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Elliott Graham – VMLY&R New York

#AlumniSpotlight The Creative Circus graduates the most sought after creatives in the industry. Take a moment to read about the lives, careers & personal stories of some of our fantastic alumni.

Elliott Graham – Associate Creative Director, VMLY&R New York
Art Direction – 2012

What does the Circus mean to you?

Circus was a pivotal point in my creative life. I knew I had something in me but it was hard to figure out how to channel it. Circus brought out all these inner things I didn’t know I was capable of in an environment where it was ok to experiment and fail. (And yes I was not paid to say that haha.)

What advice would you give to our current graduating class making their way into the Industry?

It’s a marathon, not a race. Everyone’s on their own career path and you can’t compare your trajectory to others. Take the hurdles as learning experiences and enjoy the ride. Be a sponge and soak it all in, you’ll eventually get to where you need to be and find your own success. 

What advice would you give to our incoming classes making their pathway into the Industry?

Use this time in school as a way to learn from your peers and make sincere connections. While the curriculum is important, the people in your quarter are just as much. They’ll be people that will show up throughout your career and a support system you can tap into. 

Describe a monumental, light bulb moment for yourself while you were at The Circus:

I think being able to separate the “artist” in me from the task at hand. At the end of the day we’re in the business of selling. Your art direction – while important to have your own spin on it – is coming from a brand that is speaking to an audience that may not be you. It’s important that you can step into the brand’s shoes and the audiences’, and remove some of your personal preferences and be ok with it. Learning to fully let go of what creative things I enjoyed actually helped open my eyes to new ways of ideating.

Favorite project you’ve worked on:

I would have to say the work I did for the United Nations and innovating in a tech space for good. Inventing new ways to use tech is super daunting because it’s never been done before, but when you pull it off it’s crazy fulfilling.

More info on this project can be found here.

What do you wish you knew in school?

The best ideas can come from the least sexiest projects or brands. I think we all get caught up in wanting to work for a big flashy brand with a big budget, but sometimes those provide the least opportunity for a breakthrough creative opportunity. Spaces where you have to think scrappy and cheap can be surprisingly rewarding. They’re hidden opportunities you could tackle while everyone else is chasing that big flashy brief.

How is what you do now different than you thought it would be when at the Circus?

I think in school you have so much freedom to create and you don’t even realize it. There are a lot of layers to go through in the industry to get an idea out there. Budgets, clients, bosses, timing, etc. Things you don’t think about in school. The ideas you come up with stay more pure.

But on the other side of things, having a budget to hire a production rather than shooting everything yourself is definitely a blessing. 

If you had a billboard to post a single message to the world, what would it say? 

You probably wouldn’t be able to see it since I tend to make type too small first rounds of layouts. (My copywriters would agree).

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