In case you missed it, check out some great work from Fabian & Ida.
Fabian Berglund & Ida Gronblom were interviewed at Wieden+Kennedy London.
FB: …a lot of students have books full of ads with smart visuals or fun copy, but they haven’t thought about why they made the ads. What’s the problem they are trying to solve? And is an ad the best way to solve that problem? The issue with a lot of student books is that they’ve made a lot of ads without a brief, without a real problem to solve.
IG: A lot of students just go, “Okay, we’re going to create a campaign for like…”
FB: American Express…
IG: Yeah, American Express, and they end up doing advertising for a credit card, not American Express. You could just swap the product, you know? It could be any card, really. That happens a lot. We tell them to do your research, try to figure out the tone of voice of the brand, what makes it different from other brands doing the same thing. Is there anything you can dig up from the brand’s history? What do people associate with this brand? I think this is something that, as a student, you’re not that used to doing because you are looking for quick fixes. You get an assignment and then it’s more fun to hang out with your mates and then, all of a sudden, you need to deliver it tomorrow so you go with an idea without having analyzed it enough. But what you really need to do is to get under the skin of the brand. This is the main feedback we give to students about their books. And when some students already think this way, then it’s like, “Wow! These guys are great!”
WS: What do you think about putting things that aren’t ads in the book?
FB: Yeah, I think it’s good, but it should be…
IG: It should be 20 percent of the book.
FB: Communication ideas and not just something silly to be different. Not something that’s like, “Why?” The point of the book is to tell other people that you have ideas and that you get communication and problem solving. So aim for ideas that do that. A business idea or a design solution for something or whatever [is good] but it can’t just be something mad, you know?
IG: Or tiny, small, ambient ideas that would never have an effect. They’re fine if you’ve got the big campaign and they’re sort of the icing on the top. But you have to remember that they’re the fun bits you get to do locally somewhere, and if you are lucky they get picked up by the media, but that’s never a sure thing. So you can’t present them as, “This is the big thing, the only thing we’re going to do for this brand.”
FB: Yes, a lot of students want to do nontraditional advertising but they end up doing very traditional nontraditional advertising. They have a lot of ideas for outdoor, ambient stuff, but just because you don’t pay for the ad space doesn’t make it a good idea. Ambient work should be thought through strategically as well.
WS: What about creative things in the book that aren’t ads at all, more like artwork or journal writing…?
IG: Yeah, that’s good. Special skills that really show who you are and your personality because that’s how you’re going to stand out and be remembered.
FB: If you’re a good photographer, animator, or graphic designer, I think you should show that in your book as well. Same with writing, you can have things like that in the back of your book and say, “I’ve written a novel,” if you have. You shouldn’t be afraid to show that you have a special talent. I think it’s a balance of things and some people get the balance a bit wrong. I think it’s hard if you only have wacky ideas or things that aren’t advertising. It’s hard to take that person in on a placement or for a job because you don’t know if they can deliver on the everyday work you need them to do as well. Even if you are looking for someone who has the potential to be great in a few years, you also need to know that they can write some radio ads, make some posters today, or tackle a smaller digital brief, and if you have no clue how to do advertising because you only have a book with mad ideas, it’s going to be hard for you in the beginning.
WS: Do you have any other advice on how to put a book together?
IG: Constant improvement, I think. As long as you’re trying to get into advertising, as long as you’re jumping from placement to placement, you just got to keep making your book better. There’s no other way.
FB: Yeah, it is a lot of late nights…
IG: …I mean, that’s what we still do. That’s what you do when you have a job. You’re constantly updating your portfolio with better work, at least you should aspire to.
FB: It’s hard for people to manage their book once they get their first placement or job. It takes up all your time, and you don’t really have any time left to update your book. When you have enough good ideas, I would spend some time on the finish of them. And that’s back to the question of just pen sketches—it doesn’t have to be finished all the time. But ideas need art direction and you can either lift or ruin an idea with design, typography, photography, etc.
IG: I get a bit scared when people come in showing a book with only pen sketches. Not showing any design sensibility or art direction, then I get a bit scared because that’s not really the reality of advertising anymore—that you just sit with a pen and pad.
FB: Another piece of advice is to have your best work in the beginning of the book because the first impression is going to influence what people think of the book. Think about the order of things too, so there’s a natural flow. Mix up big campaigns with smaller ones. You shouldn’t have too many “slow” campaigns after each other. Give them breathing space with lighter ideas in between.
IG: I wouldn’t advise people to drop off their book at agencies. I know a lot of people do that but I think, when you meet the person, that’s when the book comes to life—when the people talk about the projects, present them. I don’t think it’s very good to leave your book unless you’re amazing, and it will stun anyone. Sometimes students try to see the most senior people in the agency, like the executive creative director. I’m not sure that’s always right because, first of all, they barely have time. Chances that you’re going to see them are slim. And are they going to be impressed by you? No. They look at a lot of books, and they look at award-winning creatives’ books all the time. They go to award shows to judge. It’s been ages since they were in school. So they’re just going to think you’re shit. So always aim to see more junior people, then work your way up—make them recommend you up. I think you might just burn all your bridges if you go straight up to the top if you’re fresh out of university.
FB: It’s better that someone else in the agency sends your work to them and says, “This student is really good.” Because, again, they’re going to look at your book with that in mind—that their colleague who they respect thinks your work is really good.
IG: And then, you know, usually in every agency there are a couple of younger teams that look at all the student books and they can judge it the best really because they see all of them.
WS: How do you find these junior or middleweight teams that you can show your work to? How do people find you?