ONE School Talent Excels
By Alixandra Rutnik on Apr 23, 2021
Trio of ONE School grads find their spot at R/GA
Since its splashy launch last summer, ONE School — The One Club for Creativity's free portfolio program designed to add more Black faces to the ad industry talent pipeline —has been an unqualified success all around. It has given creatively gifted individuals the opportunity to hone their skills in a brand new field while opening the proverbial eyes of agencies and studios to a trove of talent that had thus far eluded their efforts for diversity. These companies could no longer say, "we'd love to hire more people of color; we just don't know where to find them!"
We revealed our inaugural class of ONE School graduates to the world back in February, and the agencies took notice right away. Three such graduates — Trey Bradley, Chanel Miller, and Lex Beckman — were quickly hired by R/GA as an Experience Designer, an Art Director, and a Copywriter, respectively. We spoke with these three individuals about where their ONE School journey has led them today.
Trey, you have an intriguing path, your BA is in International Banking, Finance, and Math, and your master's degree is in Music Technology… so what made you decide to apply to ONE School?
My path tells a story of someone looking to tools, data, and technology to make sense of himself, people, and the world through creating. My studies dealt with various kinds of data (market data for finance, audio signals for music, or image pixels for computer vision) and using different quantitative methods to analyze and leverage that data to create enjoyment or utility. I’ve always loved to learn and make things. Advertising feels like an industry that supports learning and making things, so I applied to ONE School.
I didn’t know that advertising could be a path for me until the end of my master’s degree last year. As I shopped different job markets, I consistently saw people with similar unorthodox backgrounds in Creative Technology, Marketing Sciences, Strategy, and Design at other brands and agencies. Those people married technical and creative sides of their backgrounds in their work, and we shared similar interests.
In my new role as an XD there are numerous opportunities to leverage different tools, data, and technology to solve problems creatively, which is very exciting. The XD discipline offers a vast realm for me to explore and keep innovating and making alongside super talented and multidisciplinary people.
How do you feel your final ONE School portfolio reflects who you are as a person and as an experience designer?
My final portfolio consisted of my favorite briefs from the 16-week program, plus "VoteAR," which was an idea I worked on after using it as my response to the ONE School application brief. The projects I included reflect the type of work I’d love to be working on, especially the briefs that dealt with immersive products and technologies.
While my portfolio focuses on ideas for brand campaigns, as an XD I am also looking forward to expanding my work into other client projects, like solving problems for different business or process transformations.
From ONE School week one to week sixteen to starting work at R/GA, how do you feel your personal growth and talent have evolved? Has your perception of the ad industry shifted?
I didn’t know Photoshop or some other Adobe suite tools, week one of ONE School, and by week sixteen, I was able to use those tools to visualize all of my ideas in my portfolio. So that alone felt like a significant transformation in becoming more familiar with visual design tools. For campaign work, I became way better at noticing good ideas when I see or think of them and knowing how to identify awful or lame ideas. I’m not perfect, but I have more clarity on what works and what doesn’t work and how to think through, expand, and refine ideas.
"I didn’t know Photoshop or some other Adobe suite tools, week one of ONE School, and by week sixteen, I was able to use those tools to visualize all of my ideas in my portfolio."
I realized that brand work isn’t the only business activity that goes down at creative agencies– these days, agencies are doing a lot of work to affect business and organizational processes that a B2C consumer may never see or interact with directly. The industry is not only pumping out the coolest ads, but they’re also changing how business works across many different industries.
"I realized that brand work isn’t the only business activity that goes down at creative agencies– these days, agencies are doing a lot of work to affect business and organizational processes that a B2C consumer may never see or interact with directly."
So how did you get hired by R/GA?
A few weeks before I graduated from ONE School, Oriel Lyons reconnected me with one of the first ONE School lecturers, Shannon Washington. Shannon took it from there by introducing me to the team. Over the following weeks, I got to speak with some fascinating people doing amazing work at R/GA. During graduation, since I couldn’t take calls as I was attending the Zoom ceremony, I received a text message from Stephanie Telling, who I was working with, that an offer was coming my way. Stephanie was terrific to work with and made the process feel very fluid and comfortable.
You’re about six weeks into your new job at R/GA... How is it going so far?
So far, it is going really well. Over the last six weeks, I have gotten exposure to some enjoyable and innovative campaign work in addition to work that deals with designing tools and products for organizations and systems. I am realizing that there is way more to the role of an Experience Designer than making consumer-facing ads. I see room for a lot of growth and the ability to carve my own path in the discipline.
What do you think we need to do moving forward in terms of diversity in the ad space?
Supporting programs like ONE School are great to get junior and mid-level talent into the industry– I’d love to see programs for other marginalized groups that may also have a hard time getting exposure. Diversity in background and experience is essential, so I’d love to see the ad industry give more chances to people with “unorthodox” backgrounds — especially since the industry is shifting to providing a vast range of services in addition to traditional advertising.
"Diversity in background and experience is essential, so I’d love to see the ad industry give more chances to people with “unorthodox” backgrounds."
Lex & Chanel, what enticed you both to apply to ONE School?
Chanel: I worked at an agency where I yearned for more creative work. I connected with Oriel Lyons on LinkedIn, and his story and eagerness to help Black creatives break into the ad industry inspired me– this was the perfect opportunity for me to push harder and go for the role that I really wanted.
"I connected with Oriel Lyons on LinkedIn, and his story and eagerness to help Black creatives break into the ad industry inspired me– this was the perfect opportunity for me to push harder and go for the role that I really wanted."
Lex: I struggled to find joy in my role as an account manager. I had a lot of heart for the industry, but I knew that account wasn’t for me. I was interviewing with the Creative Circus and Brandcenter, and I got very close to applying. I learned about ONE School, and it was a wrap.
You met each other during ONE School and decided to team up for your final book as an Art Director & Copywriter duo... what is each of your favorite projects in the portfolio you created together?
Chanel: My favorite project in our portfolio is the "Electric Daisy Carnival 360 VR Experience." A covid-friendly activity that stimulates all your senses while emulating such a unique carnival is totally out of the box. I’d attend if it were real.
I love being my colorful and authentic self no matter what room I’m in, and this piece reflects that– being comfortable in your own skin where you’d wear art is bold and admirable. It’s inclusive, it’s all about evoking life and energy, and it inspires me and others to continue to be daring.
Lex: My favorite brief was the branded content series. I chose Patagonia as my client. Outdoor gear is a massive barrier to entry for many, so I wanted to create gear rental shops for low-income and minority groups. BIPOC brand ambassadors would introduce the content series on IGTV, and each week a new shop in a new city would be revealed. Shops would be placed strategically for BIPOC community accessibility.
"Outdoor gear is a massive barrier to entry for many, so I wanted to create gear rental shops for low-income and minority groups."
I’m an avid rock climber, and I love backpacking. I advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion on my personal media– @lexbeckss. I’ve partnered with brands like Athleta, Beyond Yoga, and Hoka One One to share my story and advocate for others. I believe that nature is for everyone, and I wanted to create work reflective of that.
What did you enjoy the most about participating in the sixteen weeks of ONE School?
Chanel: I enjoyed the connections we made with so many dope Black creatives. I gained a ton of new family members. Since I’d never been to a portfolio school, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t expect to receive such helpful, raw, and uncut criticism and advice, and I appreciated that.
Lex: The community. To this day, our classmates are all on the same Slack channel– we’ve pretty much always been in each other's corner. The whole experience was a lot more collaborative than I had expected. I don’t think I would have had such an amazing experience without having such genuine and kind people.
Talk to me about how R/GA hired you.
Chanel: Recruiters contacted us both, and we reached out and interviewed as a team. R/GA hired us after classes were completed– just a few days before our graduation. Neither of us has made the big move from San Francisco to NYC just yet, but I will be soon!
Lex: I haven’t moved yet, and TBD if/when I will. I actually really enjoy working remotely. I miss the energy and relationships you get from being in the office– I can see myself returning in a hybrid situation where I’d stay in NYC for a couple of weeks throughout the year or something.
You only started at R/GA about six weeks ago... any fun clients you are working with currently?
Chanel: We can’t share any details yet, but we are working with UberX, Uber Eats, and Sephora.
Now that you are in new roles at a new agency, what are you most excited about down the line?
Chanel: I’m most excited about seeing our first piece of work once it is live. I’m looking forward to seeing how my book evolves throughout my career. Often creatives are hard on themselves about their older work, but I put my all into everything, and I appreciate looking back to see my growth.
Lex: My goal is to be a Creative Director and a leader that helps teams flourish by letting their own uniqueness shine. I wouldn’t be where I am today if It wasn’t for great leaders who believed in me. I think the best creatives are the ones who show up as their true selves– so one day I want to lead with intention and mindfulness of the beautiful humans around me.
"My goal is to be a Creative Director and a leader that helps teams flourish by letting their own uniqueness shine. I wouldn’t be where I am today if It wasn’t for great leaders who believed in me."
Why is ONE School vital to you and to diversifying our industry?
Chanel: Although we were both working in the ad industry before attending, ONE School was a door opener for both of us. I’d highly recommend that any Black creative eager to get their work out there and dive into an industry where we are underrepresented, apply for ONE School, and bet on themselves.
"I’d highly recommend that any Black creative eager to get their work out there and dive into an industry where we are underrepresented, apply for ONE School, and bet on themselves."
Learn more about ONE School today!