Wayne Stater articles

WSC students get tips from the pros

Left: David Webster from Webster Design shows his work to design students and answers their questions during the face-to-face segment of Meet the Pros.

Graphic design students attended Meet the Pros in Omaha last week to learn skills and tips to help them land careers after they graduate. Meet the Pros is an annual convention held by the Omaha Federation of Advertising for design and advertising students. The event was held at the Embassy Suites in the Old Market and attracted over 300 students, most of them juniors and seniors.

Meet the Pros began on Thursday at 8 a.m., so WSC Students had to leave at 5:30 in order to arrive on time. The show opened with Ed Prentiss, the founder of Brainco, an advertising school in Minneapolis. He walked out wearing over a dozen different t-shirts that he removed one-by-one during his speech as he discussed the different topics printed on them. One topic was "don't use condoms," and Prentiss explained how many students tend to create designs for products that are appealing only to other college students, such as condoms. He suggested students instead create designs for banks, nursing homes, or products that would appeal to other groups.

Prentiss also made it clear in his presentation that the design field is very competitive and students should learn skills that make them stand out. "How many designers do we have here?" Prentiss asked the crowd. Over three-fourths of the 300-plus students raised their hands. "Do you think there are that many jobs out there?" he asked, and an unsettled silence fell over the room.

At eleven, students left for tours of local agencies and design studios, such as Bozell & Jacobs, SKAR, Kahler & Company, and Lovgren Advertising. Students who stayed behind got to eat at the Spaghetti Works and see demonstrations from Envoy, and Webster Design. To encourage participation, $25 gift certificates were awarded to students who asked questions or made comments during the presentations. These certificates are redeemable at giftcertificates.com for merchandise from dozens of different vendors.

In the afternoon came skill-building workshops such as "Digital Matters" with Joe Sacco, where students could learn about using the Internet as a marketing vehicle, and "Behind the Curtain" with Jeannie Sturgeon from Omaha Print who explained the pre-press concerns design students must understand to get their work printed. Instructors were invited to attend a private workshop called "remaking the graduate," where students were not allowed.

Thursday's events were wrapped up with "Make Your Book Worth the Look," a panel discussion with David Burn, a freelance copywriter; Dave Webster, founder of Webster Design; and Ed Prentiss. The three pros answered students' questions about how to improve their portfolios.

Friday started off with "Your First Cubicle," a panel discussion of first-year design professionals that included Mike Kolker, a 2001 WSC Graduate who now works at Signs and Shapes International Inc. and designs "ten-foot high inflatable costumes." The panelists answered questions about how they landed their first jobs and explained some of the difficulties they experienced in their job searches.

At 10 a.m. was "face to face with the big guns," where small groups of students could meet with professionals to ask them questions and see samples of their work.

Over a grilled chicken lunch, Bob Taber from Thomas & Perkins treated everyone with a presentation on "How Cool Brands Get Hot with Young Adults," and he explained how the six youth culture segments shape the teenage culture.

The portfolio review session, the most anticipated event at meet the pros, came last. During this segment, students met one-on-one with professionals who would evaluate their design portfolios and give them tips on how to improve them. Students were also invited to share their portfolios with other students.

"One thing I like about it is the chance you have to get opinions from pros and fellow students about your portfolio," said Nick Hugo, senior. "It's good to get outside sources. I talked to a lady from Bozell & Jacobs and she said the more you can show in your portfolio the better, because it shows off your different talents."

During the afternoon, students could also attend a number of helpful job-related workshops such as Interviewing Techniques and Salary Negotiation for Advertising Pros.

Overall, it was two busy days, and WSC students received valuable tips from the pros and students they met with.