By Adam Newby
HOW TO WIN SCA
It’s hard to match yesterday’s SCAB. It was brilliant and it made me doubt my ability to ever make anything of any worth ever in my life. It’s Sunday and I’m drinking coffee. I don’t drink coffee on a Sunday. Daniella has me drinking. So while I wait for the caffeine that’s coursing through my veins to reach my brain I will share my advice with next year’s intake as this too is my last SCAB (I am genuinely sad). Here are my 12 steps to success at School of Communication Arts (from someone who has done rather well – we sell ourselves or we die).
- Work. In any industry, success finds it’s way to those that work hard for it – just because we are ‘creative’ does not mean the rules don’t apply – more than anything this year, how hard you work will dictate your level of success.
- Balance. Hard work is not enough. You have to work smart. Go to bed early and get up early. Know when to take a break. Know when you’re being lazy. Listen to your gut. Don’t neglect the things that got you here in the first place; see friends, go to the cinema, exercise, daydream, etc. Whatever it is that you were doing before SCA, make sure you don’t neglect it when school starts. This won’t be easy. Ideas come from all the avenues of your life, be sure to keep them open.
- Humility. As soon as you think you’re the dog’s bollocks you’re in trouble. Don’t forget that you know nothing. Accepting that you know little to nothing is great advice not just for SCA but also for life. Wear your success and failure lightly, try and treat the two as imposters of equal measure (easier said than done). In term 1 you know nothing. In term 2 you know even less. In term 3 you realise just how little you know. If this is how you find yourself feeling, keep going – you’re doing well.
- Trust. Have faith that Marc knows what he’s doing. It’s very easy to doubt and question the things you will be asked to do at SCA. If you find yourself questioning the man that’s led the school to ever-higher achievements refer to Step 3.
- Moderation. Drugs and alcohol make you more creative. Especially if you stop taking them. I’m sorry if this comes as a disappointment. Sure, you can act like you’re on Mad Men, but if you’ve watched the show for long enough you should know that things aren’t going to turn out well in the long run.
- Professional. For God’s sake turn up on time. That means being at school at 9am. Every day. Costa opposite Brixton Station opens at 630am. You should aim to be there at 730am every day, most of you won’t do this, maybe one or two of you will. I wonder which will have a better year. And remember, no one was ever punished for handing work in early. Meet every deadline.
- Analogue. Leave your laptop at home for the first term. Seriously, you don’t need it. Your ideas will be shit and you shouldn’t waste time making them look pretty. Instead, familiarise yourself with the basics of copy and art. Use a pen. Write lines on paper (I like the uniball eye micro 150 blue) and scamp scamp scamp. Use paper like it’s not killing the planet. Imagine a tree molested you as a child, do whatever it takes to get through 500 sheets a week. Try out ALL the creative techniques, one or two might stick, you’ll be so much better off, and you’ve nothing to lose. Use marker pens and flip boards. Draw mind maps and spider diagrams. Doodle.
- Digital. While the bread and butter of your craft are the… bread and butter… of your work, you will also need to become proficient at a few computer programmes. Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects (or Final Cut Pro X) are all you need. Come D&AD and Cannes you’ll be glad you know how to use them, especially After Effects. They say you can’t polish a turd, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cover it in glitter. Award shows love glitter.
- Dots. At SCA, culture is a four-letter word: dots. Collect dots and connect them. Go to art galleries, go to the cinema, people watch, go to museums, the theatre, anything. Keep collecting dots. If something sparks your interest explore it further. Fascinating people are fascinated by life. Use these dots to feed your creativity, and not just in advertising. Make and do things that have nothing to do with advertising.
- Ask. You are at SCA. There are no teachers, but there are the in-house mentors. Make the most of them. They know more than you do. Ask them about copy, art and anything and everything else. You’ll also need to get good at networking. I hate networking. As soon as you have your portfolio in some sort of form go out and visit agencies. Make a list of the places you want to work, writing it down is the first step in turning your dream into a reality.
- Stretch. The more lines you have in the water, the more likely you are to catch a fish. The more tickets you buy, the more likely you are to win the raffle. On the other hand, fishing rods and raffle tickets are expensive; find out how much work you can handle at once without going bankrupt (this is a metaphor). This is a valuable lesson in itself.
- 12. Positive. As SCA’s current misanthrope in residence (a position I hotly contest with Mathias Trads) many in BARK might find this one ironic coming from me. Look for the positives. As Teddy said in a scab a week back, it takes 300 men years to construct a building, and one arsehole with a wrecking ball a day to bring it down. Take that approach when criticising other’s work, no matter how tempting it is to take a hatchet to it. When I saw #neknominate I lamented the current state of mankind. I waxed lyrical about the stupidity of our generation. Meanwhile, James Lucking and Will Wright saw the way this trend captured people’s imaginations, they connected dots and came up with #donatenominate blood donation – the bastards. So while I was busy flinging shit about, Wright and Lucking saw the positive and came up with an idea that’ll probably land them a job – the bastards.
So that’s my twelve steps to success at SCA. I am definitely missing some pretty fundamental points but whatever.
And seeing as this is my last SCAB (probably), here is my alternative reading list.
How To Do Better Creative Work by Steve Harrison
Ok this one is on the reading list, but it’s essential. Get it on kindle or borrow someone’s kindle to read it. I’ve read it twice. It’s all gold.
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
Easily the most offensive, absurd and insane book ever written in the English language. Nothing will free your mind like page after page of nonsensical obscenity.
This is a blog from Ben Kay, the CD of Apple’s secret advertising agency in Europe. Read if only for the comments section, which will give you a greater insight into the industry than reading Campaign. Also his Friday mix of randomness is gold.
Dave Dye is a brilliant art director and is now Head of Art at Mother. He’s kept very scrap of paper from all his work over the years and this blog gives you an invaluable insight into process and thinking behind some brilliant campaigns. His profiles of advertising greats is also wonderful – I turn to his piece on Tom McElligott every time I want some copy inspiration. http://davedye.com/2014/02/07/hands-up-whos-heard-of-tom-mcelligott/
Everything you need to know about planning from W+K Amsterdam. Brilliant strategy is just as important as arresting creative, especially when you’re a student. Agencies want to see that you can think clever. This blog will help with that.
It’s going to be a brilliant and brutal year.
How To Make It as an Advertising Creative by Simon Veksner
Simon Veksner’s book is full of useful advice. It won’t tell you how to do better creative work, just how to do well in your career. His blog http://scampblog.blogspot.co.uk/ is also very useful, and has a section dedicated to young supple students like you and me.
“The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from. I do think that my plagiarism is effective. Why does an artist create, anyway? The way I see it, if you’re an inventor, you invent something that you hope people can use. I want art to be just as practical. Art can be a political reference, a sexual force, any force that you want, but it should be usable.”
Everything by Jonathan Glazer
And finally, keep an eye on this guy.