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Applying to the Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts

There comes a time in everyone's career feelings of inadequacy pop up, and it’s important to know that you’re not alone. You may say “I wish I knew how to do this better” or “I could get that job IF I knew more about this thing or had that degree.” As a queen of self-deprecation—I use critical humor to cope with things that are out of my control. This resulted in me becoming an over-achiever—exhaustively pushing myself and others to pursue what scares them and not take no for an answer. My feelings of inadequacy and lust for being part of a critical learning zone led me to pursue graduate-level education.

The quest led me from one school to the next — but for years that practical well-rounded program of my dreams remained elusive. Until one regular workday in late 2012 when I came across a tiny banner ad on Armin Vit’s Brand New. That’s when I first learned about the Masters in Branding program at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.

Was it Fate?

Off to New York

Upon wrapping 10 days in the big apple, I returned to LA and began to wrap my head around applying. Easier said than done…especially while simultaneously starting one of the busiest freelance periods of my design career.

Dusting off the Critical Writing Skills

The application requirements were straight forward, but I had to re-learn how to structure paragraphs, edit, and site facts. We were required to write two pieces — a statement of purpose and a formal brand critique. This is where leaning on your network becomes an invaluable resource, as I was lucky enough to have friends of friends who were much more skilled in writing to help edit and spell-check. My first few drafts came back covered in red markup, but as the revisions progressed, things got tighter and tighter.

Because I am a visual thinker, my approach to writing is to be as illustrative as possible because I want the reader to see what I see and feel what I feel. This approach along with choosing a theme for both writing samples that meant something to me personally was my tactic for being memorable.

Naturally, I chose cycling as my theme due to my road bike racing history and advocacy work but it was also because the sport pushes you to accomplish awe-inspiring intense physical feats that teach you how to press on no matter how difficult the challenge appears. I knew grad school was going to be hard, so I wrote my personal statements as if the program was the hardest and tallest mountain I was about to climb on my bike.

For part two of the application, the brand critique, we were required to write about a current brand, identify its market relevance, historical significance, and creative impact. I chose the high-end cycling component manufacturer Campagnolo—a brand steeped in history and well know industry innovator. While there was no shortage of passion, I had to write this critique in 750 words—which contradicted my visual writing style.

Read my Statement of Purpose

Read my Brand Critique

The Last Steps are Always the Hardest

What did happen was a Mr. Bean-like farcical involving:
• 2 Kelly Papers
• 2 FedEx/Kinkos
• 50 Sheets of Cranes Lettra
• 1 USB drive
• 1 Roadside Rescue from AAA
• 3 Exacto blades
• Several panic attacks

One Kinkos refused to print on the fancy paper, then my USB drive went missing, which while looking for led me to get locked out of my car. What should have taken an hour — took four. Thank you to the FedEx Office in Studio City, CA for being so positive and helpful despite my obvious desperation.

VCR on Pause

After turning in my application for SVA, I thought maybe I had a chance. On the surface I had the general requirements and history they said they were looking for — but was I good enough? Would my writing pass the test? My life felt like a VCR on pause. The screen was fuzzy, skipping frames, and life seems to happen around me as I waited to hear something on bated breath.

I snuggled my self-deprecation blanket in an effort to prepare for yet another rejection. Friends were positive and believed in me, but I knew that if I wasn’t realistic about the odds, I was setting myself up for an emotional disaster. And so I went through the motions of each day, went to work, and rode my bike.

Seven Weeks + Two days Later

I was so excited to get a chance, and for once to not be flat out rejected.

The Interview

Thursday, April 11th, 2013—2:45 PM

The last time I got amazing news like this, I lost my cool, complete with tears and incoherent hollers. This time was different. I calmly stood up and walked to my coworkers' office where I promptly lost my shit behind a door.

Keep Calm and Ride On

In August, I’ll be moving to NYC and leave my wonderful life in Los Angeles behind. I have no idea what lies ahead. I’m terrified and excited. I’m sad to leave behind an amazing group of friends—but I’m also hungry for the opportunity to learn from the likes of Debbie Millman, Dan Formosa & Ken Carbone.

Rock On.

Bay Area-based Creative Director + Brand Strategist working on the edge of design and technology—creator of #100Hoopties

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