News items about Miami Ad School in the popular and industry media.
- Addy Awards: Students Outshine ProfessionalsSouth Florida Business News
- Creatives NowCreativity Magazine
- Inspiration: Pippa SeichristCMYK Magazine
- Miami Ad School Wins BigShoot Magazine
- New Kids in TownADWEEK Magazine
- Real World ApproachThe Miami Herald
- Seichrist UniversityCreativity Magazine
- These Schools Rule Digital MediaAdvertising Age Magazine
- Your Ad HereFast Company Magazine
Advertising creativity is typically thought of as a young man's game; one that's constantly focused on the future. But ad veteran Ron Seichrist continues to shape successive generations of creatives by drawing energy and ideas from the industry's budding creatives.
Miami Ad School's well-traveled guru Ron Seichrist has been successfully reinventing the idea of teaching creativity since the early seventies. For the last fifteen years, Seichrist and his wife, Pippa, have molded Miami Ad School students eager to attain a practical education in advertising into idea machines. They've seen the school grow from six students at a former Masonic Lodge in South Beach to approximately 500 worldwide in six full-time schools on three continents. There are fifteen locations in all where students can train in Miami's "Quarter Away" program, as well as a worldwide exchange program for young, hungry would-be creatives. At seventy, Seichrist, a soft-spoken man from Norfolk, Va., keeps racking up the milestones and continues to shape the way the industry educates and grooms talent.
Miami Ad is the ultimate iteration of a problem Seichrist saw early in his career at agencies: potential hires with terrible books. "Intensive education taught by people in the business." is how he describes the school's mandate, and as commonplace as it seems now, in the late seventies it was a concept from Venus. After his start in education as design director at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Seichrist founded Portfolio Center in Atlanta, in 1977. Adopting Bill Bernbach's approach, he paired art directors with copywriters, recruiting local professionals to teach in the evenings. "He had very big dreams and enormous confidence." says Chuck Porter, chairman of Crispin Porter + Bogusky. "He knew enough people in the business, on the front lines." But the participation of agencies, integral to the idea, was slow to come. "The first couple of years it was really tough; the agencies didn't know what to expect." Seichrist says. Soon, though, Portfolio Center grads were swimming in job offers. "For a long, long time, if you could get a kid coming out of the Portfolio Center, they were prime recruitment candidates." Porter says. "It was like football players coming out of Florida State or the University of Miami." Now students can work toward a portfolio instead of a generalist university advertising degree at several places-Creative Circus, Brainco and Chicago Portfolio School are among them-but many say Seichrist's innovation at Portfolio Center set the standard.
While the industry and the curriculum change, students at Miami Ad have always found one constant--the nurturing presence of Seichrist, part stern taskmaster, part motivator. His idea of "backward thinking" which originated when he simply turned around to behold a stunning vista, shapes his philosophy of idea creation. "I was in Minneapolis and I was photographing these godawful sunsets on the snow, they were really bad" he recalls. "I happened to turn around one time and look in the opposite direction from the sunset and there was just a single tree in the snow, the moon had already come out on that side of things and it was a really beautiful photograph--found by looking totally in the opposite direction."
Seichrist says misfits have always suited his programs. Initial coursework at Portfolio Center was modeled for highly motivated transfer students looking for a second chance, or those stifled by traditional educational settings. "They went to college and studied whatever their parents wanted them to study, and that's not what they really wanted to do." he says. "I think Ron has created schools that are very appealing, so he tends to get an awful lot of talent." says Porter, emphasizing the availability of travel that comes along with the program. A global network of advertising schools was a difficult thing to fathom before the Internet, but Seichrist had one in mind. Miami Ad students can spend a "Quarter Away" up to four times after their first year, learning the fundamentals, interning at an agency by day and taking instruction from local professionals in the evening. This is where some of the best
student work is done, and a large part of the pioneer spirit pervading the school's image was born. "These kids, who are gutsy enough to go from school to school and take in these different cultures-you're not going to spook them, you're not going to work them too hard." says Alex Bogusky, CCO at CP+B. It's like the advertising Marines.
Between the full-time schools-in Miami, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Hamburg, Sao Paulo and Madrid-there's a cohesiveness of purpose and place handcrafted by Seichrist. "The culture between the schools is more similar than most agencies that have multiple locations." says Bogusky. Seichrist says the only rule for all schools is to keep a school dog but is that enough to make a student from Miami who walks into a foreign school feel at home? "When we started the Hamburg school, we built all the furniture in Miami and sent it on a container ship so the school would look the same in Hamburg." he says. In part, that leads to a fluency of ideas handed down at the onset of a student's time at Miami. "Miami Ad School has always been about ideas, not about ads." says recruiter Bonnie Lunt, who joined the board at Miami Ad School in 1996 and became chairman two years later. "Students have to take four quarters of concepting. That's a lot of concepting." There's no denying Miami Ad students are creating compelling work. Last year, Miami students took home a total of twenty-nine awards at the International Andys, Clios, One Show, D&AD and Young Guns.
Seichrist pushes students to develop the traits he wants to see in a Miami Ad graduate: "Dedication, commitment--they don't want to be mediocre." he says. The school's four-year-old partnership with CP+B--the agency sends staff to teach and accepts interns as well as handling Miami Ad's publicity--looks primed to move to another level, with the agency creating a space for Miami Ad students in its new Boulder location. Students already have permanent spaces at Saatchi & Saatchi in London, Lowe in New York and Fallon in Minneapolis. More are in other agencies as interns. Lunt says the network extends to practical matters once jobs are in contention. "When there's a portfolio review in New York, the grads in New York open their sofas up. Ron gives the students a sense of self and a sense of family that works when they're trying to network." And the network keeps getting larger. Soon Paris will be another Quarter Away destination, and a permanent school in Shanghai is on track. It's hard for Seichrist to mask his glee as he mentions possible additional locations in Bangkok and India.
All these changes must keep up with the students, though. Since he started over 30 years ago, Seichrist says students have become "more worldly; they speak more languages, have more experience, they're computer and technology savvy and they've all played in a garage band." Changing with the students are their books. Seichrist gives a sample of what some of those books yield today: "Screenplays; ideas for video games; transcripts of conversations with prison inmates; photographs of an embroidery collection; a book of poetry that reads with one meaning from top to bottom and an entirely different meaning read bottom to top. Pop culture is really at the core of everything we do. In fact, we intend to be the School of Pop Culture Engineering." But is the model he set out with decades ago at Portfolio Center changing? Is the copywriter-art director tandem becoming outmoded? Possibly, but he'll be ready. "The young person will write, design, program, photograph, compose music and make films." he says. "In fact, these things are not even separate now. Today's preteens multitask with every available media. They don't have any limits. Why should schools?"