VCU Brandcenter: Let’s Think

Brian Vandeputte

Pardon my absence.

I just returned home from Richmond, VA. Why was I there, you ask?

I was visiting the VCU Brandcenter, ranked in 2007 by BusinessWeek as one of the top 60 design programs in the world, and in 2008 by Creativity magazine as the #1 ad school internationally.

Not enough to impress you?

Have I showed you who sits on their advisory board? A who’s who of advertising legends, including Lee Clow, Jeff Goodby, Dan Wieden and others. These people and more make sure to keep the Brandcenter as challenging and rewarding as any ad school can get. David Droga, Creative Chairman of Droga5, sums it up nicely: “If I were a young student aspiring to break into advertising, I would go out of my way to become part of the VCU alumni. There are many good creative schools out there, but only one that cocoons this creativity in the necessary strategic and business sensibilities.”

My Dad and I sat in on the Presentation Skills class for 2nd year students. Each student gave a three minute speech, followed by constructive criticism from other classmates. One would think at such a prestigious ad school that all would be serious, but there was laughter and the overall mood was lighthearted and fun.

Marc Shillum, Director of Branded Design at R/GA, was the weekly Friday speaker. He explained how early consumer impressions, if not first impressions, including when a prospective customer lands on a Web site, are important for consumers when they are looking for more information about a brand or product.

What impressed me the most, apart from the program, was that the students were so incredibly helpful, friendly and obviously bright. One would think that they would secretly compete against each other, since they all desire to work in advertising. But all of them seemed to genuinely like their fellow classmates, and I think everyone wanted the person next to them to succeed.

Overall, I loved the school and how it challenges and pushes students to greater levels of creative thinking. The Brandcenter wants thinkers, not advertisers. Ideas are the currency of the future.