Sally Hogshead on things to consider when putting a portfolio together



I owe a lot to Sally Hogshead. Whenever her name comes up in conversation or in class, I glow a little bit. A whiny email sent back in 2007 resulted in meeting her in person at a coincidental VCU Adcenter Speaker Series days later. Not only was in well into my 3rd year slump at a now defunct consumer electronics company, but I had hunger to try again to get into VCU Adcenter. I had no confidence and another rejection probably would send me off looking for non-advertising jobs. But just maybe. Rejection can be tough. You can be the most passionate person in the world and still come off as not really wanting the opportunity. Now I’m staring at a book that has a thumbs up from VCU Brandcenter faculty and, most importantly, a record of good collaboration and concept between me and my talented classmates. Turns out, I needed ad school. In 2007, I had several people try to talk me out of it. Lethal flattery. Cynicism over trying again. Worry about the debt I’d be taking in. Sally was one of these people who made me recognize that being the best art director I could be would in fact make me the happiest I could be. Not knowing what happens in May and when my bank account dwindles down to dangerous digits, I must think it was worth it and eventually all things fall into place. Tonight I reread “Pick Me” by Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk and I came across this list from Sally:

1. There are no right answers, including these.
2. The hipster creative with tattoos and piercings rarely does the coolest ads.
3. Dominos delivers to Starbucks.
4. Smart beats clever.
5. You’ll create a better book by breaking the rules than by following them.
6. Spend more time thinking, less time executing.
7. Don’t write like a copywriter.
8. Start art directing with a pad of paper, not a computer.
9. The difference between an A- book and an A+ book is all the difference in the world.
10. Your work can have outrageous attitude. You can’t.
11. Don’t use your mother as a reference.
12. The more concepts you come up with, the better they get. Me, I write a hundred ads for every one I end up with.
13. It’s better to fail by going down in flames than by settling for mediocrity.
14. Idea is king. Emperor. World nuclear superpower.
15. When working on an assignment, try to expose the deepest, most surprising human truths associated with that product.
16. Don’t base your self-image on positive feedback.
17. You can’t outthink everyone, but you can outwork them.
18. By the time an ad appears in an awards book, it’s already a couple of years old.
19. Competitive is okay. Cutthroat is not.
20. Don’t waste time or money on ideas you’re not thrilled about.
21. No matter how good it is, somebody won’t like it.
22. Be as respectful to the receptionist as to the president.
23. If you’re happy in your job, it’s easier to be happy in your life.
24. You don’t have to be an asshole, or work for one, to do great work.
25. If you hear the same feedback over and over, make the changes to the work.
26. It’s better to have 8 killer pieces than 30 pretty good ones.
27. You could be unemployed for six months, then get three phenomenal offers in a day.
28. Being creative is only a small part of being a good creative.
29. When you’re a creative director, meet with 10 juniors for every person who meets with you now.
30. Pick out a last name that people can make fun of.


7 Responses to “Sally Hogshead on things to consider when putting a portfolio together”

  1. And, don’t ever go on an interview/review, without doing your homework and knowing something about the person you are meeting with and a lot about their agency and even more about their current clients.
    And, be able to spell and pronounce their name, even if it is easy to make fun of.

  2. 3 Kelly

    Of 30 points, I can’t find a single one i disagree with. Sally Hogshead has been there, done that and still has a positive outlook. Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to point all my first year students to it.


  3. good points.

  1. 1 Hog Blog » Geez, I wish someone had told me this while I was still in school.
  2. 2 Out of Excuses « Skyler Dobin’s Virtual Space
  3. 3 Geez, I wish someone had told me this while I was still in school.

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