Know the best. Study the best. Aim for the best.

I’m often amazed at the number of advertising/design students and recent grads I interview who seem to have little or no awareness of the actual industry they’re going into. Ask them what their favorite agencies or design firms are, what recent campaigns have inspired them, what new websites they love, and they look back with blank stares. 

Now I’m not expecting an encyclopedic knowledge of which agencies have what clients, or the winners’ list from Cannes, but I would like some sense that their passion for doing great work has driven them to study the best in the business and set their creative sights accordingly. 

More than ever, students and young professionals have access to an endless wealth of news, interviews, creative reviews, and award-winning examples of the latest work. First off, you have trade publications like Communication Arts, Archive, Graphis, and countless others filled with inspiration. Sure, you may have to pay for them in physical form, but much of their content can be accessed for free online.  

Next, you have daily emails from the likes of AdAge, Adweek, FastCompany’s Co.Design, and more that you can subscribe to for free. They feature account moves, new work, and recent award show winners, plus editorials on the latest tech affecting the biz.

Third, you can hop on your favorite social platform and follow the hot shops, big newsmakers, and outspoken insiders. Some standouts that I’d recommend: Anamoly, Huge, Goodby Silverstein, Cannes Lions,  Lee Clow’s Beard (humorous, yet profound tweets).

Just as easily, you can head straight to the websites of the best agencies and design firms, such as: Droga5, 72andSunny, David, Frog Design, Pentagram, Ideo, Big Spaceship. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even touched on industry blogs, podcasts, books, webinars, YouTube channels, yada, yada. 

So c’mon aspiring, young guys and gals, lose the blank stares and start feasting on the smorgasbord of industry inspiration that’s all around you. Before you know it, you’ll be the ones that future classes of students will be studying. 

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