This past spring semester, students from Young & Hungry Creative Co-op (Y&H), Academy of Art University’s on-campus advertising agency, teamed up with the students from the School of Illustration (ILL) portfolio course for an interdepartmental collaborative project. Y&H Executive Creative Director and School of Advertising Associate Director of Art Direction & Industry Development James Wojtowicz and ILL instructor Steven Kloepfer masterminded the project. The collaboration pairs each of 18 student art directors with an illustrator to develop an advertisement for either the Sausalito Art Festival’s competition, the American Icon Art Contest or a mock advertisement for a fable or myth that will be printed in Y&H’s demo book, “Stone Soup,” which they have a month to complete.
The benefits of the project are twofold. Art directing students have a chance at directing an illustrator to the finish line of a project in a theoretical client service setting, while illustration students have a finished print project to feature in their portfolio.
Wojtowicz believes that collaboration is an integral part of preparation for the advertisement industry. “Students can go two ways working [at Young & Hungry]. They grow a lot, really rapidly or they run into a wall and have to reassess. It’s good, because the whole premise of Young & Hungry is ‘Here’s what you’re in for,’” said Wojtowicz. “We put them into the randomizer, just like in real life. Students come back all the time and say they’re so glad they got a taste of this before they ran into something with a real client out in the real world.”
Kloepfer, who has taught at the Academy for 16 years, echoed the learning benefit of the collaboration. “This project is simulating real-world experience with real-world consequences. If this all works, it’s going to be in print. There’s something that’s out there now,” he said. “I tell my students, ‘Take any opportunity you have like this. You’re not always going to get to work on what exactly you want to work on.’ Illustrators are paid to solve other people’s problems. The sooner you get your work out there, the faster you will progress in your career.”
After Wojtowicz explained the initial proposal, the art directors and illustrators bustled around Y&H’s Cannery office to find their partners. For third-year ADV B.F.A. student Corina Rodriguez, this was an art direction first. “I have another class where I’ve been able to work with a photographer, but I’m finally getting the chance to direct a collaboration,” she said. “Art directors are the ones to say, ‘Okay, I have an idea. Let’s pull all this together and visually communicate it together this way.’ I don’t know if I’m doing this correctly yet, but I’m learning.”
On the illustration side, Tanner Lyon, who is in his final semester of ILL’s B.F.A. program, compared working with Y&H to his own independently commissioned project. “So far this seems a lot more straightforward. Sometimes people will commission me, but things can be a bit vague,” he said. “In this project, the students are a bit more nuanced. Also, I think learning to speak about a project is an important skill. That and being a bit more flexible about meeting what I have in my mind with what they have in their mind.”
Matt Forbes, another first time Y&H art director, summed up his thoughts about the collaboration, which seemed to be shared by most of the students. “I feel as though there is a lot of value provided to students, just getting that industry feeling and figuring out how things function in the real world,” he said. “This is like putting ideas in an incubator and seeing how they perform in reality. It’s interesting learning how similar communication and language are between different creative media.”
Featured photo by Bob Toy.