About The Course.
The School of Communication Arts offers a one-year, intensive course with six months of paid placement following completion. Which means it’s delivered over 18 months. 18 months of hard work. And we make no apologies for that. Because if hard work isn’t your thing, then you’re probably not passionate enough to make a name for yourself in the business. And passion is what we’re all about.
As challenging as the course is though, it certainly isn’t all work and no play.
We do our level best to make sure our students have fun and get as much enjoyment as possible from the time they spend with us and the rest of their intake.
Who can apply?
The course, which we believe is the equivalent of a post-grad masters, has been designed to benefit students over 18, with no age upper age limit (we’re interested in your creative potential, not the numbers on your birth certificate).
Traditionally, advertising agencies have put people into teams of art directors and copywriters – so you might want to apply if you’re obsessed by art and the way things look, or if you’re passionate about words and playing with language.
We have mentors who are experts in both fields, who can help you hone your skills to perfection, whichever of those paths you choose.
But we are also well aware that the line between the two skills is becoming increasingly blurred.
It’s just as likely that an art director will write a killer headline, as it is for the copywriter to suggest a knockout visual, so we combine the two, teaching you as teams so you benefit from a grasp of both skills.
We like art directors to make friends with words, and copywriters to feel at home with pictures. Because life’s better that way. And it will help you produce better work.
If you do want to specialise in the writing side, it goes without saying that you should have a passion for words. Reading them, writing them, speaking them and playing with them (never underestimate a good game of scrabble).
Writing in the ad business is no longer just about TV radio and posters – these days you’ll need to write across a whole range of channels and compete with world-class, paid-for content – so our team of writing mentors (that incudes poets, scriptwriters, and comedians as well as ad industry experts) will share wisdom on storytelling technique, creating natural dialogue, editing techniques, developing persuasive narratives and everything you need to create memorable copy that refreshes the readers other writers can’t reach.
And because our teachers learnt from some of the best in the business, we make sure you do too, with industry giants like Tony Brignull and Peter Souter amongst our regular mentors.
Who wants to be a fairly competent art director?
If you do, we’re probably not for you. With millions of images assaulting our eyeballs every day, we’re only interested in the people who want to create pictures that stand head and shoulders above the rest. That means we’re looking for people with an incredible eye for detail and a passion for craft that goes the extra mile or three.
We are lucky enough to have some of the most celebrated (and awarded) art directors, designers and typographers in the business mentoring in our studio – with our students learning, first-hand, from Sir John Hegarty, Paul Brazier, Alexandra Taylor, Graham Fink, Bruno Maag and dozens of other industry giants.
So it’s no surprise that our students have had work in the D&AD Annual (Student of the Year, year after year) and that our copy and art teams have won so many D&AD Pencils, Cannes Future Lions, Cream awards and other assorted gongs that we now have a standing order for Mr Sheen.
Ideapreneur is a word we’ve coined to describe the mindset we believe students need to cultivate to be a success in the advertising industry of the future. It’s not a word you’ll find in the dictionary (yet), but it’s not hard to work out what it means.
It’s about seeing the bigger picture, beyond traditional advertising channels, and developing ideas that that create genuine value for communities.
It’s an attitude that has led to a number of our students developing game changing ideas while they are on the course – ideas that are so marketable that they’ve decided to launch their own businesses, rather than working within an agency.
So how does course actually work?
Everyone – copywriters, art directors, creative technologists and ideapreneurs – learns together in our studio, where we aim to simulate a real-world working environment.
They get into the practice of working in teams from day one, and although many students have a clear idea as to which creative pathway they want to follow, we find quite a few change their minds during the year.
And that doesn’t just mean that copywriters become art directors, and vice versa.
The focus on strategy and planning within the course means a number of students choose to follow careers as strategic planners.
And our overall emphasis on ‘finding your personal creative vocation’ has led to students branching out into careers in PR, illustration and filmmaking.
Many students join us without any pathway in mind, but just feel the school is right for them – and it’s a pleasure to take them on that voyage of discovery.
Here’s a short overview of how the 18 months break down:
Semester 1 (September – December)
Students often arrive on day one champing at the bit to start creating ads. So it comes as a bit of a surprise when they discover that we don’t talk about ads too much in the first half of the Semester. That’s because we don’t just teach advertising, we teach you how to create work that comes from your heart, mind and gut. You’ll spend much of your time learning how to think, and how to find and solve problems. You’ll learn how to open up, and how to switch off. You’ll learn where to look for ideas, and how to pitch them when you’ve found them. And you might even find yourself writing poetry, practicing life drawing, or learning the art of stand-up comedy. Whatever it takes to get the creative juices flowing.
Semester 2 (January – March)
You’ll have started working on proper briefs in the second half of term one, and now we turn up the volume a little. You’ll start working with different partners and exploring different pathways on a variety of different projects. It’s now that you’ll start learning the skills and techniques that you need to create campaigns that are worthy of inclusion in your portfolio. There are regular masterclasses from industry experts, as well as one-on-one mentoring every day, to accelerate the learning process.
We believe that you learn more from your failures than you do from your successes. So in this semester we encourage you to experiment – and learn how to fail.
But don’t let the thought of failure put you off. At the end of this semester we submit entries for D&AD New Blood, Cannes and Cream where are students are regularly big winners – because, having learned about getting things wrong, they now know how to get them right.
Semester 3 (April – July)
We find most students have settled into partnerships by midway through the third semester – so they crack on together, working on live and portfolio briefs, creating campaigns for a joint portfolio.
But not everyone wants to be part of a team – and not every agency wants to hire teams either. Many top agencies look to hire singles – so there’s no need to worry about ploughing your own furrow, if that’s what suits you best.
By this stage of the course you will have had so much career advice that you should have a clear idea of where you want to go, and how you want to get there.
This semester is when everything that you have learnt falls into place, and whether a single or a team, you’ll be comfortable crafting original campaigns that let your personality shine through in your portfolio.
There are regular book crits and mentors on hand to help you polish your portfolio to perfection, ready for the big one… Portfolio Day.
This is what everything has been leading up to. The day when our sponsors come along and look at all the portfolios and fight over which teams they want to offer placements.
Don’t worry. The build up to the day can certainly be stressful – just as preparing work to a deadline at an agency is.
But once you get there, you’ll find it’s an exciting, enjoyable experience. And remember it’s not the end. It’s just the beginning.
Placements (September* – February)
Agencies make offers to take you on placements, which we coordinate from the school.
We try to schedule three, two-month placements at your preferred agency after Sponsors’ Portfolio day – and we always try to negotiate a London Living Wage for you.
Some of our sponsors are global and might offer longer placements overseas. But every team and every agency’s needs are different, so everything is fluid.
The first placements end in February, when there’s a second Portfolio Day, where we invite the wider industry, outside our sponsors, to attend your graduation.
Some graduates prefer the School to coordinate placements with non-sponsors, which we are happy to do, but it is not mandatory.
We encourage students to keep in contact with and build relationships with the mentors they feel the most affinity with over year – which means teams or individuals can receive placement or job offers at any time.
*Some placements may begin in August
Life after SCA
Once the course is over, we offer full support to our students throughout their placements, providing professional advice and guidance until they are in full time employment.
We find the inclusive nature of the school environment means that a large number of our students stay in touch with each other after the course is over, forming lasting friendships.
And they stay in touch with us too, returning as mentors and delivering masterclasses to help the next generation achieve the success they’re enjoying.