Awesome or Awful

Check out Awesome or Awful: A Self-Critique Tool for Young Creatives. Wish I’d had this around when I was first in portfolio school.

One of the authors is Erin Eby, a super-talented art director who helps run an agency in Geneva, Switzerland. I had the pleasure of working with her when I lived there, and we collaborated on a number of projects. I kind of wish this would have been one of them.

Young Ones Portfolio Review

One of the very best things I did as a portfolio student was attend the One Club’s student portfolio review sessions. As a first year student, I had Mike Shine, Bob Barrie, Sally Hogshead and a bunch of other marquee names look at my work. I wasn’t looking for a job (at least not that year). I just wanted to hone my book. And in a single afternoon, I had feedback from about 30 different top tier professionals.

You hear one thing, you can dismiss it. You hear it twice, still better to trust your gut. But to get specific feedback about the work in your book, and have it repeated over and over by the people who drive this industry does wonders for the bubble you might be creating your book in. It definitely worked for me.

So put Monday, May 9 on your calendars. Even if you’re not in New York (I was eight hours away in Richmond), it’s worth the road trip. It won’t be cheap. But it should be worth it. Keep an eye out for admission prices and registration here.

Showing Your Work Around

“I don’t know what’s good anymore.”

We’ve all had this experience. We work on something so much, for so long, that we completely lose perspective. We’re too close to it. We can’t tell if something’s clear, funny, stupid, or so stupid it’s funny. At times like this, it’s good to have a few go-to people.

“Hey, what do you think of this?”

You need someone who’s smart, has good taste, and will be brutally honest with you. Sometimes it’s good to have a few of those people.

“One person I showed thought that the cat kind of reminded her of aliens, because this one time she had a dream about alien cats.”

If you focus-group an ad around long enough, you will get some pretty strange feedback. We all know the chronic focus-groupers. Sometimes they’re legitimately confused, but often they’re just fishing for compliments, or searching for the one person who will tell them that their crap ad is brilliant. Don’t be that person.

Have your few trusted brains. Use them as necessary. If they all agree that the ad’s not working, take that to heart. But don’t take every piece of thinking that you ever poop out and show it around to everyone. It’s annoying and, because everyone will have a different take on it, it will just confuse you.

As much as learning how to come up with a good idea, you need to learn to evaluate a good idea. Trust your gut. And when your gut is full, trust the guts of a few smart people around you. But don’t trust the guts of everyone in the school, or everyone in the agency. That just leads to a big, gooey, gross, gutty mess.