Student Spotlight:

Award Shows Create Opportunities for Students


November, 2020

Written by Jocelyn Mendez

Recent Art Direction graduate, newest addition at Rethink, and multiple creative award winner; Rachel LeBlanc knew she was destined for a career in PR, Fashion, Photography, Advertising. Well maybe she didn’t know…in all honesty she wouldn’t realize her love for advertising until much later. We recently spoke candidly with Rachel about her journey at Miami Ad School TO, how award shows foster creativity, and the importance of mentorship.

“It was almost hiding in plain sight from a very young age. I had a strange love for infomercials that solve so many problems.

Before starting at Miami Ad School Toronto for Art Direction, Rachel was out east studying economics and development at St. Francis Xavier University. As an active member of her community, she was chosen to be vice president of student events. This is where she began to consider a creative career.

“My job was to come up with the ideas and execute all the events at university, ex. orientation week, student pub. It was a job that I didn’t go out looking for, that’s when I realized I wanted to pursue a creative career. I didn’t realize advertising existed until a lot later, when I was in London doing a PR internship. That’s when I discovered Miami Ad School.”

Locaid | ADCC Gold 2020, Communication Arts Winner 2020, Creative Conscious finalist 2020

Getting awards is a great way to set goals for your creativity, but it’s not what makes your work great.

Getting awards is a great way to set goals for your creativity, but it’s not what makes your work great.

Rachel LeBlanc
Art Direction Graduate 2020 &
Art Director @ Rethink

It all started with Interactive Concepting

“My first class was with Mike Dubrick “Interactive Concepting”. It helped me land my very first piece, which went on to do quite well in award shows. It was the way he taught, and his strategies on how to come up with ideas.”Copywriting” with Ian Mackenzie was eye opening. He emphasizes diving into the complexity of ideas how it interacts with the digital world, and not settling for simple stuff. He taught our class about finding the universal in the specific, and to search for that insight that everyone can relate too.”

Lego: Six Brick Kit | d&ad New Blood yellow pencil 2020, Communication Arts Winner 2020, Creative Conscious finalist 2020

What’s the big deal about award shows anyways?

Being fairly new to ad land, Rachel had zero familiarity with award shows until arriving at Miami Ad School. Having now participated in over 14 competitions, each experience was less about the potential award and more about the opportunities & creativity it could foster.

“I think briefs are exciting. I like the people I can meet, and the work that comes out of those shows. Developing relationships, picking each other’s brain, being able to step into different brands, problems, and hopefully try to solve them is fun.  Awards are great to strive for, but your goal should alway be to make work for all people from all walks of life to enjoy it. I think some of us get caught up in ad land. Getting awards is a great way to set goals for your creativity, it’s not what means your work is great.”

We have competition to help us grow as people

We have competition to help us grow as people

The competition is healthy, right?

I don’t think any of us ever took award shows personally. I think it’s all subjective, and knowing that is a bit of a relief. There is a healthy competition between all of us at school. There are different ways to measure ideas. My peers and I take that into consideration, we have competition to help us grow as people, but not to the point where it’s super overboard.”

Around the world & back

In her second year, as part of her educational experience, Rachel pursued international agency lab placements in New York City & Tokyo, landing coveted positions at agencies such as Saatchi + Saatchi, and AKQA . 

“My experience was dramatically different from market to market. Canada is my favourite place to work. I feel the work is honest and comes from an authentic place. It wasn’t overly competitive like in the states. Western advertising stirs the pot more, provokes emotion, and is more confrontational. Japan was more conservative, it was different from what I was taught in Miami Ad. There is so much complexity in Japanese culture & art versus the simplicity in Canadian design.”

Rachel is a firm believer that these opportunities that have presented themselves wouldn’t have had she not appeared on those award show lists.

“It gives you so much exposure. Your book and work gets presented on numerous sites.”

NY Times: Truth Translator | ADCC Gold 2019, Clio Silver 2019, One Club Pencil Bronze 2019

Mentorship doesn’t stop at the end of class

“There is a lot of support in general mentorship at the school. I can’t count the number of times I’ve texted and called in times of panic about ad land and how to navigate it. The most fruitful opportunities were from the relationships formed with my teachers. I’m working at Rethink and that’s mostly thanks to instructors at the school, especially Mike Dubrick. He’s my boss now, which is very convenient. I would constantly go to him for feedback, and everything he said felt right. He consistently hit it out of the ballpark.”

Final Words

“MAS is helpful by not being too helpful. They aren’t going to hold your hand. It’s important to form authentic relationships, and make those connections last. I’m happy to have finished school. I’m very grateful for the opportunity that Miami Ad School gave me. I do wish it was more accessible, I wish more students from different backgrounds who don’t have the money to support an expensive program at a high caliber school could join. Overall I’m pretty stoked and grateful.”

In her two years with Miami Ad School Toronto, Rachel has also won gold in the ADDC student category 2 years in a row. Visit her online portfolio www.rachlb.com, and check out some of her award winning pieces.

Take charge of your future advertising career by enrolling in Miami Ad School Toronto’s full time portfolio programs.

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