Portfolio Night Recaped on the East Coast

Dan Jordan was a student of mine a couple years ago at the Chicago Portfolio School. Since graduating, he’s interned at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, and taken a full-time job at Hill Holliday working with powerhouses like Ernie Schenck and Tim Cawley. He’s also been honored by Archive and the One Club. Not a bad start. He reviewed books at Portfolio Night 6 in Boston, so I decided to ask him about it.

Greg: How was judging Portfolio Night in Boston?

Dan: As far as judging the event, I would have to say it was enjoyable. I like looking at work and we had a decent amount of topnotch Boston creatives on hand.

Greg: Generally speaking, what were the best and the worst things you saw 
that night?

Dan: A constant pitfall I found in pretty much 100% of the books I saw was produced work that was bad. Just because it is real, does not mean that it's good. Another terrible trend I've noticed both at Portfolio Night and in my Creative Concepts class is that art direction seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur. I see design books that look great, but have no conceptual ads, and art directors’ books with concepts that look horrendous. 
Also, students are rarely teaming up. I know that at ad schools they will make sure they pair you up, but if you're not attending a portfolio school, I feel the book really shows it.

Greg: Why do you think art direction is suffering in so many student books? Is it experience? Resources? Too much reliance on "concept-is-king"?

Dan: I'd like to believe that it's still possible to break into advertising without portfolio school, but I don't think that's the case. I think that good art direction stems from a solid grasp of the Adobe tools, yet a keen knack for concepting as well – skills that are almost impossible to obtain from anything but a two-year portfolio school. I still think that concept will always be king. A polished turd is still a turd. However, you must be able to make things look as visually appealing as something you'd see in Archive or CA.

Greg: What's the secret to going from portfolio school graduate to working at Hill Holliday and being featured in Archive and the One Show in just a couple of years?

Dan: The secret to making a successful transition from portfolio school to junior creative isn't really a secret at all. It's hard work. And I think it's imperative that you genuinely love advertising. There's a part in Comedians of Comedy when one of the comics (either Patton Oswalt or Brian Posehn) talks about how they both lived together in a crappy apartment and would write jokes every night for hours. And that was just them having fun. When I was creating my book, I was fortunate enough to have a phenomenal art director who liked creating ads. When we finished school, we had enough work to fill 3 books. That's a fantastic problem to have. 
Creating ads is the best part of advertising (besides for expensing overpriced meals). Everything that comes afterwards (the meetings, the presentations, the tweaks, the shoot, the edit, etc.) are merely necessary evils to ensure your creation lives.
 So work your ass off and make sure you enjoy it. And you'll be a successful junior.