The Chicago Portfolio School


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What’s in my Office Thursday: Maricarmen Mercado

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Maricarmen Mercado, Junior Art Director at DDB Mexico.  Maricarmen was one of our international students from Mexico City who recently moved back to her home country – where she now has a rockin’ gig!

Check out her advice below:

“Let go. If for any reason your idea is not working, don’t be afraid to start all over again. A new and probably better idea will arise. Most of the time, the ideas you love will find enemies out there, so don’t waste your time and energy on them.  Eventually they will find their place.”

By heather : August 07, 2014

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A Feature Friday: 2nd Quarter Design Student, Alina Greab

IF YOU READ THIS BLOG AT ALL, you know that Chicago Portfolio School often interviews alumni for the “What’s in my office Thursday” segment. Which is wonderful! But, wouldn’t it also be wonderful to hear from CPS students while they’re still in school?

I present to you (drumroll please)… the first ever CPS student profile.

Today’s “interview” features Alina Greab, a 2nd Quarter Designer:

Me: Tell me a bit about yourself.

Alina: I was born in Romania and moved here with my family when I was 5 because we won the lottery.

Me: The money lottery?

Alina: No, no, no – Literally, we won the chance to come to America. We all got green cards.

Me: OoOoOh. I gotcha.

Alina: So we came here and I’ve been awesome ever since.

Me: TRUE DAT, yo. Where did you go to college?

Alina: I went to University of Illinois in Chicago and majored in marketing and spanish.

Me: So what brought you to CPS after graduating?

Alina: The bars. HA, just kidding. I was in yearbook club in high school, so I’ve always had graphic design in the back of my mind. But I’m an idiot and didn’t major in it, so CPS seemed like the best thing to do next.

Me: Right. Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on in school so far?

Alina: Yeah! Last quarter I was in a “Basic Logo” class and we had to redesign the logo for Sultan’s market, a fast food Mediterranean place in Chicago. We worked on our logos the whole quarter and it was exciting to see them grow.


Me: So what would you say the logo is supposed to be of?

Alina: It’s supposed to be some sort of onion… but it also alludes to Muslim architecture because it’s dome – shaped, like the Taj Mahal. It also is reminiscent of flames… cooking uses flames, ya dig?

Me: I dig! Thanks. Before you leave for class, do you have any tips you want to leave for new/future students?

Alina: Yeah. I think what’s so great about portfolio school is the constant feedback you get from amazing people in the industry. So just really listen to them and take it all into consideration. It only helps your work get better.

Interview by: Amanda Burger

By heather : August 01, 2014

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Lisa Chau

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Lisa Chau, Strategy Intern at Ogilvy & Mather, where she has a “kick-ass office with a BEAUTIFUL view of the river”!  Chau exemplifies a different end of the spectrum post CPS life – focusing on strategy rather than creativity.

Check out her advice below:

“I originally studied Copywriting at CPS, so it’s safe to say that an education from CPS will get you places, even if you decide being a creative isn’t for you.”

“I was pretty persistent in asking my former CPS teachers to get me in touch with planners and strategists once I realized planning was the best fit for me. I met with about 10-15 strategists for informational meetings, and I was able to score an internship without any real planning experience at one of the best agencies in the world. It’s really about reaching out to people, keeping in touch with them, and knowing how to sell yourself and your experiences.”

“My advice is to always ask questions if you don’t understand what’s going on. Half the time, it’s figuring out all the industry jargon and acronyms. Secondly, always offer to help your managers. People in advertising are ALWAYS busy, and they’ll definitely appreciate the offer. It takes time getting the hang of everything, but this is what internships are for - to learn and improve. Also, take advantage of the free stuff (especially if it’s ice cream).”

*Attached is a picture of me eating free ice cream in our amazing intern planning nook/office.

By heather : July 31, 2014

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Ana Karina Da Silva

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Ana Karina Da Silva, Copywriter Intern at Lapiz Leo Burnett - Chicago.  Ana was one of our international students all the way from Venezuela!

Check out her advice below:

For all of those souls working on their portfolio right now, I would say take advantage of having the time to come up with the best ideas you can. There’s no budget limits, no media buying limits and no clients saying what you should do. So basically, there aren’t many rules at school – the teachers will guide you with the brand’s mandatories.

Producing your own book is amazing because you can show who you really are through your ideas. I think that’s the most important part – crafting your criteria, your sense of humor and bringing part of your personality to the table. Because at the end of the day, people will remember how you made them feel with your idea rather than the idea itself.

A lot of this process has to do with yourself and your spirit. If you aren’t happy with something, ditch it and work on what you feel is the strongest area. But don’t forget to listen to the mother of all ideas: research and feedback. Pay attention to what the teachers you admire say and keep thinking on how to take your idea further. This will give you the confidence to truly know what’s a good idea and what’s not.

I think this business is a matter of intuition and confidence, so listen to your gut and try to stick with it. If it doesn’t work – just keep going. It will come out eventually.

By heather : July 24, 2014

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Congrats Best of Quarter Spring 2014 Winners!

Despite what your mom told you, everyone is not always a winner. This isn’t T-ball.

The time has come and the Best of Quarter winners have been announced. Congratulations to the victors:

Best Art Direction - Colleen Keesey
Best Design - Becca Ray
Best Headline - Eric Russell
Best Concept Team - Colleen Keesey and Rose Schuchat

Great ads, by great people. The work is smart, funny, and had some attitude, which we like.  In a school where concept is king, design took a backseat to no one as clever ideas were held up by crafty design.

Be sure and stop by the 4th floor and check out the winners. This is work that we all are striving for, and not just to match it, but to beat it. The goal of all of this is to keep getting better and to keep pushing. If you see any of the winners around this week, give them a smile and high five. Tell them they did a great job, but know deep down in your heart… you are coming for them.

You can view the rest of the winners’ work at:

Written by: Jeff Polaschek

By heather : July 22, 2014

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Freshman Mixer - Summer Quarter 2014

What happens when you put four quarter’s worth of CPS students in a bar and shower them with beer and/or wine?


Yep, last night CPS students new and old met at O’Callaghans bar for the quarterly freshman mixer. Whenever this event goes down, the school’s new students wear white tee shirts upon which old students impart words of wisdom. Via Sharpie, of course.

And it’s not all phallic symbols and Beyoncé references. I saw some nuggets last night that really ring true in the crazy world that is advertising school “Concept is king,” “Be relevant,” “Trust the process”... even if the new guys don’t yet have the context for these ideas, they will. Soon enough.

...Overall, the evening was terrific, and I can promise you that I Uber’d home with a smile on my face, thinking about how great it feels to be part of such a friendly and supportive community.

Written by: Amanda Burger

By heather : July 17, 2014

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What’s in My Office Thursday: Melissa Saylors

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Melissa Saylors, Art Director at 360i in The Big Apple.

Check out her advice below:

“There is so much advice I want to pass along to y’all but if you’re anything like me you’re nearing the end of your attention span so I’ll be brief”

“Work your freaking butt off. CPS is only the beginning. Got an internship? Be the first one there and the last one to leave every day. Got some free time? Learn a new technique on Photoshop. Does your friend’s band need a poster for that show you’re more than likely not going to go to? Knock it out of the park.”

“Every chance you get, learn something and keep practicing your craft. Above all though, HAVE FUN. I know what I just described may not sound very fun but when it’s your passion, hopefully you’ll actually enjoy doing those things. Because, in the end if it’s not fun, what’s the point?”

“*I apologize for my desk being so boring but I just switched from freelance to full time last week so I haven’t had time to fill it with cooky stuff yet.”

By heather : July 17, 2014

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Meredith Lusher

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Meredith Lusher, designer at Grisko.

Check out her advice below:

“I will say that even though CPS equipped me well for the real world, I can’t believe how much I learned over just a couple months freelancing! I feel like we are always in a learning position - whether it’s a new feature in a program or a type of client/work space.”

“Words of wisdom to students entering the job market - be friendly, make sure you have a good attitude and to stay positive. Also, know the shit out of those programs - you want to know what you’re doing and be speedy doing it. To current or new students, finish every project, even if you have no time. It will make all the difference when it comes to putting together your book, and choosing your best work.”

By heather : July 10, 2014

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Going Viral


How many times have you caught yourself saying, “You know, I should really try______” or, “How hilarious would it be if______,” and those little brain nuggets just get stopped forever, right there in their tracks? I was going to write a blog about “going viral” and Mike D’Ami…rrrrr…ummm, Teddy Goalsevelt, and his adventures in Brazil, when I got to thinking about what it means to “go viral”—I mean who decides that anyway? What is the benchmark for going viral? How many likes, shares, or views does it take?  If my dad knows what I am talking about, is that viral? (If so, we should evaluate whether or not it’s a positive or negative thing.)

Mike didn’t go to Brazil to become a viral Internet sensation. Hell, I think that people who try to be famous are the least likely to succeed at it. You know who the least cool guy at the party is? The guy who can’t shut up about how cool he is.

Mike went to Brazil as an enthusiastic fan, who happened to get caught on camera living as fiercely and passionately as we all wish we could but seldom take the chance to do. I wonder how many people he told he was going to dress up as Teddy that just blankly stared at him trying to connect the dots between soccer (futbol) and the Bull-Moose himself? It didn’t matter to him. He had an idea and he went for it.

Coming up with the idea is the easy part.  Having the chutzpah to put those ideas in to action is where things get really good.  We all want to do great work, but it’s easy to get bogged down with reasons not to do something. We’re in a glorious position as students. This is a place where the limitations of the real world do not apply to us. Be bold in your work. If you think it is funny and smart, you can bet that others do too. The more you put your work out there, the more likely it will be that those other people will find you.

We have nothing to lose…And neither did Mike D’Amico.
But now my Dad knows who he is… and that’s something.

Written by: Jeff Polascheck

By heather : July 08, 2014

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Brett Williams

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Brett Williams, Copywriter (and comic-book lover) at Intermark Group in Birmingham, AL.  Check out his advice:

Any good desk should be a shrine to what makes you who you are, and mine is no different. As you can see, my unconditional love for comic books, action movies, and pro-goddamned-wrestling is apparent. I love comic books so much that I actually make my own, and my baffling love of pro wrestling has led me to start training to get in the ring. Because what’s life without straight up owning a few childhood dreams, right?

As for advice, I’ll give two pieces. If you’re going to make it in advertising, you have to have thick, thick skin. However thick you believe your skin is, it needs to be ten times thicker. Most of your career will be littered with failures of one sort or another, so you have to be strong enough to get past them and get on to the winning.

And for writers specifically, there’s a great quote from Steven Pressfield’s War of Art. “There’s a secret that real writers know, that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard, is sitting down to write.”

My portfolio can be found at and the first issue of my comic, The Black Wraith Vol. 1 can be purchased through Comixology.

By heather : July 03, 2014

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