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WS: What do you look for in a student portfolio? And what impresses you?
VS: I think it would be a cliché, but we look for fresh ideas—new ideas that we have not seen before. Because typically, what happens is that most students are trying to do work they’ve seen before. They’re trying to do work that maybe will impress you. They’re trying to do work like what has won awards. But actually, what we’re looking for is new talent, new ideas, a new kind of craft which we never get to see.
WS: Do you like to see finished work—work that’s been finished on a computer—or are sketches enough?
VS: Actually it depends. Sometimes, for an art director, we’d like to see some kind of craftsmanship, of course based on an idea. But I don’t think the final finishing is that important, if the idea is strong. And from a writer, of course not—it’s just the concept. But as an art director, yes. Because that kind of shows you whether they will actually pull it off. A lot of art directors are very good at ideas, but if they can’t art-direct the page then I don’t know. As an art director, I think there’s a problem. Art directors need to know a lot of technical things because that’s what will make you a very good art director. Like from idea to executing in the most fresh possible way.
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WS: And what do you think about putting pieces of work in a book that aren’t ads at all?
VS: I think the other things are more important, actually. It kind of projects the person. If you’re half creative—I think anyone can do an ad. But if you are really clever, that’s when you use your ideas to do better, new things. So I think that will really help to see what other things they can do. But it also shows what kind of character they are. And very often we ask people things like, “What do you do in the evenings?” and, “Where do your parents stay?” Normally, we ask all kinds of funny questions to get what kind of person they are. So this might just answer that—by putting interesting other things on the page. That’s something you’ll get really excited about rather than a regular ad because that’s the kind of thing that we like to do: new things. I think we are looking for the kids with new sensibilities without actually losing the ground of reality. With a lot of kids, that’s the problem now. They have no “concept knowledge” of their country or where they live or generally about the world. Maybe they know more about other designers and art directors, but they may not know the culture, the history. So I think this “other work” kind of helps with that.