gym in Asia. Lots of things I like about it, clearly.

 

How do you pitch bouldering to someone who’s never tried it before?

Climbing honestly pitches itself. It’s a sport that’s unlike any other. When someone asks what I do in my free time and I say that I climb, it automatically warrants some sort of surprise or wonder. Lots of questions, lots of interest. Then you invite them to join you, and like 70% of people will say yes, and 10% of those people will actually come. But it’s awesome when they do!

 

How has the reaction been to your hobby from within DDB? Have any coworkers joined you on climbs?

Really cool! Two of my good friends who I work with, Mark and Drew, ended up joining, and our other friend, Katie, and I are doing a #yokedgirlwinter series, so stay tuned. 

 

Has bouldering given you a unique perspective or insight that’s benefitted you as an Art Director? 

10,000%. That’s probably why I love it so much. Like I said before, bouldering is creative problem solving. You’re really just looking at a problem, figuring out how to solve it, probably failing at it the first time around, then figuring out a different way to solve it. Much like the creative process! But seriously, it’s insane how similar it is. And it’s cool, because there’s not just one way to solve a (climbing) problem, just like in advertising. A lot of different ideas work in advertising, and a lot of different betas work in climbing. What looks like a hand hold could actually work better if you throw in a heel, or a toe, etc. It’s kind of like, what’s that one little missing factor, or thing we could do a little differently that will crack the code?

 

Any memorable stories from your time bouldering that you’d like to share?

The first time I went bouldering outdoors was pretty epic. Climbing outdoors on real boulders is just so different. It’s super-humbling, cause you’ll be sending, like, V4/5s indoors, and you get outdoors and a V2 is super hard. You don’t have hot pink holds that tell you where to go. You just have this massive rock, probably a book that shows the general direction of the route, and some chalk marks from past climbers. But outdoor bouldering is so much more exhilarating. There’s such a greater risk of getting hurt and the adrenaline really carries you because the fear factor is a lot more real. Cause it’s really you, a few other people to catch you if you fall, and a couple of crash pads on probably rocky ground and that’s it. I was trying this pretty epic route and I swung out and knew I was about to fall on bad ground. There was this huge rock right underneath me, and even though our crash pad was over it, the angle I was falling at would’ve sent me over the edge and onto another very large rock. Luckily my friend was standing on that side, just to grab something out of his backpack, and caught me as soon as I yelled before falling down. I mean I practically landed on top of him, but was really thankful he was there. It was pretty scary. But kind of really fun. And it also motivated me more to climb it again because I knew there was a different way of solving it. 

 

Is there any advice you’d give to advertising professionals on how to pursue their passions while working in an industry with a notoriously poor work/life balance?

It’s really easy to push aside our passions because “we don’t have time.” But seriously, it’s such a blessing that we all have that thing that we love that just fills us in a way nothing else can. And I think it’s so easy to forget that in this industry. Treat your passion as a mandatory, and just prioritize it. I don’t really believe in compartmentalizing our lives. What we do outside of work affects how we work at work, whether we know it or not. So to do the things we love should always be first. And if you don’t know what you love, definitely give climbing a shot!!