Sunday 25 June 2023

Life after winning AWARD School

Brendan Morrow walked away with AWARD School top honours in 2022 – the best performing student out of 200 talented creatives from across the country. In this short Q&A, he talks life after the intensive 12-week course, doors that have opened for him, and his plans for a future in commercial creativity.

You took out National AWARD School winner 2022 (nearly a year ago), what have you been up to since then?

I finished AWARD School in my final semester of full-time uni. So there were a couple of days of celebration before a swift reminder that I was about six weeks behind in all of my units. I wrapped up my degree in November 2022, and then spent the next few months freelancing, travelling and talking to a lot of creative leaders.

What did you think might’ve given you an “edge” over the other students? Was there a trick to winning AWARD School?

Guy Patrick (Creative Director and Founder, Hypnosis Creative Agency) came and gave us a guest lecture in the first couple of weeks. He mentioned that ‘simplicity wins’ which really resonated with me. When you start to strip back your solutions down to their simplest form, you see whether the ideas are actually in there or not. A simple, original and interesting idea is very painstaking to crack.

I would also spend a lot of time looking at old AWARD School books. The database that they have is incredibly handy. When my application didn’t get me a spot in 2021, I became a little obsessed with studying any portfolio I could. It’s also a great way to develop your creative gut instincts.

AWARD School is currently in week 10, do you have any advice to students at this stage of the program (when ideas/briefs have potentially snowballed and stress levels may be high)?

Believe in yourself.
Everyone is just as insecure about how they are going. Imposter syndrome is catching everyone right around now. No one feels like they are acing it. And if they do, they probably aren’t. Focus on making a book that you’ll be proud of, and believe you can do it.

Lock away the decent stuff.
As you head into the next couple of weeks of no new briefs, there will be a tendency to want to spend your time perfecting the work you’ve had positive feedback on. Instead, spend this time improving your worst briefs. It’s a very humbling experience. But one that will serve you well.

Start mocking up soon.
After your first portfolio review, start drawing up a couple of your most complete ideas. Getting your work on 10 pdf pages takes longer than you’d think. If you can be on top of that process, you can spend your last couple of nights cracking great solutions to your weaker ideas.

What advice do you have for students who may be struggling with creative blocks or lack of inspiration?

Chill out mate.
Pressure makes diamonds, but it also makes you stressed. Enjoy your life, keep fit and have a couple of beers. I know it’s easier said than done, but do it anyway. You’ll see how much your creativity will improve.

Keep your mind silly.
Interesting insights are the layup for slam dunk ideas. So spend your time writing the dumbest and funniest insights you can think up. Could be insights around the product, the target audience, the proposition. The weirder it gets, the more interesting it probably is too.

Study people you like.
Got some creatives or creative directors that you admire? Look at all their books, and keep a pen handy. Some of your best ideas could come when you are looking at someone else’s.

Can you share any memorable or valuable experiences from your time in AWARD School that has had a lasting impact on you and your career?

Creativity is a bit of a beast to wrangle. Sometimes my best ideas would be the first ones I came up with. Sometimes they presented themselves at 2am the morning before submission. Ideas are weird like that. They’re unreliable at best. As a result, I learned the importance of being structured in your time and staying the course. The beast that is creativity can normally be beaten by a mundane routine.

I learned that it is important to separate the creative and analytical sides of your mind. Someone much smarter than me said that creative block happens when the left and right side of your brain are buzzing at the same time. You can end up tearing your own ideas down before you’ve even had them. Therefore, I seem to work best when I separate my time between being in creative free flow, and then being analytical afterwards.

You have recently been appointed as a Junior Copywriter at Wunderman Thompson, Perth. What’s it like being a working creative vs what you experienced during AWARD School?

AWARD School is set up as a competition, which naturally makes it quite an individual pursuit. So it’s nice when you start working, and the creative process becomes much more collaborative with everyone chipping in and guiding your work to a better place.

There are also a lot more parameters for real work than an AWARD School brief. Parameters around legalities, logistics, budgets and client needs. That is a blessing in disguise, as the more confines you have the smarter the solution needs to be.


If you are interested in applying for AWARD School 2024, register your interest here.

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