The Chicago Portfolio School


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What’s in my Office Thursday: Rebecca Ray

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Rebecca Ray, Designer at Critical Mass.

Check out her advice below:

“Build a portfolio of work that not only represents you, but also shows range. Working on projects that you are passionate about is a great talking point, and your heart will shine through in these pieces. But never stop pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, whether that means trying out a new aesthetic or working on something you know absolutely nothing about. You’ll come out with a diverse book that’s unexpectedly smart and beautiful (and you’ll learn some pretty cool shit along the way).”

“When looking for a job, take every interview you can get. Getting comfortable talking about your work is invaluable, because showing your personality is just as important as your book itself. After all, you’ll probably be drinking lots of beer together in the future, and who wants to do that with a Debbie downer?”

Check out her beautifully talented book here:

By heather : July 23, 2015

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Top 5 CPS Takeaways from a Pal

I had the pleasure of interviewing not only a good friend of mine, but also a kickass CPS alum who is now a copywriter at The Escape Pod.

Meet Felicity Pal. Like all of us, she was once a nervous and anxious creative roaming the halls we’ve all gotten to know all too well. It’s no secret that every creative at CPS wants to make a baby. By that I mean a beautiful portfolio that will take a lot of work, but in time, will grow to be big and strong.

I asked Felicity what her top five CPS takeaways were and her answers were all but disappointing.

First things first, “Write tons of lines. Some days your best one will be your first one you write, and other days it will be the last one on the list.”

Instructors tell us that our first line will never be the one we use, but once you do research on a brand and can describe it with only adjectives, the writing becomes easier and simpler. But of course, this takes practice!

Felicity believes in “Being open to critique and criticism”. Basically, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

We should all “Be prepared to explain our campaigns. If you’re a CW know why the AD picked the color pallet they did. If you’re an AD, know why your CW established the tone they did.”

Even if you’re not specifically contributing to certain aspects of the work, any questions pertaining to your campaign should be able to be answered by its many “owners.”

The fourth takeaway - “Don’t shoot your partner’s ideas down. Instead, try to build upon each other’s ideas and push one another to think in areas you wouldn’t naturally.”

The most vital piece of information Felicity stressed was to be confident in our campaigns. After all, our pieces are a representation of who we are and we have a responsibility to stand up for what we’ve created. If we are hesitant to stand up for our work, then it needs a rework!

Check out her stunning portfolio below!


Written by: Jessi Pelzel, 2nd Quarter CW + CPS Blogger

By heather : July 20, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Elisa Sandoval

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Elisa Sandoval, Designer at gyro.

Check out her advice below:

“Have a unique voice and passion for projects in your portfolio. Not only is your portfolio a demonstration of what you can do but also work you want to do in the future. Think about what you like doing or want to specialize in and make that come across when you put work in your portfolio.”

“Once you start working in agencies and firms you will be expected to be able to make anything and everything in very little time so keep learning and exploring your craft. Always be open to advice and direction from senior creatives but also be able to think for yourself. If you feel something in a project should go in another direction speak up.”

Take a look at her beautiful work:

By heather : July 16, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Marlo Habeeb

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum, Marlo Habeeb, Junior Copywriter at Epsilon in San Fran.

Check out her advice below:

“Always think of the big picture. That’s the best thing I got from CPS — being able to really use my imagination and go wherever the f-ck I wanted with a campaign. It may not be as easy to do so in the real world, but the thought process is invaluable.”

“Confidence is a necessity. Always take pride in your work and always back it up. 98% of creative directors say they would rather hire someone with confidence than someone with a better resumé who lacks it. I also just made that fact up, but I’m sure you believed it because I typed it with confidence.”

“Most importantly, if you don’t feel like you are learning or evolving where you are, make a change. It’s easier to stay inspired when you think you’ll be a better person tomorrow than you are today.”

*Marlo is photographed in one of the Epsilon hallways. Their employees designed their own skateboards for the office and put them up there. They all agree its super tight.

Take a look at her book:

By heather : July 09, 2015

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Advice for all, by all

As today marks the start of a new quarter, what better way to begin than with some sound advice? Blogger Jillian Aramowicz shares the insights from students in every quarter.

Recent 2nd Quarters, to incoming rookies

“Break up the work and when you do it. Obviously don’t procrastinate too much, because there is a lot of work first quarter, so time management becomes really important.” –Rae Faiman, CW

“Never resistance criticism. Get used to it, actually, and learn that’s it’s always a good thing. You’re basically in criticism school now. Also, does anyone have any thoughts on Truvia? Email me.” –Mitch Reeder, CW

“Learn to focus on what you’re doing no matter what else is going on. I always remind myself, I have nothing to do but this for the next year.” –Mitch Schlensky, AD

My own first quarter survivor advice: The answer to any question is Ignatius, Danny, and O’Callaghans. That’s it.

Recent 3rd Quarters to 2nds

“Quality. Over. Quantity.” –Eric Guth, CW

“Start comping early. At first I was almost scared to, but once you start it, it’s fun, and doing it sooner is way better than doing it later.” –Amara Abbas, AD

“The main thing is learning to concept better. The stronger the concept, the stronger the campaign.” –Lauren Hammond, CW

Second quarter survivor advice: If you are locked out of an agency because you are late to class, stand quietly at the door and look sadly inside. Someone will let you in. They don’t even ask questions.

Recent 4th Quarters to 3rds

“Don’t forget about stuff you’ve done in the past. Don’t be afraid to go back and make something better if you liked it initially, no matter when you did it.” –Andrew Lieberman, CW

“Don’t go last when you present, because at that point, seriously, no one cares.” –Sarah Frazer, AD

“Stay organized, and take things one at a time. Make one good thing you like really nice and move on to the next instead of trying to get everything you like done at once and it being sloppy.” –Anna Buller, AD

3rd quarter survivor advice: Your cohort should be like Gandalf leading you through your job search. If you weren’t comfortable talking to them in the second quarter, try to be more comfortable with it in the third. You guys are ride or die with your cohort until you’re done with ad school, so get to know them.

Recent 5th Quarters to 4ths

“Go to class even if you don’t feel like it. After all you’re paying for it and if you can even get the tiniest shred of advice you wouldn’t otherwise get out of school, it’s worth it.” –Kate Cullen,  CW

“Little details. Get your site formatted. Buy your domain if you haven’t yet and figure out what you can get done in your downtime that will make your life easier later.” –Tess Dmitrovsky, CW

“Keep a good line of communication open with your partners, always.  If you take the comps to cohort or someone else, let them know the feedback quickly.” –Chloe Lebamoff, CW.

Well, there you have it, creative team, do these things and you’ll probably be alright. It’s all very sound advice, and although I’m officially a 4th quarter today, I don’t yet have a survivor quote to share. Instead I’ll leave you with this piece of wisdom from the great David Ogilvy; “Play to win, but enjoy the fun.” But of course, we already like having fun here at CPS. Have you seen how we behave at our school functions lately?

By heather : July 06, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Jason LaFlore

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Jason LaFlore, Digital Designer at Havas Worldwide.

Check out his advice below:

First I think it’s worth mentioning that I work at an agency with an open floor plan so I don’t exactly have an office. And my desk is pretty boring so here’s a pic of me with some dope artwork behind me. Shoutout to office murals.

Anyway…Here’s my advice for current students: Your career is yours to manage. That goes for portfolio school as well as life after school. Your book will only be as good as you make it. Once you get in the real world, it’ll be up to you to speak up for yourself when it comes time to present ideas, get a promotion, work on special projects, whatever. Work for your book. That is the one boss and client that will remain the same no matter where you’re working.

Take a look at his sweet work here:

By heather : June 25, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Garrett Vernon

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Garrett Vernon, Copywriter at Leo Burnett.

Check out his advice below:

Mentorship is likely the most important thing you can find in the wee early stages of your career. The beauty of advertising is that some years ago, your mentor was in the same situation you are. Like you, they found someone badass enough to show em’ the ropes. And thus, they pay it forward. 10 years from now, you’ll be doing the same. I owe my career to a handful of amazing mentors, and I can’t wait to help out fresh meat when it’s my turn. It’s a beautiful thing.

NOBODY is going to buy your ideas if you don’t. Even if you aren’t thrilled with your work, sell the heck out of it. Be bold. Be confident. Be passionate. Clients and creative directors feed off good presentation skills, so give em’ something to chew on.

Be the person you’d want to be working with at 3 AM the night before a big presentation. Nobody wants to be there, but if you have fun while you’re doing it, it will be noticed.

Life always comes before work. If you can be creative at everything you do, the good work will follow. [INSERT SHAMELESS PLUG HERE: ]]

Check out Garrett’s talented portfolio here:

By heather : June 18, 2015

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Ending on a Good Note, with Great Advice

As my third quarter quickly draws to an end I thought I would share the tidbits of advice that I have learned and held on to.

I think the first and most important one that virtually everyone will tell you in one way or another is to embrace the failures. Learn to fail better instead of being afraid to fail. Because you will fail. Over and over and over and over, but that’s okay because if you have the guts to fail it means you’re pushing enough to get to a winning idea. Don’t worry when it takes awhile, because it will.

CPS grad Adam Bedol says, “Work so hard you get frustrated. Then stop. Start working again, and just have fun.”

Try to find the process that works the best for you to get in the groove and create something amazing. For me it’s always been looking at art (paintings and photography) to start feeling creative and then finding the perfect sound track for my brainstorming. You have to find your spark. It could be a location, a coffee, a drink, song, whatever. But find it. Life will be a lot easier that way.

The great George Lois reminds us, “Nothing comes from nothing. You must continuously feed the inner beast that sparks and inspires.”

Concept is king. It is discussed by every teacher I have had at CPS. But sometimes it is easy to forget while coming up with ideas. To focus on the sell instead of the concept which can ultimately cheapen and dilute your campaign. The concept is usually what is relatable and what will be engaging and create buzz for a campaign as a whole. It is worth it taking the time to find the right concept before jumping in and just throwing out all kinds of executions.

Fellow 3rd Quarter Lo Trojan agrees saying, “Concept! Everything needs to come back to a big idea. Don’t make an ad, make something relatable.” 

Oddly, I think people forget this one: surround yourself with awesomeness. Go out, do things, meet amazing people. Because you are only one person and a great idea is so much bigger than one person.  Which brings us to one of my favorite pieces of advice on anything ever.

Bill Bernbach tells us, “An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.”

Written by CPS Blogger: Margo Kurtzke

By heather : June 17, 2015

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Portfolio Night All Star | Our Very-Own Tess Dmitrovsky

Portfolio Night 2015 was held all over the world on May 20, 2015. The renowned networking night allows students, professionals, and anyone else looking to become a creative to showcase their books to a panel of creative directors for both review and networking opportunities.

Chicago Portfolio School hosted the event and we are proud to announce 4th quarter copywriter, Tess Dmitrovsky, was awarded the title of Portfolio Night All-Star.
As a recipient of the award, Tess received a trophy that she describes as, “kind of a weird skull, yes, it’s actually a skull”, and the opportunity to travel to New York in August to pitch a client with the other winners from cities around the country.

“Portfolio Night was a great experience and I definitely did not expect to be chosen as an all-star,” said Dmitrvosky. “I honestly went in expecting nothing other than an opportunity to network. I treated it very conversationally and was really open with the creative directors.”

Tess said one of the biggest benefits for her, other than winning the event of course, was getting a fresh pair of eyes to look at her work. “It was great to have people who have never seen my campaigns before look at them and give me feedback. Getting a new perspective is so helpful, especially after you’ve worked so long on these projects.”

Additionally, Tess mentioned the recruiter panel was a very helpful part of the event. She said she was also glad to see a panel of former CPS alumni that were now working professionals, although she didn’t get a chance to talk to them because she is, “neurotic and crazy, so of course I had to be in the first round of critiques”.

Tess will travel to New York City at the end of the summer to participate in a campaign led by all the all-star winners from every hosting city in the U.S. The brief won’t be shown until the event itself and the client has not yet been released.

Despite the success, Tess remains extremely gracious and humble towards the award and her experience.

“There is no reason it should be me going as opposed to anyone else, because there was just so much talent there; some truly beautiful, polished work. I am so grateful I get to do this and I was chosen because it means a lot. I was literally getting my coat to leave and they had to announce my name something like four times before I caught on to what was happening.”

Tess’s hard work, talent, and attitude have certainly paid off. If she were to give a piece of advice to other quarters she said it would be to start working on the little details, like formatting your website or buying a domain early.

“You don’t have to go crazy and get things online. I only have three campaigns up right now and a lot under construction, but little things like playing with layouts for your website or deciding what platform you’re going to use can be done early and will take a world of stress off when you have more important things to finish up.”

Congratulations to Tess Dmitrovsky on her Portfolio Night All-Star success.  We will certainly be seeing her name again when she leaves the school. In the meantime, check out her book at:

Have a great weekend, CPS, and hang in there- the quarter is almost done.

Written by almost 4th Quarter CW – Jillian Aramowicz

By heather : June 12, 2015

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Alex Harvey

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Alex Harvey, Associate Creative Director at DigitasLBi here in Chicago.

Check out his advice below:

I’m sorry my cube isn’t cooler, but what I lack in decorations I make up for in condiments. Cholula chili lime sauce? Don’t mind if I do.

I opted to give my advice in list form because then I have 10 chances to say something useful.

1. Don’t work harder to get your opportunity than you do once you’ve actually received it.
2. Be nice to everyone you work with. Eventually you’ll be sending one of them your book.
3. Never post on AgencySpy, unless you’re there to say something positive.
4. When someone asks you to help out, say yes even if the assignment seems small or boring. It may lead to something big later on.
5. Don’t be afraid to close doors, but never slam them shut.
6. If you find a piece of birthday cake on the street, just keep walking. It’s never worth it.
7. Don’t dismiss opportunities without researching them first.
8. This was probably the best advice of all, but I forgot it on my way back from the bathroom.
9. Don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s only advertising.
10. On second thought, never post on AgencySpy.

Check out his talented portfolio:

By heather : June 11, 2015

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