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Trial by Desire: Recent Grad Mary Nowels Earns Shot at Her Advertising Dream Job

Posted July 31, 2019 in AlumniGraphic Design

Woman smiling into the camera wearing a leopard print shirtMary Nowels (credit: Sarah Petoskey)

For aspiring designers, landing a spot in global ad agency TBWA’s YoungBlood program is the opportunity of a lifetime. The highly competitive program attracts hundreds of hopeful young creatives with each iteration, but only the best and brightest are invited to showcase their talents as key contributors to projects for some of the world’s best-known brands. The prize for the designers who prove most worthy: a full-time job offer with an agency that’s driving the future of advertising.

So, how did 2019 KCAD graduate Mary Nowels come to find herself in L.A. working as a YoungBlood Art Director at TBWAChiatDay? By getting out of the Graphic Design program exactly what she put into it: 110%.
 

How does it feel to be working at an industry-leading ad agency this early in your career? To put it in perspective, this is the same place where the legendary Lee Clow revolutionized advertising as a narrative art form through his work with Apple.
Absolutely surreal. TBWAChiatDay has been my dream job since I can remember, so this feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. A few months ago, I was a student, and now I’m out in L.A. working as an art director with one of the world’s most influential advertising agencies and collaborating with senior staff on projects for globally-recognized brands.


Can you give us a taste of what you’ve been working on?
None of the campaigns have gone live yet, so I can’t go into detail, but my first account was Gatorade. There is no budget, which is mind-blowing, and that’s made it super fun to work on. We’re also doing some work for Supercuts and QuickBooks, and I have a briefing with the Grammys next week.

It’s not just one medium either; we’re working on print campaigns, TV spots, social media, out-of-home, even one-off stunts with celebrities. The pace here is insane but the possibilities are incredible. This is a company that’s all about disrupting the norm and pushing advertising and communication into the future, and that’s exactly what I want to do.

Poster advertisement for a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles(above): A piece from an ad campaign Nowels designed for West Hollywood restauraunt Gracis Madre; (below): A poster Nowels designed in honor of the city where she honed her graphic design talents (images courtesy of Mary Nowels)

The words Grand Rapids in a custom floral typography


Over 200 people applied to be in your position. What made you stand apart from the crowd?
Confidence, and KCAD helped me build that by giving me a multifaceted experience. There’s so much you can do creatively inside the Graphic Design program, and the professors really cared about what kind of designer I wanted to be. They encouraged me to be ambitious, and they gave me the freedom and the resources to take leaps.  

The program also emphasized collaboration and open group dialogue, and that was incredibly valuable because that’s really where the advertising industry is headed. At TWBAChiatDay there are no silos; we’re all working together in one big room, approaching every aspect of a project in an integrated way.

"I had such a great experience at KCAD, because I learned quickly that if I put a ton of passion and energy into my work, the program and the professors ensured that I'd get the same level of value out of it."

~ Mary Nowels ('19, BFA Graphic Design)


How would you describe yourself as a designer?
My motto is “Why Not?” I thrive on research and learning new things and being thrown into new situations, because I’m always looking for those places where something seems to be missing, where there’s a gap that can be filled in an unexpected way. I don’t just want my designs to work; I want them to shake things up, to be the best they can be.

That’s another reason why I had such a great experience at KCAD, because I learned quickly that if I put a ton of passion and energy into my work, the program and the professors ensured that I’d get the same level of value out of it.

A box of french fries spilling out onto a table(above): excerpt from Nowels' "Small Fry" publication, which presents a visual narrative on consumerism and the negative effects of mass production on product quality; (below): always one to thinkn outside the box, Nowels created a "publication" on mid-century modernism out of hand-built paper sculptures. 

 Paper sculpture of typography
What excites you most about the opportunity ahead of you?

Working in the advertising industry in general just excites me because things are moving more toward communicating emotion rather than just highlighting a brand or a product. It’s about connecting to people with a real narrative, and approaching that narrative uniquely for different platforms.

I’m very excited to see how we’ll be interacting with brands down the road, so this program is really an amazing opportunity to expand and grow in an industry I’m very passionate about, and to work with others who share that passion. I want to drive advertising with good intentions, using real human emotion and connection. It’s my chance to work for something I believe in.

 

See more of Mary Nowels’ work at marynowels.com.

Learn more about KCAD’s Graphic Design program.