Making Waves: 2014 ICAD Upstarts Exhibition opening
Making Waves: 2014 ICAD Upstarts Exhibition opening

The annual ICAD Upstarts programme involves an intensive series of workshops held over six weeks, during the summer months with the cream of Ireland’s creative talent playing an active part in developing the Upstarts. The briefs are challenging, different and usually push the candidates capabilities. The Upstart this year has been asked to either advertise or rebrand a pet rock! Easy right?

We spoke to Elaine McDevitt, Managing Director of ICAD and former upstarter Meagan Hyland about the programme and what to expect for potential candidates.

First up Elaine McDevitt …

Hi Elaine, can you give us a brief overview about upstarts?
As well as attending six workshops and answering six briefs the Upstarts are each assigned a mentor to guide them through the (6 week) process.

Participants improve their portfolios, develop important industry contacts and The Upstarts intake is small – a maximum of 24 candidates make it through, 12 each on the advertising and design strands. Competition for places is keen with each applicant required to fulfil a demanding brief in order to secure a coveted Upstarts place.


Who are the mentors and how do you choose them?
The mentors are respected senior ICAD members chosen on their merit and availability. We are hugely grateful for the energy and commitment our mentors and workshop hosts offer – it is the spirit of collaboration and hard work that is the real key to the programme’s success.

What can the successful candidates expect from the programme? 
Successful Upstarts quickly find themselves working hard – the curriculum involves answering a brief a week, developing or maintaining blogs, websites and other ‘employability’ tools as well as working on the promotion and design of their exhibition – held as part of the annual Design Week in November. There’s also an active social side! Some seriously talented people have come through Upstarts and have been making names for themselves in advertising and design.


Meagan Hyland // Art Director (2014 Upstart)

How did you hear about Upstarts?
I first heard about upstarts years ago from other graphic design students back when I was in college in Limerick. They were always the sort you ask yourself ‘how do they have time to this on top of everything else!’ and then more recently from Facebook posts of people I knew participating in the programme. It always seemed like a really interesting thing to be apart of, so last year by chance I was googling it out of interest and the brief so happened to be live so I ran with it.

Can you describe your time on the programme?
Exhilarating and exhausting! I was already a full time graphic designer at the time of the programme but had come to a point where I wasn’t enjoying the work as much anymore. I’m used to managing personal projects in my spare time so I knew if I put the work in something good would come of it. After chatting with some of the guys who had been through Upstarts before, I decided to go for the Advertising side to see if it was for me. Each brief was a new challenge and it was great to get such immediate feedback from each of the agencies. Having a mentor from an agency assigned to me as well was a great resource of information, with such a limited amount of time for each brief it was vital to have someone to bounce ideas off of.


What experiences, in your opinion, did you take away from the workshops in terms of work practice that, you wouldn’t of received any where else?
That just because you see yourself as an art director doesn’t mean you can’t write copy, similarly the simplest scrawl can get an idea across better than a fully polished piece if the person knows how to sell the idea. We had people of all ages and all levels of experience and sometimes it was the person with a stick man drawn on a notepad who wowed the Creative Director the most. It was also amazing to work on the set of the ad for the exhibition seeing behind the scenes and how it takes so many people working together to pull off something like that.


Where are you working now?
I’m working in Brando advertising agency as Art Director. About a month after the Upstarts exhibition had finished, Brando had put up a post on Facebook about their copywriter trying to find an Art Director on Tinder. I wasn’t on Tinder but I sent an email in the form of a personal ad of an Art Director whose interests included “photoshop, pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.” I started in January and since then I’ve worked on clients like the GAA, Xtra Vision HMV and went on a commercial shoot to Prague with Brando for Phonewatch. Needless to say I am delighted to have been an Upstart and could not recommend the program enough to people who want to add another badge to their skill set.

Application packs are online now through the ICAD website. The closing date is Tuesday the 14th of July.


All images from ICAD/Facebook;