Beakbane | Portfolio Night: Business needs are changing faster than the schools
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Portfolio Night: Business needs are changing faster than the schools

Five years ago, when I first volunteered to help review the portfolios of students who were aspiring to break into the advertising business there were some clear deficiencies.

The advertisements that the students presented were either well-written OR well-designed, but rarely both. Those who were aspiring to be writers and those aspiring to be designers were evidently not collaborating. Another issue was the over representation of advertisements for grocery products that were formulaic with a tiny product image and few words of amusing copy. This was disconcerting because in Canada the market for grocery product advertising has been shrinking and is now a small part of the market. Most businesses require communications that are not “advertising” in the traditional sense of the word, but communicate in other ways, such as on packaging, experientially, online or through mobile devices. Businesses need people who know how to develop a campaign idea that can then be executed across several different mediums.

critic, students, business, creative

Portfolio Night, where students who want to get into the business have their portfolios critiqued by Toronto

This year at Portfolio Night 9 the evolution in the students’ work was striking. Now there is more collaboration. Those studying copywriting are working together with those studying design. They are being coached how to develop an idea for a campaign that is then executed in other mediums like print advertising, websites and a mobile apps. The portfolios of students graduating from the Humber College advertising program were notable for this collaborative and cross-media approach.

However, educational institutions need to continue to evolve. It is not enough to create an idea for a mobile app if the technology cannot realistically support the functionality. The lines of communication need to be opened up between those learning about advertising and those learning about technology, so students can review the feasibility of their ideas with programmers before putting them in their portfolio.

Some schools are still years behind the realities of the market. One student from OCAD presented her thesis project which was a booklet describing the strategy and design philosophy for an anti-bullying organization. Page after page was carefully written and beautifully designed. The booklet was stunning and the student was evidently hard working and talented. When I asked her, “How would you translate this concept so it would communicate online and through the use of video?” she stopped dead and said the question had not been part of the assignment.

Today’s reality is that the market for printed page communications is dwindling. How many organizations these days need to print a book? Virtually none. How many need to harness the power of digital communications in all its different guises? Nearly all.

OCAD, which is a leading educational institution, and claims to be a “university of the imagination,” should be encouraging its students to harness the incredible power of digital communications. Student artists should be collaborating with videographers and web programmers and using their collective imagination to explore how new technologies can bring their ideas to life. For the students themselves it should not be a big stretch because online and mobile communications are already woven into their lives.