your brain on your sleeve & your heart on the table

before coming to ad school, i had a question that was never sufficiently addressed: just what is ad school?

i tried the logical cartesian approach. there were two parts — advertising and school. so that must mean that it’s a place where you get the rudiments of commercial messaging, a sort of 3 r’s approach for the marketing set: reading, writing and return on investment.

but the more i researched, and the more ad school portfolios i read, i found that no two were alike despite being produced by people who’d had, ostensibly, a similar experience. instead, i found creative and smart people offering solutions to all sorts of real-world challenges, from how to make a search engine as useful as it could be to reducing homelessness in major cities.

and then i started hearing stories about what people were doing once they actually started working. and these pursuits were even broader. but i needed clarity, so i decided to drop into miami ad school for a visit.

i toured with the advisor, eva, and she showed me a few classrooms, all of which were outfitted with every tool a digital creative could dream of. then she pointed out the ping-pong tables in the common space and said, “this is where a lot of our students knock ideas back and forth.”

after that, we sat down and had a long conversation about motivation, creativity and success. ad school was turning out to be like some exquisite stone turned up on the beach. the more i turned it, more colors appeared.

so i decided that if i was to ever know for sure what ad school was, i’d just have to attend. and i did attend miami ad school. i’m still in my first month, and i still don’t have an answer to my question. i’m not sure i ever will.

this is what I’ve noticed so far. the idea reigns supreme, but no one will listen to you if you’re a jerk –– so don’t be a jerk. you’ll be presenting all the time, and since insincerity lacks luster, it pays to keep it real. besides that, it doesn’t really matter who you are as long as you’re willing to always wear your brain on your sleeve and leave your heart on the table. and be curious. it’s questions, not answers, that matter most.

by evan burton

Evan Burton bio picevan burton is a writer from brooklyn. he thinks there’s no metaphysics on earth like oysters and champagne. you can reach him at

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