The Chicago Portfolio School


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What do you do, when you just get stuck?

There is a sad truth that unites us all in the industry. Once in awhile, we get stuck. With this is mind, I asked several different students, faculty members, and industry people what their personal reaction or go-to move is when they need to clear their head. Other than death and taxes, there are two more inevitable factors in your life. 1. Creative walls happen and 2. We all climb them in different ways. Here’s what you guys said:

“Watch a ‘relevant” movie’ – Anthony Tull, 4th Quarter CW

“Make a ham and mustard sandwich without the ham.” – Kevin Tosi, Junior CW, HY Connect

“Go to the Lincoln Park Zoo to see my favorite bear.” – Natalie Todd, 3rd Quater DS

“Cry into my pillow pet.” – Ian Todd, 4th Quarter AD

“I think the best way to approach a rut is to remember that this is hard. It’s weird but sometimes it’s easy to forget. There’s no formula in this. Take a step back, sleep on it, and change the way your brain is looking at it. There IS a way in, you just haven’t thought of it yet.” – Adam Bedol, 5th Quarter CW

“Honestly…. I eat. And find caffeine. I wish I could say I go exercise or ponder life, but really I just go find a snack and try to get some sort of chemical in my body.” – Vincent Marocco, 3rd Quarter CW

“The tips I can say out loud? I look at old Communication Arts or One Show annuals.”
– Jeff Epstein, Founder/Owner of Chicago Portfolio School, the Big Man upstairs on 5.

“I look at other ads, play whiffle ball, look at dogs walking on the street. I went to the dog park yesterday. I don’t even have a dog. I just went in and sat down.”
– Bryan Hradek, 4th Quarter CW

“Nothing. I do nothing. Keep working and wait for it to pass. It might be hours, days, weeks. I might be in one [creative rut] right now, I don’t know!”
– Aloysius Ong, 4th Quarter AD

“Music. Preferably music that is the exact opposite of what the tone of the brand is. If I’m writing something about comfort & tranquility, I throw on some late seventies punk; if I’m thinking about happiness & joy, I throw on some Fields of the Nephilim (goth band).”
– Gary Fox Robertson, Creative Director, Leo Burnett Chicago

“Step away from everything, take a nap, then come back to it. Oh and I always do this at the last minute, right when things need to get done.” – Martha Murphy, CW Intern, Wongdoody Los Angeles

“Try to step away from the project for an hour or so. You can’t force creativity. It’s amazing how much a ‘concepting walk’ can help you. Also, you can’t be too selfish with your ideas. Discuss your project with other creatives in your school or agency that you respect and trust.” – Sarah Gatling, Copywriter, Energy BBDO Chicago

“I don’t drink so that’s out of the question, and I used to smoke a great deal, but that just clouded my vision and lungs. I’ll take a printout of a comp that’s not quite there yet and view it from every visual angle, upside down and backwards. Or you just burn the idea and start anew. Painful, but there’s relief!” – Ignatius Aloysius, Digital Boot Camp Instructor, Art Director, musician, poet, designer, creative writer, Adobe therapist, and resident badass of CPS

“I draw inspiration from the activities in my life. I have to constantly test myself by exposing myself to new things; taking a capoeira/yoga/kick boxing class, trying hang gliding or skydiving, etc. I love to try new things to gain more experiences, to meet more people, and to remain forever curious.” – Pamela Gieseke, 4th Quarter AD

“Sometimes I will spend an hour or even two just standing in the shower. I once spent four. If I am in the shower and something comes to me but I haven’t finished showering, I will throw a shampoo bottle or something into the hallway to remind me;
‘what’s this shampoo bottle doing in the hallw… oh, yes, I had to remember that thing about ceramic dolphin collectors.’” – David Thorne, graphic designer, author, comedian

If you’re on this blog because of a creative block, I hope reading through this gave you some ideas, if not for your campaign, at least what you could do in the meantime. Have a fantastic weekend CPS, and if you do hit a wall, remember there are other things you can do besides bang your head into it.

Written by 3rd Quarter Copywriter and CPS Blogger, Jillian Aramowicz

By heather : May 15, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Tim Cerullo

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum, Tim Cerullo, Senior Copywriter at Cavalry.

Check out his advice below:

“A year ain’t that long. So take advantage of your time at CPS.”

“Never let go of your ideas. The great thing about being a creative is that you don’t have to be ‘at work’ to be ‘working.’ Think about your ideas on the train, in the shower, at the bar, wherever…you never know when inspiration will strike.”

“Hone your presenting skills and figure out how to talk about concepts. This will be a big help in your transition to agency life.”

“Mediocrity is your enemy. Don’t settle for an OK book. Don’t send anything out until it’s Great.”

“Most importantly, be cool to each other. Everyone’s working hard. Nobody’s sleeping. And nothing in advertising comes quickly. It’s tough. But it’s fun.”

“CPS will give you the tools to build a great book. But remember, you get what you give. You’re doing this for yourself. For your career. An awesome career where you get to make shit up for a living. How cool is that?”

“Holler if you need anything.”


By heather : May 14, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Carrie Bain

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum, Carrie Bain, Copywriter at Commonwealth//McCann in Detroit.

About her photo: “My partner & I were recently featured on Partnerganer. We added lasers to look cooler.”

Check out her advice:

“I try not to stay at my desk for too long, but when I am at my desk I always make sure I have great books for conversation starters. My favorite title at the moment is ‘What’s Happening to My Body? A Growing Up Guide for Parents and Daughters.’”

“Don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone. I lived in Chicago for 10 years and I never thought I’d move to Detroit. In fact, Detroit was on the top of my list of places not to work. But when an opportunity knocks at your door, answer it. I’ve experienced so many cool things in Detroit and I’ve met some of the nicest people ever. Also working on a big brand like Chevrolet looks super nice on the resume.”

“Also, be nice to others and be yourself.”

“My last word of advice is when a rep or a vendor asks you out for lunch or dinner, do it because you can never get enough free food. And making connections is super great too.”

Check out her awesome portfolio:

By heather : May 07, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Annie Foss & Candace Carson

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alumni Annie Foss (Senior Designer) and Candace Carson (Junior Designer) at Webb deVlam, both on their branding team.  Fun fact – Annie taught a CPS class with Webb deVlam CD, Dan Walter. Candace happened to be in that class and they both liked her work so much that they snatched her up and she’s been part of the team ever since.

Check out their advice below:

Annie’s advice:
“Work hard. Do more versions than you think you need. Explain your thinking behind every concept and design. Read books. Read everything. Learn the badass design legends. Save work you find inspirational. Don’t be late ever. Learn to accept feedback graciously. Play well with others. Be enthusiastic and open to new challenges. Get just a little bit competitive. Keep learning everything you can from everyone around you. Teach others. Have fun. And be nice.”

Candace’s advice:
“Always bring your A-game, especially in class. Remember that your teachers are professionals in the industry you’re seeking out. Think of every project, critique and presentation as an opportunity, not just to create something book-worthy, but to show your talent and leave behind a lasting impression. Do work you’re proud of and always make it your goal to stand out. What you do and how you present yourself in class could possibly lead to the gig that launches your career down the road. So approach all of your time at CPS with that mentality. And have fun!”

Check out their awesome work:

By heather : April 30, 2015

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The AH HA Moment


“Innovators, such as Picasso or Newton or Jobs, are remembered for their “AH HA” moments- that moment where they came up with something great and altered the course of history. For some reason their “AH HA” is a given and I just assume it came out of thin air, even in the cases where I know they worked their ass off for their revelations. It still feels like the ideas popped up from nowhere just because these guys were geniuses.”

“And when I sit, working for hours, stuck in a creative slump churning out crap, I start to drive myself crazy. I start thinking that this isn’t the right field for me, that I must not be good at this whole ad thing, that a nice uncreative desk job where my tasks are either finished or not and quality isn’t a factor, doesn’t sound so bad after all. I start to think that I can’t have an “AH HA” moment because I’m clearly awful, and in my panic I forget about the fact that I, like most of us, was recently turned on to the field of advertising, I’m young, and my life isn’t actually falling apart yet. In part because it’s in a way impossible to fail at a career you haven’t actually started yet, and I know my fellow students have felt the same way.”

“Walking along you hear snippets of sleep deprived students lamenting how they’ll never find a job, or write good concept statements.  When really most of us should realize that having the knowledge to judge and question our own concept statement means we’ve learned something.”

“I asked Sean Burns, CPS Instructor & CD at FCB, about this struggle and if his work was made of “AH HA” moments or just ground out.  To which he sagely replied, “the grind gets you the ‘AH HA’ moments”.  That the fight to get there becomes like a drug and you put up with the suffering for the reward. So, maybe we are getting better and we now know what it takes to write a good concept statement. But suddenly, good isn’t cutting it for us anymore. Maybe, we’ve experienced that “AH HA” on a smaller level and are just building our tolerance to the drug so we can keep learning. Keep getting closer to that innovative, history-changing insight.”

“Then, once you get there, everyone will forget about the work you put in and all your bad ideas and just assume you are a genius with wonderful insights.”

Written by: CPS Blogger and 3rd Quarter Art Director, Margo Kurtzke

By heather : April 27, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Thomas Belmonte

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Thomas Belmonte, Junior Art Director at Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners in the Big Apple.

Check out his advice below:

“Use your time at CPS to develop a sense of hustle. Scour the internets for every free digital resource you can find, twist the ears of whoever will listen and never consider your work done. Its hustle that’ll get you the gig of your dreams. CPS will set up the tee, but it’s up to you to take the swing.”

Take a look at his awesome work:

By heather : April 16, 2015

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Integrated Campaigns vs. 360

Many people I talk to who ask about the industry don’t realize the amount of work that goes into creating just a few advertisements. Campaigns are far more complex than they appear on the surface, and not just because they require a lot of time and thought.

One of the difficulties I notice my peers have, myself included, is distinguishing the difference between a 360 campaign and an integrated campaign. After talking to several instructors and professionals, ranging from juniors to creative directors, I have learned a few things about the key points of both campaign styles. The biggest difference I have come across is that a 360 campaign starts with the brand problem, develops a concept to solve the problem, then finds every single media channel that is best suited to advertise the solution. This is a pretty traditional approach to advertising. You get a brief for, say, Kraft Macaroni. You brainstorm what the selling points of Kraft Macaroni are specifically, or you look at what isn’t being done for the brand that should be. Let’s use Kraft’s current selling point- it’s the cheesiest macaroni that kids love. There’s our concept. Now we go out and in the form of print, digital, OOH, mobile, commercial etc., make clever ads to show that Kraft Macaroni is, in fact, the absolute cheesiest and best macaroni.
This campaign has made a full 360 degree circle with its ads and executions.

An integrated campaign is different because its first execution is developing a big idea that will always be at the center of your campaign. An integrated campaign may or may not have additional executions in the form of print or OOH, but often times it does not. This is confusing, so here is an example of a fantastic integrated campaign.

In 2013, British department store John Lewis launched a holiday campaign called the Hare and Bear. It featured a mini-movie of animated forest creatures getting ready for Christmas but the bear goes to hibernate, much to the dismay of his rabbit friend, the hare. At the end of the video, the hare slips a John Lewis alarm clock into the bear’s cave and he wakes up on Christmas morning for the first time ever, and comes out to see the beautiful tree his friends made. The message: Don’t just give someone a gift for Christmas, give someone the gift of Christmas.

The video went viral and John Lewis ended up making a Hare and Bear story book for kids, Hare and Bear stuffed toys, educational resources, online games, and many more executions, but they all had to do with the Hare and the Bear. This is an integrated campaign. The advertisers started with a message, then tailored the campaign to match the message.

If this were a 360 campaign, John Lewis would have said, “We want to tell people to give the gift of Christmas, not gifts for Christmas”, then they would have ran a print series about giving the gift of Christmas, made a few billboards about the importance of giving, and perhaps they would have made a game where you can give your friends little gifts online.
Both methods of advertising are great, it’s just a matter of learning and choosing which one will be the greatest for your specific campaign. For other examples of integrated campaigns, look up Coca Cola’s Small World Machines, the BGH Big Nose campaign (hilarious by the way), or Snickers You’re Not You When You’re Hungry. You’ll start to see the commonality in integrated delivery. Until next time, I hope this helps with a few projects, and happy comping, my friends.

Written by: Jillian Aramowicz

By heather : April 14, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Prashant Nashi

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Prashant Nashi, Freelance ACD/Sr. Writer at VML working on Special K and Kellogg’s. He just found out he’s getting kicked out of his desk to make way for a full-timer. It’s cool; he wanted to sit closer to the free food anyway. #freelancelife

Check out his advice below:

“I graduated from CPS in 2009. My first job was at Element79 where I worked on Supercuts, Cricket Wireless, BMO Harris Bank, Cadence Health, Wilson Golf, Greater Than, and American Greetings. After 2 years, I went to gyro as a Sr. Writer and worked on Kimberly-Clark, John Deere, USG, Aon, and Siemens. One morning I realized how bored I was with the routine, so I quit my job and decided to freelance. I’ve been jumping around at most of the agencies in Chicago, and have worked on Tide, Citi, Swiffer, Skoal Tobacco, Swash, and International Trucks. If it’s a form of advertising, the odds are pretty good that I’ve done it.”

“A few things I’d tell current CPSers…
1. Be friends with your teachers. Grab a drink. Shoot the shit. They’re your best resource for getting a job.
2. Develop thick skin. Job hunting isn’t easy. Pitching ideas isn’t easy. You’ll be told “no” a lot. It’s part of the territory.
3. Play well, and never edit an idea until you’re told to. You’re getting paid to think of the weirdest stuff with others.
4. Don’t take advertising so seriously. It’s advertising. We make ads. It’s not life or death. Relax.
5. Most importantly, don’t be a dick. By nature, creatives are 50% pretentious. And that’s fine. But don’t let that creep into your other 50%. The industry is full of people like that. Be one of the nice ones, because people will like working with you, and that’s how you get ahead.”

“My portfolio is at Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or whatever.”

By heather : April 09, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Brian Metzger

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Brian Metzger, Copywriter at Arc Worldwide.

Check out his advice below:

“During Portfolio School, it’s easy to get caught up in the work of it all. The real stress will be when you finish and actually start looking for a job. If you’re lucky, you’ll find something right away. If you’re like the rest of us, you’ll get some freelance gigs, an internship, all things with a possible end date. You’ll get an interview for a full-time position and you might not get it, so you go back to that part-time job you hate while continuing to search for work.  And then one day your prayers are answered in the form of another interview and you land yourself the job you’ve worked so hard for. What I’m getting at is you should enjoy your time at school instead of staying completely focused on the end goal. Job-hunting takes time, months, and for some delusional reason I didn’t realize that and wished someone would have told me this more often. You and your peers will all work hard and the fact is some of you will get jobs right away while the others hunt for a bit. Doesn’t mean you did something wrong, it’s just the nature of the game. Stay focused and enjoy the fun that can be had at CPS.”

“Once you finally land a job is when the real learning starts to take place. You get the general gist of it all during school, but once you get a real world assignment with all of its obstacles is when you truly start thinking like a creative and you’ll take that experience with you into future projects.”

“Finally, create a book that shows range and your willingness to adapt to different clients. While in school, I put together a campaign for U By Kotex and as a young gay man I virtually knew nothing about periods but wanted to show that I could write in all sorts of tones and styles. I got my interview at Arc Worldwide because one of my creative directors saw my U By Kotex campaign and had a spot to fill on their P&G Fem-Care team. I now write for Tampax and Always, along with a few other P&G brands, and I’ve written materials surrounding Burnett’s “#likeagirl” campaign. It does pay to take on projects that take you out of your comfort zone.”

Take a look at his awesome book:

By heather : April 02, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Jeff Roy

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Jeff Roy, Associate Art Director at Golin. While at CPS, Jeff’s print ad for Kohler (the one with Jimmy Hendrix) was featured in Lurzer’s Archive student section, and his Square Cash app idea was named Young Glory’s Student Silver!

Check out his advice below:

“First off, I’m an Art Director which means I can’t word, so please bear with me. Just kidding, I’m eloquent as a mofo. I once heard a story about a seed. I can’t really remember the details, but the message was that some seeds stay dormant for years and years before finally sprouting, and rapidly growing into an immense, beautiful and neat tree. It takes the perfect mixture of timing, luck and determination for that tiny seed to finally sprout. But, it will sprout.”

“Think of your time in school as being like that little seed. You may not see that you’re making progress, and think you’re not growing – but you are.  Trust me. So take this time to learn from your mistakes, do the kind of bold work that clients will never buy and just have fun. Soon enough, you’ll all be some big ass redwoods looking back at the CPS days with fond nostalgia.”

“Above all though, be nice to everyone. If you can take one thing away from this rant – it’s to be nice to everyone. Oh, and be like that seed, so two things. Wait. Also, stay neat. Those three things and you’ll be fine. Trust me, I’ve been employed for over 6 months now…”

“P.S. I’m sorry the above got delusional about halfway through. It was finished at 3 am after an 18-hour day. But, I’m still saying being in advertising is worth every minute of stress, every dead idea and every sleepless night. So you know it must be fun.”

“Best of luck and see you all soon when you’re taking my job,
- Jeff.”

Check out Jeff’s talented work here:

By heather : March 26, 2015

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