The Chicago Portfolio School


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What’s in my Office Thursday: Will Bright

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Will Bright, Creative Director at JWT in the Big Apple. Will has produced insanely talented work for BMW, Ad Council Adoption, Porsche and more – be sure to check it all out!

Here are some of Will’s true stories and the lessons he’s learned along the way:


I got let go from my first job after two days. In fairness it was a freelance gig, but I was supposed to be there at least a couple of weeks. In the middle of the second day the creative director said as nicely as possible, “You don’t know what you’re doing and we don’t have time to teach you.”

Right there, I realized that even after a year of school, I still didn’t know what I was doing. The real education starts once you start working.


My second job was a full time gig and my first assignment was writing a series of overhead announcements that would be played in the elevators of a casino in Detroit.

If there’s a bottom rung on a ladder, that’s it.

But for the first time I was making something real. And early on that’s all that matters. Just focus on making a lot of stuff. You don’t have to love everything, but producing actual work is how you will really get better.


When I worked on BMW I was able to go down to their performance driving school in South Carolina a couple times. I don’t know what other jobs are like, but I’m pretty sure that accountants or teachers or regional supply chain managers don’t get paid to test-drive BMW’s all day.

Sure, there will be bad days. But for the most part this is an incredibly amazing business. Just ask your friends and family how many of them have beer fridges, or summer Fridays or get to see something they made out in the real world or on TV.

Take a look at his work:

By heather : February 26, 2015

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The Ghost of CPS

Not many of you will believe me when I say this, but rest assured, the Chicago Portfolio School is haunted.

It was a dark and stormy night in late October and I was working on the fourth floor at CPS. Class had ended, but I was working late on a campaign for Pine-Sol and I refused to go home. I glanced out the window. Traffic whizzed on the street below and the sounds of engines revving, brakes squealing, and sirens whirring in the distance floated up to me. A chill hung in the air. I was making marker comps… and that’s when the trouble started.

My marker comps were pinned to the tackboard and I sat with my notepad staring at the wall. I was wondering which of my print ads worked best when I heard footsteps behind me. I turned around, but all I saw was old scrap paper fluttering in the wind. I refocused on the tackboard and noticed something odd. Four pins were in the middle of one of my executions and the words “feels like a one off” were written in what appeared to be a red sharpie. BUT I DIDN’T HAVE A RED SHARPIE…

“I must have done this absentmindedly,” I said to myself, looking back down to my legal pad. I wrote a few more headlines. Wash your floor with a Christmas tree. Boring. The best thing about Pine-Sol is the easy cleanup. Dumb. Make your house smell like a lumberjack’s daydream. Ugh. I rested my forehead in my palms, when I heard a voice behind me whisper.

“Where does it live?”

My head snapped around, but I didn’t see anything. “Who’s there?” I yelled.

Then, again, from just behind my ear, “Say it straight… then say it great.”

A cold sweat dripped down my brow and my hands shook as I uncapped my pen and grabbed a piece of printer paper. I drew out a bottle of Pine-Sol being poured into a bucket and wrote my headline. At this low price, buying Pine-Sol is just a drop in the bucket. As soon as I wrote that final “t”, I felt hard slaps across my face. SMACK! “Never base advertising on the price.” SMACK! “Don’t use puns.” SMACK! “That’s too see-say.”

My heart was pounding and I struggled for breath. “Who are you?” I gasped. “What do you want with me?”

At that, a cloud began forming in front of me. At first it seemed like a haze or a fog rolling in from the street, but after a moment I saw her outline form. The apparition was a young girl, in her early-to-mid twenties, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt. She had thick-rimmed glasses and a sharpie in her pocket. Her mouth fell open, “My name is Gashley, and I am the portfolio school spectre.”

I began to say, “Gashley, that’s an odd nam—”
Interrupting, she shrieked, “It’s a portmanteau of ghost and ashley! I don’t make the rules for ghost naming!”

“Oh”, I said, “Why are you here?”

“It is my curse to haunt hopeless students of this school, to tell them when to give up on a concept.”

“How did you die?”

“That’s a long story”, she said. “I had become obsessed with a concept that none of my instructors liked. I shopped it around, and one by one they told me it wasn’t working, but I didn’t believe them. I thought that it just needed to be pushed. So I pushed, and I pushed, night after night, trying to make this concept work. Well, I pushed too hard and had an aneurysm. I didn’t kill my idea, and it wound up killing me. And now I’m here to tell you to kill yours.”

I tried to explain to her that I almost had the concept figured out, and started pointing out my other executions on the board. “Booooooooo!” she howled, and then, “just to be clear I am not just saying boo, I am heckling your terrible idea.” It was only then, looking at her ethereal corpse, that I realized she was right.

“Pine-sol is for lumberjack housewives on a budget is not a genius concept,” I agreed, “Thanks Gashley.” With that, she vanished into thin air. I haven’t seen her since, but I still sometimes hear her whispering “would you put it in your book?”

Written by: Jon Podulka - CPS Blogger & 3rd Quarter Copywriter

By heather : February 24, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Natalie Valliere-Kelley

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet recent CPS alum Natalie Valliere-Kelley, Junior Art Director at Jacobson Rost.

Check out her advice below:

“The best advice I can give to anyone at CPS is to absolutely work your a$$ off for the one-year period of time that you are there. It might sound cliché, but you 1000% get out what you put in to the school. You can take all of the same classes as other people, but the quality of work and knowledge that you take away from that class can be completely different, depending on how willing you are to really dig in and work hard. Commit to a year of late nights, occasional meltdowns, and humility to taking criticism. You will come out with a book that will put you in high demand and incredible instructor connections that will pay dividends when you’re job hunting.”

Check out Natalie’s portfolio here:

By heather : February 19, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Meredith Niles

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet recent CPS alum Meredith Niles, Junior Art Director at Leo Burnett.

Check out her advice below:

“I’m very new to the “real world,” but I’ll try my best to give some worthwhile advice. First, a year at CPS flies by WAY too fast, so take advantage of it. It’s rare in life to have this kind of time to dedicate to pursuing your passion. Draw, write, take pictures, partner up with the talented folks around you, get inspired by this amazing city, cultivate hobbies, and always be thinking about how to make your work better. Our end goal of Portfolio School is, of course, to get a job. But perhaps even more importantly it’s to look back and say we’ve truly made the most of our time.’

“If you’re in the design track like I was, take on an art direction project; you’ll likely find yourself in advertising at some point. I’d offer the same advice to copywriters and art directors, too. Expanding the scope of your portfolio can only help you land a job – everything you do informs your craft!”

“Be curious, passionate, confident and kind. Ask a lot of questions of your teachers, your fellow students, and your coworkers once you’ve landed your first job. Everyone started somewhere and it’s the best way to grow. There will be an incredibly steep learning curve in your first few months of work. There will be hard days and long nights. BUT get excited. Waking up every morning to do creative work is one of the most rewarding things in the world!”

Take a look at her book:

By heather : February 12, 2015

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A Deliciously Creative Side Project

Kelly Pratt, CPS Alum and current Product Design Lead at the Onion, is the perfect example for how important and rewarding it can be to create a side project. 

Stately Sandwiches is her deliciously creative personal project, where she makes signature sandwiches for all 50 states – and eats them, of course.  The 50th sandwich was eaten on June 14, 2014 – after more than 2 years of Kelly’s hard work.

The state sandwiches are deconstructed and beautifully photographed – which will soon be in a bookstore near you! Expect to see a Stately Sandwiches book in 2016.  Huge congratulations to Kelly – what an amazing accomplishment! 

Check out her project:

Follow updates on her book: @StatelySandwich

Take a look at Kelly’s portfolio:

By heather : February 10, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Brittany Hughes

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Brittany Hughes, Copywriter at R/West in Portland, Oregon.

Check out her advice below:

“During portfolio school, I always thought I had a pretty good idea of where I saw myself after graduation. I’m sure most of you do. And now that I’m sitting 2,000 miles away in Portland, Oregon, I realize that my plans couldn’t be further from reality.”

“My advice to you is to keep your options open. Seize every opportunity. If it doesn’t work out, learn from it. It’s a stepping stone to something that will. Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone. You’ll learn, you’ll grow, and you’ll continue to find new things to inspire you. Start your career as a freelancer. It’s a great way to make good money and see if the agency is a good fit – and vice versa. Even if you end up at the best of the best, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where you’ll do your best work. Find a culture, team, and work life balance that makes you happy. And if you ever find yourself crying in the bathroom stall – quit. Immediately.”

“Good luck little creatives, the world is your oyster. Season it accordingly.”

Take a look at her work here:

Follow her on Twitter: @brittnyhughes

By heather : February 05, 2015

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The Most Helpful Book for Aspiring Advertisers

Before the Chicago Portfolio School, my academic background was in engineering and nutrition science, and my writing experience was mostly sketch comedy, short stories and asinine emails. Being accepted to attend CPS as a copywriter has been a defining moment for me, but after my acceptance, I realized that I really didn’t know anything about copywriting or advertising.

I panicked. Then, I started building a library.

I read Advertising Creative: Strategy, Copy, Design, a comprehensive textbook that discusses issues ranging from strategy, ethics, international advertising and job-hunting. It was a good intro, but ultimately too broad in it’s scope. Reading Ad-Critique was interesting; it discussed how to look at the various strengths and weaknesses of different ad campaigns, but it didn’t offer many tools for a copywriter. Where the Sucker’s Moon is an insightful narrative and great read about the ad industry and all the bureaucratic obstacles that come with it, however it speaks more to the business end of the industry than the creative side.

The seminal classic all creatives in advertising are encouraged to read is Hey Whipple, Squeeze This (and it was incredibly helpful), but it doesn’t take the top spot. The best book for aspiring copywriters is The Advertising Concept Book by Pete Barry.

The premise of this book is that no amount of production value can save a bad idea from itself and that the crux of advertising is the concept. Barry offers a comprehensive guide to being a creative in advertising by covering a multitude of topics while offering tips and strategies to create compelling advertising ideas. His lessons are fundamental and subjects include: generating strategy and ideas, tv, ambient, integrated campaigns, presenting and selling your work, and creating a student book.

While his premise is important, and informs the book’s structure, two aspects of this book raise it above the rest. First, Barry uses over 400 rough comps of award winning ads and campaigns to demonstrate the techniques he outlines in the pages. These rough comps both clarify his message and act as concrete examples for aspiring creatives. Second, the text is full of reference material like common print ad ratios and typical pixel dimensions for digital ads. These features have helped me through concepting new ideas for presentation in my classes, and have given me a short cut when thinking about how to expand campaigns beyond the realm of print. I almost always keep this book in my bag, and I recommend that other aspiring creatives do too.

Written by: CPS Blogger and 3rd Quarter Copywriter, Jon Podulka

By heather : February 04, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Stacy Randolph

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Stacy Randolph, Junior Art Director at Cossette.

Check out her advice below:

“I heard a creative director once say that if you ask your brain a question, it will come up with an answer. When you’re concepting and get stuck, ask your brain a different question and force yourself to answer it. Even if the answer is crazy, at least you have something new to work with. Try to think of as many ideas with as much variety as possible for every assignment. That way, when 90% of them get killed, you’ll not only have a better idea about what is good, but you’ll also feel less like weeping uncontrollably over your astounding failure.”

“For the art directors especially, know the creative suite basics in and out. You don’t just need to be able to make great work; you need to be able to make great work fast. A lot of times, you’re only going to have hours to create your comps and decks as opposed to the days—weeks—months you spent on them in school.”

Take a look at Stacy’s awesome work here:

Follow her on Twitter: @Stacy_Randolph

By heather : January 29, 2015

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Mother ‘Hood

Our Alumni are so talented and hilarious! Alum Kevin Egan, Associate Creative Director at Publicis came up with “The Sisterhood of Motherhood” idea for Similac (Baby Formula & Nutrition Guidance) with partner Shaun Bruce.

They know a lot of young moms and dads out there that are constantly feeling judged, which helped to create the clever video Mother ‘Hood.

Take a look at what Kevin had to say about coming up with the idea:

“We came up with the idea for creating ‘The Sisterhood of Motherhood’ knowing personally a lot of young moms and dads out there that are constantly feeling judged. That was the jump off to our idea. We knew we were sitting on something super relevant to our audience and also relevant to our brand. It was a good way of creating a judgment free supportive journey for parents, and put Similac in a position of support no matter what your parenting decisions may be. At the end of the day every parent just wants what’s best for their babies. It was a way of unifying everyone. That message seemed to resonate really well with young parents. It felt honest and spot on.”

Watch the video here:

By heather : January 27, 2015

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The Baloney is so Darn Good, it’s Featured on Modern Copywriter

4th Quarter Copywriters Adam Bedol and Kevin Tosi are featured on Modern Copywriter for their killer advertising podcast series, “Darn Good Baloney,” where they interview influential creatives working in the industry.  Talk about a good side project!

Check out their most recent interview with none other than Jason Siciliano, Founder of and Creative Director at SquareTrade.

Not caught up on all of your Baloney?

Listen to all of their podcasts here:

Like them on Facebook:

By heather : January 23, 2015

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