For ad students and creative types in Austin, there’s a quiet but passionate alternative to advertising education in the traditional sense. Austin Creative Department was founded by Will Chau, a Creative Director here at GSD&M. It is the first and only advertising program in Austin taught by working creatives within an agency environment.The school’s classes are small by design–limited to just twelve students. Some are college students in need of a portfolio. One student was an Iowa Writers’ Workshop grad-turned-editor who wanted to get a feel for copywriting. Other students are working folks looking to make a career change; still others are entrepreneurs wanting to use creative problem solving to propel their business forward.
Will has found that traditional advertising arts educators often try to take students to the highest level, emphasizing big-name agencies and a singular path to success. Austin Creative Department’s goal is to help its diverse student body realize what success looks like for them. “Once students define their purpose, then it’s my job to help them attain it.” Students develop creative thought through a variety of classes, all focused on the goal of creating big, simple ideas that have an impact on society.Students graduate with a better idea of how creativity can be applied to their lives, whether that means a future in advertising or not. Elizabeth Perez, one of Will’s former students and minority scholarship recipient, is now working at Leo Burnett. Will is especially proud of Elizabeth, and not just because she received massive attention when her class project was featured on Buzzfeed.Other students have taken different paths. That Writers’ Workshopper from Iowa? Her name is Jeanette Horn, and she dropped out to write her first-ever novel. Will couldn’t be happier: “The school took her back to her first love. That’s her true calling—I feel good about that.”
Regardless of where students go after they graduate, Austin Creative Department is helping foster creativity in Austin (and everywhere else, for that matter) – “it’s not just about selling tacos.” Unless, of course, tacos are your passion.