Check out the work of KC Tsang.
What do you look for in a student portfolio? And what impresses you?
I would look for something special. Gwen Yip sent me not a portfolio but a booklet full of comics and some writing. It was different. Not normal. Not just something that was done as a school assignment. The other thing I would look for is insights in the work.
Is that quality something that could come through in advertising, or are you looking for work that isn’t advertising at all?
Not even advertising at all. It’s better not to be advertising.
If you want a job at an advertising agency and you don’t send me advertising, that is special, and different from all the other candidates. It shows bravery and an attitude that is unique, and if the content of the work is good then this candidate is in good shape.
Are you looking for craft skills or writing?
When I first started interviewing people I would just look for good ideas. But then later I decided that the idea is important but it is not the only thing; craftsmanship is important. And later on I decided that craftsmanship was even more important because if you don’t know about advertising and what a concept is, I can teach you. It’s easy. You can pick it up in one or two years’ time. But I can’t teach you craft. That is something inborn. You have to spend 10 or 20 years to learn it. So when I saw a candidate I would ask myself: Are they special? Do they have craft skills? Do they have good taste? Do they have an attitude? And the last thing is concept or ideas.
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Are there common mistakes that students make?
Just putting together campaigns of print ads from school assignments. It’s just their homework. And they will include the brief and don’t bother to explain the strategy. And they will show the thinking process—the mind-mapping. I’m not interested in seeing the process; I just want to see the result.
Do you have any other tips for someone just starting out?
I think you have to be precise about who you are, what your personality is, and what your strengths are. So you choose some work that can reflect your personality. The work can never be good in the eyes of a creative director, so you shouldn’t worry about making it perfect. But it should be unique and reflect who you are.
Gwen Yip, who I mentioned before, made a travelogue to show her way of looking at the world. It was illustrated with writing, and it had emotional expression. You could see the personality there.