Just Enter the Project.
“The post-grad, real world newbie's guide to the RAF ADDY’S and Beyond”
Guest blog by Sarah Cipro
This is my first blog post…like ever. Do I start with my name? or will there be an introduction to who I am before? This started out as a bulleted list and I am just going back in and connecting the paragraphs in a way that seems to work. I guess this can be my intro…Hi, my name is Sarah. I am a graduate of RIT, a Designer at Chase Design in Skaneateles, and a recipient of the RAF student Scholarship Award. I am not here to tell anyone how to be a designer. I just thought it may be helpful to hear from someone who has just traveled that crazy road from college student to young professional.
This journey started 2 years ago at my first ADDY awards. I think it was Pride and Joy in 2015. I sat in the back with my business cards in hand planning on networking, but then I realized I had to actually talk to people. I think one freelancer sat at the table with my friend and I, and I gave him my card. I never heard back. It was intimidating. Once I saw the breadth of work submitted, and students not that much farther along than myself winning awards, I made it a goal of mine to enter my work someday.
It was my last semester at RIT. I knew I had to take a chance and enter. My professor, Chris Lyons, encouraged me to submit the project I completed in his class. I really didn’t think I would win. Before I knew the outcome, I was just excited to see my work mounted up next to all of this other amazing, local work. Needless to say, seeing it on a big screen and having creative directors from highly successful agencies responding to my work was a thrill!
At this point I will impart some knowledge that I have gained over the years. Tell yourself “Well, I know I won’t succeed so what’s the point”…then do it anyways. You are always your biggest critic, so showing yourself up is one of the best feelings you can get.
I was so excited to start my senior year. I knew that was when I could finally take all those fun classes that I paid for with all those prerequisites. This would be the time where I could be freed from the confines of highly structured projects and really use my brain.
When I kick off a project, I usually just start mind mapping my thoughts out on paper. Never discount the uses of a number 2 pencil and a piece of paper. The goal for me when thinking through these conceptual projects is it needs to be a solution to a problem…THINK BIG, and it needs to be executable. I start by thinking of all of the things I enjoy and then wonder if there’s a way my experience could be improved. In the case of FLIP, I saw the boxed hair dye industry as an area that could be improved. In a time where people are constantly looking for ways to reinvent themselves, I wanted to create a way for them to do that without the typical limitation of excessive hair dye usage, while also capitalizing on social media and the desire to share and connect.
It was NOT easy going when creating this campaign. It was the first project where I had to throw out my entire plan and start over mid-semester. Initially, I wanted to change the on-shelf presence of boxed hair dye, but that left my underlying concept void of engaging content. It would look beautiful on shelf, but it wasn’t really solving a problem other than aesthetics. I started talking to my audience at that point. In my search, I realized there is a huge community of people who love expressing themselves through their hair. It was all about expression and the freedom to change and choose. That was what I wanted to capitalize on, and what I saw as an opportunity to improve. I knew the world of crazy colored hair was already big and bold without my help, but creating a semi-permanent hair dye branded towards the idea of constant change, and giving people a community that supports that, wants to engage with you, and share your brand of expression seemed like an area left untouched.
Another tidbit, if your project is not going in a direction you like, don’t be afraid to throw everything out and start from square one. It’s easy to get caught up in deadlines (especially as a student) but presenting something you’re proud of always trumps that.
It feels like 100 years ago, but I still remember sitting in my first class as a “soph-junior” (transfer students should understand this title). Our first task was to make a 10-year plan. I wrote the basics; “get an internship”, “graduate”, “find a job”, and then “win an ADDY”. And I got scolded for making a word document instead of…you know…DESIGNING it. One of the most embarrassing moments of my college career.
So, now I am in my first job post ADDY win, what’s next? Five years out I would love to be a creative director. Ultimately, I want to get to the point where my ideas can effect change, but I am enjoying the learning process and gaining experience in the field.
Last bit of advice…like I said before, don’t listen to the voice that’s going to tell you your work isn’t good enough. I used to sit in class and listen to my superiors tell me this. I found comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone being stuck in the void of comparing my work to others, or thinking that I wasn’t at the place I wanted to be creatively. These are the experiences that shape you into the designer you want to be. The amazing work that wins year after year is the inspiration that can push you to create your best work.