The Chicago Portfolio School


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See it through the eyes of:

Shark Tank Briefs

Lately, a sound bite of Jeff Epstein has been playing on loop in my head.  This is not uncommon for Jeff to infiltrate my every waking thought, but about three months ago, he gave some advice to our quarter about the CPS timeline.  We were advised to create a new idea every day for the duration of the program.  At first this seemed very simple.  One idea a day?  Pshhh.  What is this, pre-K?  However, after a while this seemingly simple task has become increasingly more difficult.  For me, the most difficult part is finding an interesting business/product, it’s Unique Selling Proposition(s) and target audience, etc. all in the 30 minutes I allowed myself to actually write.  After this 30 minute window, I’m exhausted and tend to retire to the couch and binge watch a Netflix show or movie. Luckily for me (and every other struggling creative reading this), I have found the solution, SHARK TANK!!!

Now, calm down and stay with me.  In the off chance you haven’t seen ABC’s only tolerable show, ‘Shark Tank’ puts new business owners in front of five of the nation’s most notorious entrepreneurs in the hope of pitching their product and receiving an investment.  From Hoodiepillow (self-explanatory) to Pet Paint (even more self-explanatory), the show never fails to introduce America to an array of unique ideas born right here in the USA! 

A few weeks back, I had an amazing idea while watching Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’Leary) make a grown man cry.  Why not concept for these new businesses that are trying to get their name out?  Each pitch is basically structured as a brief: a description and demo of the product, it’s USP, target audience and Q & A.  I’ve started to take notes during pitches that really excite me and brainstorm ideas that I believe might work.  Even if an idea doesn’t interest me, the show does a great job demonstrating the power of presentation and how-to or how-not-to pitch an original idea.  Whether the Sharks choose to invest or not is irrelevant. 

So get yourself in front of a television and sit down to do some homework.

Written by 3rd Quarter Copywriter Sean Kunz

By heather : June 07, 2016

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I Swear I’m Not an Escort…

I swear I am not an escort, but I have been spending a lot of time in hotel lobbies.  With no intention of ever getting a room or visiting anyone that is passing through Chicago, I have spent hours on end sitting across from the main concierge.  Why, you may ask?  While most people have come to expect coffee shops such as Starbucks or Peet’s as the “writing spot”, I have gravitated towards the aforementioned traveler’s destination.

For starters, the chairs are so much more comfortable!  Seriously, some have velvet as soft as winter’s snow while others offer a leather finishing that hugs your entire body, like a familiar friend.  Secondly, there is ample room to stretch out and make a work space for yourself.  There is no competition for an outlet or bumping elbows when stretching.  For me, I thrive off the constant foot traffic that enters and leaves the hotel.  It’s prime for people watching and getting inspiration for whatever client/product you are advertising.

If a hotel has a Mezzanine floor, I recommend working here as it is less suspicious and there are usually washrooms located on these floors!  Below are some of my favorite hotels I have written in:

Chicago Athletic Association - 12 S Michigan Ave
Fairly dim lighting, but looks like a library taken out of the Ivy League. 

Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza River North - 350 W Wolf Point Plaza
Many tables across from the main concierge, difficult to find an outlet.

Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile - 540 N Michigan Ave
Mezzanine floor with washrooms and a FedEx for printing.  Also, an amazing bar with a lot of energy.

Sheraton Grand Chicago - 301 E North Water St
Literally so much space to write and very quiet/calm.  Plenty of water fountains and restaurants to find.

Written by 3rd Quarter Copywriter Sean Kunz

By heather : June 01, 2016

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What’s in my Office Thursday: David Thimmesch

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum David Thimmesch, Copywriter at BVK in Milwaukee.

Check out his advice:

“You get out what you put in. It’s cliché, but absolutely true. If all you do is show up to class, get feedback, make a few changes and come back the following week…you WILL NOT have a portfolio at the end of the year. You need to work nights, work weekends, talk to instructors after class, meet up at coffee shops and work like it’s a full-time job (because it should be).”

“Always give the instructors more than what they asked for. Because the more you show, the easier it’ll be to find that killer idea. Don’t be afraid to pursue a concept you’re passionate about, but at the same time, don’t be stubborn and hold onto bad ideas that have been killed for good reasons. It’s a tough balance, but remember, your instructors are there to help. Trust them.”

Check out his talented portfolio here:

By heather : March 10, 2016

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Erika Kent

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS alum Erika Kent, Art Director at Marc USA on the Payless Shoe Source account.

Check out her advice:

“The best advice I can give is to not get discouraged. It’s really easy to get beat down by this industry because everyone wants to tell you no. It might take you awhile to get a job and thats fine. And when you get that job the client might not buy your brilliant Cannes-worthy idea. And when they do buy it they might change it so much that it becomes a shadow of itself. The people with the staying power are ones who don’t take those things personally- because its not personal- its advertising! So keep at it and you can make some great things!”

Take a look at her talented book:

By heather : March 03, 2016

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Rachael (McLean) Kusper

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS alum Rachael Kusper, Art Director at Burrell Communications.

Check out her advice:

“When I first came out of CPS I was ready to jump in headfirst, make some killer campaigns that make people think, laugh and cry. Instead, my internship consisted of countless banner ads, in-house posters for the next agency get together, a sign for my bosses desk to tell people where to put his mail…basically not anything that anyone, anywhere would remember. However, I did it with a smile on my face and the conviction that those were going to be the best banner ads ANYONE had ever seen (they weren’t, but I digress). After my internship ended and I got my first job, the assignments didn’t budge that much, but one day a big project came to the agency and I was determined to work on it. For almost a year my days consisted of getting my assigned work completed and my nights were dedicated to working on that project. After all the late nights, weekends, headaches, frustration and revisions, I ended up producing the work and gained a great book piece, a mentor and invaluable experience.”

Advise to current students:
“Always strive to make better work. Learn the rules and then learn how to break them. It’s easy to want to make things that are cool for cool sake. What’s challenging is to think of big ideas that help move the brand forward. Really understand the brand you’re working for. When I look at student work, something that always stands out is when work is created that is completely outside that brand’s voice. It makes me think that the work wasn’t created for the brand, rather for the creative. While the industry we chose is fun, exciting and constantly pushing boundaries; we have to remember that our job is to build a connection between the consumer and the brand.”

Take a look at her book:

By heather : February 25, 2016

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Vince Soliven

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS alum Vince Soliven, Executive Creative Director at MVNP in Honolulu, Hawaii!

Check out his advice below:

“Wisdom: If your first opportunity out of school is a freelance gig, work your ass off. Give them their day rate’s worth. Then, when you’re done burning the midnight oil and delivered creatively, go introduce yourself to the CD that’s working on the best work in the agency. Ask him/her if you can help. They’ll give something to you, because everyone needs help. When you’re almost done with that project, go meet another CD and do the same. The goal is to stick your hands in as many cookie jars as humanly possible. You’re essentially assigning yourself jobs. That way, you’ll always be working on something. And you’ll always be in demand. Eventually, they’ll figure out that they need to hire you.”

Connect with him on Linkedin:

What you’ll find in his office:

- Selfie with a jackalope taxidermy wearing a lei. Does it make sense? No. Does it have to?
- A view from my office. It’s being obscured by a handful of post it notes that were placed on my window while I was out on paternity leave. They all represent thoughts and ideas when you have a baby girl. My favorite one? “Thongs.” Dammit.
- A cow vertebrae. I found it in the grass while on a location scout for this spot
- Black Label—because some days are just like that.
- Wine fridge—now filled with beer.

By heather : February 18, 2016

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Nicholas Micale

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Nicholas Micale, Senior Copywriter at David&Goliath in El Segundo, CA!

Check out his advice below:

“Advertising is extremely fun—even while it’s burning you out.”

“All-nighters, sleeping in the office, poor diets, partying, drinking habits—they’re all part of the job. But it’s hard to sustain. So learn to maximize the times you’re at your best. And when you’re not, give yourself a chance to be at your best the next day.”

“Learn to gauge your productivity. Can you keep cranking? Or should you call it a night? Since I’ve learned to balance work & rest, I’ve been more successful. Because it’s not about what you do in one night. It’s about consistently delivering great work.”

“My advice: Treat your mind the way an athlete treats their body. Work it out by concepting, writing scripts, blowing out ideas, executing, etc. But get some rest so you can perform at the top of your ability every day.” 

Take a look at his talented portfolio:

By heather : February 11, 2016

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Creative Resolutions

As we enter the first week of February, now is a great time to reflect and check-in on those New Year’s resolutions we were so eager to share with family over the holidays.  If you’re anything like me, you’ve already started to question paying $75/month for a gym membership or $200 on groceries at Whole Foods each week.  These are what I like to call, “Reach Resolutions”, as each year it’s completely unrealistic that I am going to get anywhere close to meeting them. 

This year, however, I did write down a few resolutions that pertained specifically to having a career as a creative.  While walking a mile to the gym in 10 degree weather seemed unattainable, I wanted something that I could hold myself accountable for each week.

1. Rip out/print off an Ad you deem successful each week.
As a student of the industry, it’s crucial that we examine what is currently out there making money for clients (or in some cases, just the opposite).  After you’ve found an advertisement you connect with, think to yourself what it’s concept might have been.  Were they successful in their execution?  How would you have gone about the headline and/or art direction?  Keep these in a separate folder as inspiration in the future when your head has sustained multiple bruises from trying to pound out an idea. 

2. Discover and research a new agency each week.
Whether you are a student or an award winning Creative Director, it is always wise to stay abreast* of what is going on in your industry.  As you creep closer to graduating from Portfolio School, knowing which agencies created the ads that have inspired you may help in deciding where to apply for work.  Like any business, knowing the history of those who have come before you and the players currently on the field is extremely advantageous.  Learn prominent names.  Discover where they are located.  Remember what they have produced.  Knowledge is powerful. 
*made a secondary resolution to use new words

3. Each day, have a set-time for writing and/or refining a new skill.
Simply put, you can never stop perfecting your craft.  The more you practice, the better you will become.  To develop a routine is only going to get more ideas out there for you to choose from.  Copywriters - pick up a notebook at Target and write for 30 mins each day.  When you’re done, shut the book and come back to it after some time away from it.  Art Directors - mock up an idea you’ve been sitting on or watch a tutorial at  Some days may produce crap, but getting yourself to sit-down and start is half the battle. 

4. Continue to have a life.
We are in the business of advertising and marketing.  We must know what is going on in the world around us and what is “in” these days.  Additionally, every creative must make time for themselves to relax and give your brain a break.  Nothing is more frustrating than a creative-block from exhaustion. 

Happy New Year!  If you have a hard time committing to something this year, you have over 340 days to think of something for 2017.  It better be good. 

Written by CPS Blogger and 2nd Quarter Copywriter: Sean Kunz

By heather : February 03, 2016

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Drake Paul

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS alum Drake Paul, Copywriter at Golin.

Check out his advice below:

“Go to class. Get the work done. Be professional, but it’s not life or death. At the end of the day, what you’re doing should be fun. You’re making ads. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and worry that you’re never going to figure it out. But you will. And it’s usually when you stop worrying about it so much.”

“When someone gives you feedback, take it, they’re trying to help. It’s easy to get defensive but it’s very rarely personal and there’s almost always some truth to the criticism. Hear them and try to take the opportunity to make your work better.”

“Sometimes the hours can be long and the assignments can be hard but you can always beat it. You can always solve it. Just relax and learn to enjoy the process. Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Take a look at his talented book:

By heather : January 28, 2016

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Winter Workspaces

It’s winter in Chicago, which means it’s even more tempting to work in bed, cuddling with your laptop all weekend. Don’t do that. There’s a whole world out there. Here are some out of the box places to work remotely when you need a break from CPS or elsewhere:

Garfield Park Conservatory / Alright, so you may not be able to spread out at a big table or even have wifi connection, but don’t write the conservatory off just yet. It’s absolutely beautiful as well as making you forget that it’s -12 degrees outside. It’s essentially empty during the weekdays and there are plenty of benches to read, sketch or just think.

The Map Room / They serve coffee in the morning and open up the bar starting at noon. The wifi is strong, 1970’s National Geographic issues are littered everywhere, and there are free pretzels. It may not sound like your average work spot, but it’s perfect. If you stay late enough, you may even run into the tamale guy.

Harold Washington Library / Public libraries have a seedy reputation, and sometimes for good reason. But what Harold Washington lacks in Instagram-worthy decor, it more than makes up for in silence and meeting rooms. Major bonus points for the ninth floor Winter Garden, which is beyond beautiful.

Half Acre Taproom / This shouldn’t work, but it does. The tables are big, there’s wifi and starting next week, Half Acre is even throwing low key bar eats into the mix. During the day, it’s basically the perfect casual meeting place.

Coffee Shop Adventure / If the baristas at your nearest Starbucks know your name, you’re doing it wrong. This city is chock full of better options. Tour Chicago neighborhoods by stepping outside of your coffee comfort zone. Need a starting point? Try Gaslight Coffee Roasters in Logan Square, Heritage Bicycles in Lakeview, Plein Air Cafe in Hyde Park, or The Wormhole in Wicker Park.

Written by CPS Blogger and 3rd Quarter Copywriter: Olivia Crandall

By heather : January 26, 2016

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