Meet Australia’s Top Five From This Year’s AWARD School

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After another successful and challenging 12-week program, AWARD School has announced its top Aussie students for 2017.

This year, the top student from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia will enter into a national round, judged by a ‘Super Jury’ of international creatives, to crown Australia’s top student and to determine the winner of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to NYC to meet David Droga.

The national announcement will be made tonight in Sydney.

B&T caught up with the top student in each state to hear what motivates them, their AWARD School experience and their favourite work from their AWARD School book.

Check out our Q&A with Australia’s top five students and their best work below:

Queensland: Jackie Elliott – designer, Rumble Creative & Media (recently promoted to art director)

Jackie Elliott's AWARD School book

What was the highlight of your AWARD School experience?

Handing in my book was a good day, but the best and definitely most valuable part of the course was listening to so many great creatives every week at the lectures. It was also pretty rewarding to realise how far you can really push yourself, and the number of ideas you can come up with, even when you think you’ve explored every possible avenue.

What advice would you give to others considering getting involved?

Do it! It’s a great course, and if you’re willing to put in the effort, only good things will come from it. If you want to do well, you need to give it your all. It’s a tough 12 weeks, but well worth it.

How do you think this has helped you in your career?

It’s definitely given me more confidence in my abilities as a creative. Even though the tutors are there to help you and give advice, it’s up to you to develop your own instincts about your ideas and back yourself. I think that’s a pretty valuable skill to gain – being able to judge your own work and know when you’re onto something.

NSW: Tom Lawrence – co-founder and campaign director, Proudly Pokies Free

Tom Lawrence's AWARD School book

What was the highlight of your AWARD School experience?

I know it’s cliché, but for me, the best thing about it was the people. The effort my tutors put in was inspiring and I made some great new mates.

What advice would you give to other considering getting involved?

Obviously take advice from tutors, friends and family, but at the end of the day, you need to trust your gut. It is really easy to just listen to the last piece of feedback, but if YOU think you have a good idea, then stick to your guns and run with it. Also, try not to start every conversation with your friends, partners and family with, “What do you think of this idea?” Trust me, they get sick of it.

How do you think this has helped you in your career?

AWARD gives you a great insight to what it really means to come with ideas. It was without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done, but hopefully has prepared me to jump in and start doing it full-time.

Victoria: Jesse Young – junior art director, Isobar

Jesse Young's AWARD School book

What was the highlight of your AWARD School experience?

It’s pretty tough to pick. Apart from the grad night itself, I’d have to say meeting so many well-renowned professionals in the industry was really inspiring.

What advice would you give to other considering getting involved?

James Orr said something at the start of the course that really resonated with me: “It’s only 12 weeks, so just lock yourself away and give it a proper crack.” At the time, I didn’t think much of it, but as the course became tiring and certain ideas weren’t up to scratch, that advice became really prominent. The further you push an idea, the better and more original it will be. You just need to give yourself the confidence to know that things will align eventually even if it feels like it won’t. So, just give it a go and make sure you complain about it to your friends shit loads while you’re doing it.

Also, get the most recent version of Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. It’s a book that I turned to when I was feeling pretty stale and helped me breakthrough a creative rut.

How do you think this has helped you in your career?

I definitely approach a brief differently. I think that sometimes as a creative you find yourself thinking small, to only achieve one goal. AWARD school teaches you that above all else, insight is key, and that once you’ve nailed your insight, greater, bigger ideas will come naturally.

SA: Layla Firth, freelance copywriter and strategist

Layla Firth's AWARD School book

What was the highlight of your AWARD School experience?

Highlights of the course included the moments of elation when finally cracking a brief after spending several days sitting with a problem, being exposed to the teachings of inspirational teachers with different creative styles, and being motivated by all the ideas of my talented classmates. I also had an incredible feeling of accomplishment when bringing all 10 ideas together in the final week and flipping through my finished folio.

What advice would you give to others considering getting involved?

My hot tips are to: stay on brief, keep your ideas simple, welcome all constructive criticism, do your best to never get attached to any one idea, believe in yourself, look at things from a new angle if you find yourself struggling, work hard, don’t be afraid to pitch ridiculous ideas and laugh at yourself, and, most importantly, if you feel stressed when deadlines loom, remember that it’s easier to get into the creative flow when you are having fun, so smile and relax!

How do you think this has helped you in your career?

Doing AWARD School has helped me develop the confidence to respect my creative capabilities a bit more, as I’ve tended to rely on the left side of my brain in my career. It’s wonderfully freeing to realise I can incorporate more of my natural personality into my work.

Regardless of what happens next, having creatives of the calibre of the international super jury take time from their schedules to take a look at a bunch of ideas I’ve hand-drawn with a Sharpie pen is overwhelmingly cool, and to say I feel honoured is an understatement.

WA: Luke Williams – junior creative, Meerkats

Luke Williams' AWARD School book

What was the highlight of your AWARD School experience?

The highlight from AWARD School was how nervous I was the entire time. I can only really recognise this after the fact, but it meant that I actually cared about what I was doing. That gave me direction, motivation and kept pushing me to create.

What advice would you give to other considering getting involved?

Don’t listen to all the “it will consume your life“, “you won’t have any time”, or “you will have to dump your significant other for 12 weeks”. You will hear it a lot, and it might make you consider not applying. I found almost the complete opposite – in my experience, talking to people about the briefs, whether it be at a pub, out at dinner, or on the internet made all the difference. You really can’t do it alone – you have to maintain your social life the whole time to find new perspectives.

How do you think this has helped you in your career?

Realising and embracing the journey of making good creative, rather than the outcome, has been a real eye-opening experience. I hope that it will inform my career and I will continue to enjoy the creation process, rather than the results, of a good idea.

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