The Chicago Portfolio School


Our school's a little different. But, so are you, otherwise you wouldn't be here. Try on a few eyeballs and check out Chicago Portfolio School.

See it through the eyes of:

Where to Do Your Schoolwork

Where to Do Your Schoolwork

Pro: Private bathroom
Con: Endless distractions

What should be the easiest place to get work done can be the cruelest.  You have your own bathroom and poster of Zac Efron, what can go wrong? Your willpower, that’s what. Fix your lack of self control by downloading the SelfControl application and blocking all your favorite websites.  You’re welcome.

On the Go
Pro: What else are you going to do
Con: No writing surfaces

Some of your best ideas are born when you’re stepping onto the El or tumbling out of an Uber. But beware! If you don’t jot down that groundbreaking female empowerment headline you could forget it once you’ve arrived at school. And then how are you going to sell CrossFit to women??

Pro: A creative buzz in the air
Con: Lots of creatives to talk to

School is where the magic happens. It’s also where people talking to you happens.  Stay focused by gluing on some headphones or quarantining yourself in Digital Bootcamp.  Also, don’t be afraid to shame loud people into silence. You know what’s not funny? A copywriter who can’t concentrate.

Pros: Endless quiet
Con: Bad Hours

Free of noise, friends, and fun, libraries seem, at first, to be perfect. But all that free comes at a price: horrible hours. Use the 5pm closing time as motivation to work faster, and marvel at what you can accomplish when you’re actually working.  If that’s still not enough time, take it up with the mayor.

Coffee Shops
Pro: Close to home
Con: They want you to buy stuff

Near home and oh so hip, coffee shops are the perfect place to show the world you’re a wannabe creative. Headphones are the key to success here, but so is money. Jump this hurdle by purchasing a plain drip coffee and taking one sip every half hour for six hours. If you’re feeling guilty, just remind yourself how poor you are.

Written by: Miles Johnson, 5th Quarter Copywriter

By heather : June 20, 2017

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An Average Day as a Chicago Portfolio School Student

Plan to get to school at noon, but actually show up at 1:30
Okay 2:00
Rescue a stranger struggling with the front door keypad
Ride the elevator with a delivery man and a student whose name you can’t remember
Fill up your water bottle
Walk into each room, making awkward eye contact with everyone until you find your partner
Talk about baby food for two hours
Say every dumb things that comes to mind, praying it will spark an idea
End the meeting when you feel like you could kill a baby right about now
Use the everyone bathroom even though there’s a men’s room
Stare at your reflection, and tell yourself it’ll all work out
Walk out to a girl glaring at you
Fill up your water bottle again
Try to do work in the computer room but it’s really hot in there for some reason
Try to do work in the computer room but the mouse is drunk
Try to do work in the computer room but two 2nd quarters are flirting so hard
Accidentally print double sided
Open every paper drawer in an attempt to unjam the printer
Stare at your notebook for 20 minutes not writing anything
Place bets on which students will order Jimmy Johns for dinner and which will go to Subway
Eat room temperature couscous you brought from home
Get to class early and sit at the end of the table so you can get out to the bathroom later
Get to class late and hold it for two hours
Stand up as fast as possible so you can present first
Shatter a pushpin trying to pin up your work
Attempt to sound coherent
Wait for the instructor to declare if you have any worth as a creative or if this has all been a mistake and you should drop out immediately
Say, “Okay, yeah, I can see that” in response to terrible feedback from a classmate
Sit down and try to make sense of your notes
Give the next presenter most of your attention
Feel like you should say something even though you can’t think of anything
Say something dumb
Don’t talk for the rest of class
Ride the elevator down with all of your classmates and maybe your teacher depending on how much he/she likes you guys
Bike/train/bus home while you try to process the day’s events
Tell yourself you’re going to do work when you get home
Watch 2 Broke Girls instead
Go to bed hoping that an amazing baby food concept comes to you in your sleep
Instead dream that your hair grows so long that you develop pinkeye
Wake up
Do it all again

Written by: Miles Johnson, 4th Quarter CW

By heather : March 29, 2017

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The Dinner Dilemma

Four nights a week, I encounter the same problem. With classes scheduled from 6pm to 9pm, the struggle to find the perfect time to eat dinner is real. After four months of careful study, I’ve observed these specific ways to deal what I call “the Dinner Dilemma.”

The Night Owl: Wait it out and eat dinner once you get home. Though this is fairly common practice, the issues here are numerous. First of all, stomach rumbles can be a lot louder than you think they’ll be. Also, hanger is not great for class participation. Finally, with trains and buses and traffic, getting home usually takes longer than you think it will. By the time you get there, dinner becomes a jar of peanut butter and a spoon, cause anything else would take too long.

The Early Bird Special: Order delivery (or pick something up) and eat it around 5:30. Just like your grandma does. A solid option, but the issue here is finding the right balance. A light meal could leave you hungry halfway through class. But eat too much food and you’ll struggle to stay awake. And people don’t forget who yawned while they were presenting.

The Snack Pack: Stuff your bag with snacks, just like a kindergartener. If you continuously eat all day, you just might trick your body into forgetting its hungry for those three hours. The drawback here is preparation. You need to pack the snacks the night before and who has time for that? Also, it requires a lot of tupperware to snack like a kindergartener.

The Answer: Eat a Clif Bar right before class. I recommend the peanut butter flavor, but to each their own. This will get you through the next three hours without hunger pains distracting you. Then, eat a real meal when you get home. To quote Michael Scott, “Win, win, win.” You win because you’re not hungry, your classmates win because you’re not hungry, and I win cause Clif Bar is paying me to write this. Win, win, win.

Written by: CPS Blogger & 2nd Quarter CW - Amy Finn-Welch

By heather : August 17, 2016

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Personality/Career Test

Last week, it was brought to my attention that Netflix is currently streaming a documentary on the topic of Advertising.  The film, “Art & Copy”, directed by Doug Pray, follows the careers of some of the most influential advertisers of our time including: Dan Wieden, Hal Riney, George Lois, just to name a few.  While the film is very eye-opening and reveals the inner workings of the industry, I thought the most compelling talking point was why folks choose to get into this industry and who it attracts.  As someone that has a degree in Neuroscience and Spanish, I began to question, why did I make the switch?  Are there others like me drowning in the world of healthcare and/or translation services that haven’t had their epiphany yet?

So I decided to take a few personality/career based tests online to figure out which other careers may have people fit for a future in advertising.  Here is what I found after taking three online tests*  (*free version).  If you know anyone in these fields, give them a call and tell them they are ruining their lives!

Reporters and Correspondents
How about “reporting” on some new products that the general public doesn’t know they need?
Interpreters and Translators
Learn to speak to the entire population in a headline featuring 12 words or less!
Ditch your “cause” and let’s make an agency a little richer, shall we?
Poets, Lyricists and Song-Writers
There is nothing as poetic as a rhyming couplet as a headline…right?  Just beautiful.
Search Marketing Strategists
In the words of Jeff Epstein, “we are in the business of marketing”. 
Economics Teachers
It’s all about the money babyyyyyyyyyy! $$$$$$$$$$$$
I just added this to make me feel better smile

In all seriousness, I took three tests and there were over 50 different careers that matched with my “creative” personality.  I think the documentary puts it best when it describes the task of a creative advertiser: “We put something out there and see what people are going to make of it.  We make an atmosphere that gets a reaction out of somebody.”  If this line excites you, you’re in the right place.  If not, I know a great school with a program in Neuroscience. 

Written by: Sean Kunz, 4th Quarter Copywriter & CPS Blogger

By heather : June 30, 2016

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Wha should you do with yourself over break?

With three weeks off between the summer quarter, you might be wondering…what am I supposed to DO with myself? Well, first things first:

Take a Break
After eleven straight weeks of obsessing over school work, you’re burned out. But since you only have one year, it’s hard to justify taking time off. Enter - the break between quarters. If you feel like you’d rather jump off a bridge than spend one more minute with that idea, it’s time to take a step back. For your sanity, take a day (or two) off from headlines, layouts, and concepts. Then…

Get to Work
Cause you can’t let that break last too long. School IS only one year, after all. Start by easing into some work that isn’t school-related. And even better, the kind of work that PAYS. If you have a part-time job, up your hours. If you’re funemployed, do some babysitting, cat sitting, dog sitting - basically anything that pays you to sit is awesome. Earning some cash will come in handy later on and doing mindless work might just lead to creative work. Before you know it, you will WANT to…

Work on your Book
If you’ve just finished your first quarter, go through old work and see what you like. Try to make it better. If you’re a copywriter, find an art director to talk to. If you’re an art director, talk to a copywriter. If you’re further along, improve your existing campaigns. Work on your website. Work on your side project. In the immortal words of Rihanna, “work work work work work.” Then it’s time to…

(You sensing a theme yet?) Email, connect on linkedin, follow on twitter, you know what to do. With all this free time, you can even meet up in person! Coffee dates, lunch dates, after work drinks - use that cash you earned to treat a creative and then pick their brain. Some people (who shall remain nameless) have even been known to use dating apps for networking purposes…not that we’re recommending that but hey, if there isn’t a spark, you might as well get something out of it. Then, if there’s any time left over…

Get Outside
It’s summer in Chicago people! Winter will be here before you know it so use your limited free time to enjoy summer while it lasts. If you need recommendations - google it. I’m a terrible tour guide.

Written by: CPS Blogger & 2nd Quarter Copywriter

By heather : June 29, 2016

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What’s in my Office Thursday: Bryan Hradek

What’s in my Office Thursday: Meet CPS Alum Bryan Hradek, Junior Copywriter MullenLowe U.S. in Boston! Check out his advice:

“Chances are, you’ll be coming out of school hot and heavy. And that’s chill. But don’t worry about finding a job immediately. It takes time. So staying patient is probably my first piece of advice to any aspiring creative.”

“Don’t ever follow the money. The work and the people should lead your decision. You’re going to spend the majority of your time at the agency. Find the people that you can stand sitting next to for hours. They’ll be more than just your co-workers; they’ll be your family.”
“That being said, keep office romance to a minimum. Advertising is home to a ton of sexy humans. But it’s good practice to keep business and pleasure separate, so fight your temptations.”

“I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is just to have a good attitude. I believe this to be true in life and especially true in advertising. You’re going to hear the word “no” a lot. Like, a ton. Keep your head up, always be willing to help, and always keep thinking.”

By heather : June 23, 2016

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The Importance of Having a Book

For a while, I’ve wanted to write a blog post about my one of my best friends that currently works at a smaller, boutique agency on the north side.  Hearing his insight into how he got to where he is has widened my eyes into the lifestyle of a smaller shop and the advantage having a portfolio really gives you when trying to break into this industry. 

As an improviser/comedian around the city, my friend was eager to find himself a career where being creative and expressing a sense of humor could be a day-to-day activity.  Copywriting seemed like an avenue he wanted to explore and he applied to a smaller agency that had a wide array of clients, from healthcare to direct mail and everywhere inbetween.

While his degree was very impressive and his history in comedy showed off his skills in creativity, the agency was not comfortable directly hiring someone that had no physical pieces of work.  Fortunately, he was brought on as a Digital Coordinator and set his sights on working his way up to a copywriting position.  For the next 5-6 months, he was involved with website design, digital marketing strategy and a bit of content writing here and there when the opportunity presented itself.  Eventually, after 8 months of trying on various hats, he was offered a copywriting position based on the reputation and work he had created thus far. 

In having talked about the Chicago Portfolio School with him further, he agrees that the entire process could have been greatly expedited had he come in ‘Day One’ with a solid book of work to prove his abilities.  **Update** I have seen the open windows on his browser and CPS is one of those windows.  WE MAY HAVE A NEW STUDENT, FOLKS!!!

Written by: 4th Quarter CW & CPS Blogger, Sean Kunz

By heather : June 22, 2016

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CPS Apprentice

With the 2016 Presidential Election being the current “Hot Topic”, my television has been flooded with images of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Anderson Cooper and more than anyone else, Donald Trump.  While I am sure the last thing any Portfolio student wants to read is an entry on Donald Trump’s right-winged positions and campaign promises, there is a piece of his past that resonates with us all.  That piece being…The Apprentice. 

Anyone that watched The Apprentice or it’s outrageously star-studded spin-off, The Celebrity Apprentice, knows that each episode consisted of Trump assigning both teams a marketing task and the responsibility to choose a project manager.  These tasks ranged anywhere from promoting one of Trump’s luxurious Golf Courses to writing a radio advertisement for Chicken of the Sea (tuna). 

Looking back on it, each episode was essentially an assignment from an Integrated Campaign’s instructor at CPS.  Much like the Project Manager’s role, it is our responsibility to either individually or collaboratively come up with a concept, prepare executions and present these to our class (mock client).  While LaToya Jackson and Gary Busey are neither Copywriters nor Art Directors, it was exciting each week to watch them assume those roles and bring that concept to life.  It is interesting to now go back and watch the strategizing and boardrooms to see how people fight for what they creatively believe in.  Equally as interesting, is the way in which these teams came up with their concepts and executed them.  There is much to be said for sitting together as a team and talking ideas out loud as opposed to individually behind a computer screen.

Inevitably, like so many contestants on the show, we will all be fired…. I mean, hired.  We will all be hired. 

Written by CPS blogger & 3rd Quarter CW, Sean Kunz

By heather : June 13, 2016

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As a college student, I chose to study Neuroscience.  This was a field that required intense reading, writing and time in the lab conducting research.  In terms of a schedule and staying organized, there was absolutely no time for procrastination.  Pushing things off to the last minute was a slippery slope and almost always ended in a poor grade or being dropped from a project. 

Now that I have changed career paths entirely, I am starting to look at procrastinating in a different light.  By no means do I aim to push everything off to the last minute, but there is a certain rush that comes to a creative personality when they are under a severe time constraint.  When I am down to the wire and stressed to produce something in a timely manner, I let go of the filter in my head telling me that something is “stupid” or “irrelevant”.  In doing so, many more ideas flood the page and I tend to lose myself in the writing. 

The trick for me is starting an assignment on Thursday/Friday that is due Monday, but fooling myself to believe that it is due at the end of that night.  No need to change the clocks and calendars in your apartment, but just get yourself in the mindset and see what ideas come to mind!

Written by: 3rd Quarter CW and CPS Blogger, Sean Kunz

By heather : June 10, 2016

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Part-Time Work for Creative Students

After three quarters of Portfolio school and countless family parties, I am so sick of hearing the question, “So, what do you do for a living?”.  I am a student.  I live to go to class and work on campaigns.  I believe the more appropriate question would be, “What do you do to survive?”.  With class 4-days a week and never enough time to sit down and write to completion, where does one find the time to make the money?  After speaking to a bunch of Portfolio students I have compiled a short list of some of the most popular employment options and their perks/negatives. 

Full Time Day Job :
This option is ideal in the sense that you will be making a good deal of money that can cover the costs of rent/food and paying off that school loan.  If finding a full-time job in an industry that you liked was easy, it’s likely that you wouldn’t be back in school.  So keep that in mind when choosing how you will survive.  Also, most 9-5 jobs will not be keen on the idea of taking your laptop out during the day to work on homework and other assignments for class.  As a result, it may be difficult to commit fully to team projects.

Part-Time Retail:
This is what I do.  This is hell.  Just kidding.  It’s rather manageable and generally flexible, if you are willing to work early mornings and/or weekends.  Additionally, with the hours you have to dedicate towards an outside job, no single retail job will realistically cover anything more than food costs and a monthly crazy night-out.  While there is not much downtime to take out my notebook and start writing, it has been interesting to look at advertising in terms of the store I work and the customers that shop there.  It’s been helpful to see what catches their eye and what is most important to them when it comes to buying certain products.

Part-Time Babysitting:
All around, this seems to have been the most student-friendly option.  Finding a family that needs someone on the weekdays is totally possible and is perfect for one reason and one reason only… kids nap!  When the kids take a snooze, take that laptop out and get to writing!  Furthermore, you set your own rate.  Careful to choose a family with well-behaved children or else this could easily turn into a nightmare. 
P.S. Some families are comfortable opening their refrigerators to you as well.

Part-Time Bartending:
Great money.  Horrible hours.  I have had several friends go through graduate school and portfolio school as a bartender and their hours have been rough!  Working into the early hours of the morning only to wake up, head to school and start the process all over.  As stated earlier, the potential for money is great and in many ways, you can still feel like you have a social life!  Just be sure to head to bartending school first (Need a job to pay for that?  Read above.)

Only Child:
Screw you. 

Written by: Sean Kunz, 3rd Quarter CW & CPS Blogger

By heather : June 08, 2016

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