Former Student Showcase: Troy Burrows

I met Troy Burrows about three years ago when he was a student at the Chicago Portfolio School. Now he’s doing videos like these for Sharpie at DraftFCB in Chicago. (These were recently featured on Adweek‘s Ad of the Day.)

Pretty inspiring pieces. And pretty inspiring that you can go from student to this kind of work in such a short amount of time. High fives, Troy.


More Former Student Awesomeness

We love highlighting the work of former students on this blog. It’s really gratifying to see ex-students who were putting their books together just a few years ago knock things out of the park.

This is work from a former student of mine, Josh Parschauer. His art director was Beau Hanson. They’re both at Venables Bell & Partners.
The small screen doesn’t do it justice. Watch it full screen and in hi-def if you can.

James and the Giant Red Cube

We’re always happy to showcase work from former portfolio students on this blog. This comes from James Wood, a copywriter at EnergyBBDO in Chicago.
It’s a fantastic effort, and I hope it’s inspiring to students that they could have something like this in the books within a year of leaving portfolio school.


(Full disclosure: I was assigned to be James’ mentor during his second year at the VCU Brandcenter. And the creative director on this piece was my first boss, Kevin Lynch.)

Get Schooled

Years ago, Nate Archambault was a student of mine. He’s since done some pretty fantastic work, including this project he helped develop for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation while he was with Creativity picked it up here.
Always inspiring to see people I knew as students putting spec work together to get a job now hitting the ball out of the park as professionals.

Snickers Snacklish

Nate Archambault is a former student of mine. He just sent me this site that he helped create for Chiat/Day in New York.

Always inspiring to see former portfolio students go on to replace their student work with some very cool professional work. And it never surprises me that the former students who are creating the most remarkable work are the students I remember being the hardest working. Having fun = success. 

Advice: From Leslie Buker

Answering the question “If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your job-seeking student self?” is Leslie Buker, an art director at Publicis in the West and is the author of Bukes.

Love it, because there will always be a reason to hate it.

That’s what I’d tell myself of yesteryear. Back in ad school, the industry looked like a far-off golden land. Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. All I had to do was get there. But once arriving, I quickly realized the gold did not shine so brightly. Some days, clients are impossible. Other days, CDs are impossible. And most days, producing good work is impossible. This can leave the new arrival feeling slightly disillusioned.

But even in a slightly tarnished golden land, everything is still golden. Sometimes, you just have to look for the shiny parts. At an agency, you’re surrounded by decades of knowledge and people waiting to share it with you. Chances are, you also have a few new tricks up your sleeves to share in return. And even in doomed projects, there are small triumphs to be collected on the way – maybe they don’t like your headline, but the subhead sticks. Or they hate your layout, but couldn’t be more delighted with your choice of colors. These moments are the gems that make it worth it. Remember to focus on these each day as you make your move into the industry, and it will start to look like the golden land you thought it’d be.

Advice: From Brian Thibodeau

Answering the question “If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your job-seeking student self?” is Brian Thibodeau, an art director at the Martin Agency and author of stackingchairs.

First thing I will say is, take the time to teach your self. We expect institutions to give us far too much. The more you learn now while in school, the further ahead you will be.

Working in the interactive space seems to be one of those things that a lot of the old school guys talk about, but still struggle to lead you on. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing better than learning from the “old-school guys” just so long as you also stay up to date on what is happening in the industry. The better you understand the “old-school” the better your work will be in all instances.

The Brandcenter was great about encouraging work in the digital space. They have taken it so far as to include a new digital track. Even so, students should be proactive. It will be up to you in most instances to seek out good interactive work as well as good interactive advice. There is no substitute for hard work. My belief is the better you are at integrating your concept across all channels the better. A banner ad should never be an after thought. All brands should be participating in deep interactive experiences.

Even some agencies struggle with how to incorporate the digital space. This is good and bad. Good, because it allows you to differentiate yourself, and bad because when you graduate you still want to keep learning and feel mentored to a certain degree. So, choose an agency where you can grow.

The beautiful thing about the digital space is that it incorporates all. You can create video, or animation, or engage in great design. There is an endless array of how to engage the consumer. My first year at the brand center, Brian Collins said to me, “If you don’t understand interactive, learn it.” And I’ve been continually learning ever since.

The other thing I would say is to find the art. Michael Angelo, when referring to sculpting, would speak of releasing the image from the stone, rather than creating it. Try to approach your work the same way. What can you release from the brand that will inform your work? I often think of brands as wonderful patrons with deep pockets. Brands can offer great opportunities to create art for mass consumption.