{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "Recent grad trying to break into art directing. I can’t afford portfolio school so I’m resorting to creating a “homemade” portfolio book. I have the graphic design skills, and I am willing to invest a few thousand into creating my book. What advice and resources would you recommend for this endeavor?", "post_id": "5fb85aa5a4951f002aee9b95", "reply_count": 41, "vote_count": 2, "bowl_id": "5565cfca8b2b9a03009acf57", "bowl_name": "Advertising" }

Recent grad trying to break into art directing. I can’t afford portfolio school so I’m resorting to creating a “homemade” portfolio book. I have the graphic design skills, and I am willing to invest a few thousand into creating my book. What advice and resources would you recommend for this endeavor?

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Oh boy. I been in your position. First, have you tried seeing if loans are an option? Perhaps scholarships. Why do I say this. Because you will struggle making a homemade portfolio. And because you want to be an art director, it’s even harder since not only you have to learn how to concept, but design and learn the software. I can tell you from experience that you will spend lots of hours designing one ad only to be told that it has no concept or it doesn’t makes sense. That was my mistake, until I was told sketch the ideas/layout first until the idea is there and then execute. I can go on, but the homemade portfolio option takes longer to get in the industry and requires super discipline and lots of networking. Trust me, you are better off going to school where you can be taught the right way. Where are you located, perhaps there’s an affordable portfolio school near by? Or maybe work for 1 year and save some money to go school. Not trying to scare you, just don’t want you to make the same mistake I did.

likehelpful

It also gets you networking connections which will make it easier to find a job

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Are you working in an agency now? I used to be in HR and asked to shadow creative teams. The agency was really receptive to it and best of all it gave me access to creative mentors I could run my ideas past. Also, when it comes to portfolio school, look into the night classes and courses and remember you don’t need to complete the whole thing. It’s made to get you a job, not a degree. I did one 10-week course and got an internship right after. The class was really helpful in teaching you how to think and what’s expected in the workplace so it was a good investment. It is totally possible to get in without portfolio school, but it’s hard and it took me a year and a half to land a job at a reputable agency.

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Thanks so much I appreciate this advice!

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I think your best bet will be to find some sort of mentor to vet your spec ideas. Alternatively try and find a copywriter online to jam with and maybe start working on some of the D&AD + young ones student briefs. But the big thing to focus on will be the ideas. Try and get 4-5 solid pieces and then start trying for an internship or jr role. Make ads with me isn’t a bad option to find writers.

likehelpful

Thank you! This is super helpful and a great place to start!

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I’m down to jam and collab! DM me

likehelpful

If you can’t afford full time portfolio school, try a smaller school like Adhouse NYC. They’ll teach you basic concepting skills and help you come up with some campaigns.

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If you can get in without going to portfolio school, DO IT. If you have creative suite down, cool. But that's not entirely the job and it's expected you know them, so it's not a selling point for getting your foot in the door. You have to learn how to think conceptually and sell ideas through. Find a copywriting partner to work with. Maybe ask a strategists for an old brief you can tackle on your own for inspiration?

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Try to learn the difference between concepts vs. tactics/executions. A good place to start is by finding ads you like and trying to deconstruct them by working backwards to figure out the one or two sentences that explain the idea/insight.

likesmart

This is awesome advice. Thank you so much, I never thought to start reverse engineering ads. So grateful for this tidbit of info.

First, think long and hard before you pursue this career. And see if your passions and interests will lead you elsewhere. If there is anything else you think you "might" want to do, then look at that first. Just trying to save you.

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OP- you can even start here on FB, sharing the work ya got and getting some constructive feedback. Going to portfolio school isn’t the only way and people definitely break through without going that route, but like others have said- it’s much harder. VCU / University of Texas are two degree giving school, which is important for loan purposes. Since you’d be getting a masters, You’ll get the aid / loans ya need. There’s also night school options- The Austin Creative Department (taught by GSD&M pees) is check them out today.

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Thank you!

I didn’t go to portfolio school. Started as a temp receptionist right after college without even knowing what advertising was and then worked my way into creative. DM me if you want to chat! Would be happy to help

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Hi! I’m in the same position as OP but want to be a copywriter. Mind if I DM you?

Hello! I wanted to add a follow up to this thread to give a thank you to everyone who commented. You really helped give me a great launching point. I’m making ads with people I met on makeadswithme.com . And after exploring a lot of different options recommended here I’m taking a concepting class online at SVA. Lastly, since I’m interning at an agency as a PM and they’re allowing me to shadow creatives (thank you CW2 for this idea). So thanks again for helping to begin this journey!

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Read books about advertising. Some are more geared to students, like "Hey Whipple" and "junior". Listen to ad podcasts. Some are geared towards junior and student levels. DGMS: a podcast about advertising The A List, by AdHouse advertising school These two are good starters. Find a few mentors who you can share work with, maybe get briefs from, get advice from, learn from. Look at portfolio school websites, the student showcase sections, to see what their student portfolios look like as they are your competition.

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Also, know you have time. Probably 23? A lot of us don’t break-in until 25-26-27-28-29-30 find a job or internship that allows you to get a step closer. Marketing? Have a few experiences. And just start making ads. And read Whipple!

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I just got out of my program in March (terrible timing). But I went through a night school program called Bookshop based in LA. I went there because I was completely broke, have a fiancé here, couldn’t relocate but was dying to get in. Also it was the only real affordable option for CWs in LA. Had a prior internship after taking a few CW classes through a different program (about 5 to 6 months). It got me an internship but not the job. It wasn’t the best - not as intensive as a VCU or Miami ad school - but I got a decent enough book to break in despite the pandemic. So there are affordable options out there. I believe I paid in total 5k for a year and a half of classes. No cheap, but WAY cheaper than the alternative. It wasn’t just a matter of pushing myself, it was a matter of doing so under the direction of someone who really knew the craft. I needed it. But that’s me. Feel free to DM me if you’d like some info. I don’t work there so this isn’t a sales pitch.

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https://makeadswithme.com

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I went to SVA at night, part-time, took continuing ed classes in advertising and I was able to put my book together that way. The advantage was the cost was low and I continued to work my day job.

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Check out Job Propulsion Labs. It’s less expensive that portfolio schools and I’ve seen students land at some good places from there.

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Get your ideas vetted FIRST before spending the time and money executing them. Draw up your ideas as sketches first. Ask 3 CDs what they think. If they all like the ideas, then it gets the green light. If they all hate it, immediately let it go, no matter how much you love it. If some like it, some don’t, I would also let it go.

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I really like this advice, and I feel like a mentor or someone to nix my bad ideas is crucial to have along the way. Since I don’t know many CDs yet, should I be paying them to look at my work? Should I hit up CDs and ADs on Fishbowl and LinkedIn? What do you think?

Lynda. Coursera. YouTube. Ad school is not mandatory at all.

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