School Spotlight: VCU Brandcenter

A Place For Creative Transformation

Our relationship with the Richmond, VA-based VCU Brandcenter goes way back. The Brandcenter is a partner of ADC Portfolio Night, the world’s largest portfolio review and recruitment event, and prior to leading ADC, our Executive Director Ignacio Oreamuno also worked with VCU Brandcenter for many years at IHAVEANIDEA. So for the teams at ADC, we know their programs, staff and students well. As such, we are proud to share that knowledge along with their added insights in our final School Spotlight.

Winter night building rear shot

ADC: Who is the VCU Brandcenter?

Katherine Keogh, Student Affairs and Communications Manager: The VCU Brandcenter is more than a two-year, full time Master’s program. It’s more than a portfolio school. It is a place where creative transformation takes place. Our students learn to collaborate across all five tracks (art direction, copywriting, creative technology, communications strategy and creative brand management), just as they would in the “real world,” under faculty who act as creative directors, strategy directors, digital directors, brand/marketing directors, etc. Only it’s not the real world. It is a place where they learn how to think big and push boundaries. And if they push one too far, they won’t get fired… but they’ll sure as hell learn from it.

The intense preparation is paired with endless networking opportunities – with recruiters, board members, speakers, alumni, etc. The students learn how to get a foot in the door, but they also learn how to navigate their careers so that they are making big things happen soon after they enter the industry.  So it’s no surprise our grads get jobs at some of the best agencies and companies in the world. And then they come back to recruit more students who have what it takes to get through this program.

It is a place where creative transformation takes place.

Recruiter Session Basement

ADC: What would one of your students say about the Brandcenter?

Let’s not bullshit.

This program isn’t easy.

At times, it’s downright exhausting,

both mentally and physically.

You’ll lose sleep.

You’ll gain weight.

You’ll get frustrated.

You’ll doubt yourself.

You may even wonder if you’re cut out for this industry.

But if you can make it through the 60 weeks, you’ll walk away with more than just a great book.

You’ll be battle tested, ready to walk into just about any agency in the country and contribute on day one.

When your creative director asks you for big ideas, you’ll get there faster than your junior colleagues will.

When your creative director shoots down your work, which will undoubtedly happen at some point,

The thick skin you cultivated while at Brandcenter will soften the blow.

You’ll be used to tough criticism, and you’ll understand why that’s important for turning good work into great work.

You’ll be able to stand up in front of a room full of people and argue why your idea is the solution to their problem.

Plus, you’ll earn a Master’s degree, which will look pretty nifty on your office wall one day.

This program isn’t easy.

But that’s what makes it great.

Andrew Couch, 2nd-year copywriting student

Cocoon Table Orientation Day

This program isn’t easy. But that’s what makes it great.

ADC: Who are the Brandcenter faculty that we either already know, or should know?

Let’s see, how about Caley Cantrell, Peter Coughter, Mark Fenske, Wayne Gibson, Berwyn Hung, Don Just, Andrew LeVasseur, Geoff McGann, Kelly O’Keefe or Scott Witthaus? Any of those names ring a bell?

ADC: While we appreciate the similar strengths in different programs around the world, we also like to highlight what makes each school stand alone. What is that factor for the Brandcenter?

Our recruiters tell us time and again that our students are the most prepared to hit the ground running in the industry, because they’ve been trained to approach brand problem solving in a real-world setting, bringing together creativity and tech savviness with strategic thinking and business sensibilities.

ADC: Do you remember the most arresting student application ever received at the Brandcenter?

One of our art directors made a hard bound book that was fully branded from cover to cover, with pictures of himself and snippets of his personality throughout. He included a note on great food and wine to pair with the book. His cover page, which included a picture of his face, was marked up with real critiques he had seen on different creative reviews, including comments like “More pop!” with an arrow pointing to a zit. His last page was a list of reviews for his application, including “It’s the best,” from the reviewer “My Mom.” It was all very well done and fun to read.

ADC: Who are the top graduates to have come out of the Brandcenter?

It is extremely difficult to pick the top three, but here are a few who stand out:

Charles Hodges graduated from the Brandcenter’s Copywriting track in 2009 and started out in the industry doing award-winning work for ESPN, Nike, Delta, Heineken and Nokia at Wieden + Kennedy (like this spot for the “This is Sportscenter” campaign). He then spent a year as a creative lead at Google Creative Lab, and went on to become a creative director and now group creative director at TBWA\Media Arts Lab, doing work like this iPhone 5 spot.

Rachel Mercer graduated from the Creative Technology track in 2012. She started out as an invention strategist at Deutsch LA and quickly became promoted to senior strategist. At Deutsch, Rachel created apps like this one for Esurance, which predicts the price of gas. She now works as a senior product strategist for Made by Many. Recently Rachel was named one of Business Insider’s 30 Most Creative People in Advertising Under 30. Take a look at more of Rachel’s work on her website.

Mike Karnjanaprakorn graduated in 2006 from the Creative Media Planning track (now merged into our Communications Strategy track). Mike took an entrepreneurial career path, starting companies like Hot Potato (acquired by Facebook) and Behance (acquired by Adobe) and his current company, Skillshare, a global learning community, where he is now CEO. Mike was named one of the Most Creative People of 2012 by Fast Company. Read Mike’s blog here.

ADC: Let’s talk about money. How much is the annual tuition at the Brandcenter?

Approximately $19,500, subject to change.

VCU Brandcenter

Learn more about the VCU Brandcenter here, on Facebook or Twitter, and stay tuned for our final School Spotlight this month!