Take a look at some great work from Susan Hoffman.
WS: What do you look for when you’re looking at a student book—what impresses you?
SH: Well, I think the thing that I’m sick of in student books is that they all look alike, and they all sound alike. And so I look for new ways to communicate, whether it be from a layout standpoint or a communication standpoint. But if I just see another “good headline” or another “good visual,” I’m not so impressed with it. So that’s the main thing, is looking different than any other book that comes in.
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WS: Do you think long copy is important to have?
SH: What I would say to writers is it’s okay to have a lot of conceptual ads, one-liners, television maybe, that doesn’t even have copy in it, but what I think you have to have in your portfolio is some long-copy stuff. Don’t put a novel in a portfolio because nobody has time to read it—but if there are some great short stories a writer has done, or some long-copy ads, that at least shows the voice that a writer would have. I think that’s really important. That’s what I look for now, and I think there’s not much of that in most portfolios. I think they’re all typical “conceptual one-liners.”
For an art director, I’m not interested in a conceptual art director only; I want a conceptual art director who knows how to design. I think the craft of design has disappeared. I don’t think that’s being taught in the schools.
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WS: And what do you think about putting things in a book that aren’t ads?
SH: Yes, I think that’s absolutely fine. Show anything that’s inventive. And show that you’re digitally fluent. That’s my rule now. I don’t want a writer or an art director who is not digitally fluent. That doesn’t mean you have to put a whole site together yourself, but you have to understand how to concept digitally, and an art director has to understand how to design digitally.
WS: What do you think is the best way for a student to improve?
SH: That’s such a tricky thing. I would say don’t look at ad books. Stop looking at ad books because they’re all the same.
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