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Wieden+Kennedy 12 Class of 2012: Interview with Andrew Dickson and Byron Oshiro

Wieden+Kennedy’s WK12 enters its eighth year as a program hinged on offering creative opportunities to a new batch of incoming creatives. Those given the opportunity to enlist in WK12 will quickly realize the intense world of creative problem solving that only a handful of global ad agencies around the world like Wieden+Kennedy can offer. For those unfamiliar, W+K has been an integral part of the advertising and creative landscape, helping successfully launch severely huge campaigns for some of your favorite brands including Nike, Jordan Brand, Old Spice, Coca-Cola and Levi’s among others. We spoke with directors Andrew Dickson and Byron Oshiro who each offered a unified insight into the inner workings of Wieden+Kennedy and WK12.

Applications are due on August 7, 2011 with more information available through the WK12 website, the WK12 Tumblr .

What is the history of the Wieden+Kennedy 12 program?
WK12 started in 2004 and we’re currently in our seventh year. Dan Wieden wanted to create a program that was unlike all the others out there that were facilitating the same type of ‘creative.’ While the program has gone through various changes in leadership and policy, the basic purpose of it has stayed the same. The 12 learn how to come up with smarter, cheaper and more insightful ideas, faster and then execute them professionally. It’s problem solving and making school. The key difference between WK12 and other traditional portfolio schools is that students work on real campaigns for real clients. Work that ends up in the real world. Students also work on assignments, internal agency projects/problems and self-initiated projects.

What is the importance of the program?
For the students themselves that’s probably a highly personal answer. For the Agency, the benefits are endless. The students bring new ideas and insights, rethink agency traditions and generally raise just enough hell not to wear out their welcome. While we don’t hire all or even most of the school graduates, part of the reason for starting the school was to bring people into the business who haven’t wanted to work in advertising all their lives. Something interesting happens when you bring artists and poets and musicians and small business owners to a problem. You get really interesting solutions.

What are you looking for in potential prospects?
Creative problem solvers with diverse interests and skills excited to collaborate with people unlike themselves. And people who are interested in the experience itself as opposed to what doors the experience might open up.

Creativity is deemed as an intangible quality that essentially defines many entities such as W+K. How does W+K help foster and develop this?
By taking chances and experimenting. WK12 started as an experiment and it’s turned out quite nicely. Our London office has a completely different kind of program called Platform that brings a digital collective inside the agency. Our Amsterdam office just started a educational internship called The Kennedys. Our Tokyo office runs a record label. Our Delhi office publishes a magazine. Right now, our Portland office is starting the second year of PIE, a digital business incubator that gives start-ups free rent and a stipend in exchange for offering our clients a first look at their technology. Some experiments work, others don’t. But by creating a culture of experimentation, employees feel empowered to propose big ideas and run with them.

On a day-to-day basis, what can students expect to participate in?
A given day starts early and ends late. And there’s no typical day in 12. It might include a guest speaker or an informal group gathering in the morning and a creative check-in or two with the directors in the afternoon. But most of the day is spent creating, making and being inspired. The difference between working in a studio by yourself or at another school is students are surrounded by 12 peers working on the same projects, with three directors nearby, inside an agency of 600 people who students can and should use as resources and sounding boards.

As a graduate of the WK12 program, what can candidates expect in their future prospects?
While nothing is guaranteed, most graduates interested in a career in communications end up with a solid job in the business. These are some of the top agencies and clients in the world, and our graduates have a proven track record of success. For those who decide this industry isn’t for them, they’ve taken the communication, problem solving and storytelling skills they’ve learned to another arena that we’re in some ways most proud of.

W+K spans the globe over with several different regional offices. How do you align the goals and visions of W+K in a way that transcends culture?
It’s never been a secret formula. The trick is to fully adopt a new culture while importing enough of the W+K DNA. Each of the offices needs to directly reflect the energy, culture and people of that city. If not, we’re destined to fail.

What is your definition of creativity?
Apply, get in and find out.

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