Views & Opinions

ICAD Upstarts by Elaine McDevitt



The ICAD Upstarts Programme is one of the most successful initiatives ever undertaken by the institute. ICAD’s Elaine McDevitt fills us in.

Back in the mid 90‘s up to 2001 ICAD had run a series of advertising workshops each year and it became a priority for the 2006 board to bring back the workshops – but with some big changes.

Firstly, it was agreed that there should be two strands and design studios were invited to get involved. A mentorship programme was also initiated meaning that each participant would have a point of contact and guidance throughout the process. Finally, as ICAD got more heavily involved with Design Week we scheduled an exhibition as part of the week to wrap up the workshops and provide an unparalleled networking opportunity for participants.

The ICAD Upstarts Programme is born

In only 5 years the programme has seen more than 100 talented young creatives cut their teeth and take their first steps towards a career in our business. Itinvolves an intensive series of workshops held over six weeks with the cream of Ireland’s creative talent playing an active part in challenging and developing the Upstarts.

Its predecessor, the ICAD workshops, had some notable successes that we can shamelessly claim – the highly talented Emmet Wright, Jessica Kiang, Keith Doyle, Stephen Rogers and Ian McFarlane to name just a few. We were also responsible for a spot of matchmaking – you’re welcome Mark and Lisa Tuthill!

We’re already seeing a high level of success from past Upstarts, with some hosting Upstarts workshops, acting as mentors and winning the pretty impressive accolade of an ICAD bell or two. And to think, I remember you when you arrived doe-eyed to the ICAD office with your Upstarts applications!

The Upstarts intake is small – just 12 candidates for both the advertising and design strands. Competition for places is keen with each applicant required to fulfill a demanding brief in order to secure a coveted Upstarts place.

Our reputation for quality ensures that we get applicants not just from graduates and post graduates of advertising and design courses; but also from other diverse professions like architecture, engineering and the allied arts of film and music.

Some of 2010′s Upstarts

Successful Upstarts are often surprised by the level of commitment and the volume of work involved over the six weeks of the course. Some have to contend with fitting the course in with their current full-time job too. The curriculum involves working on 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.

Mentors expect high standards and a serious level of commitment. We also endeavour to maintain realistic ‘battle conditions’ – in other words Upstarts get a feel for what it’s like to work on real brief with real deadlines.

The old adage applies: you get what you put in.

The more the participants engage in the programme the more they stand to gain from the quality contact with working professionals. Upstarts provides a unique opportunity for new talent to meet with the people who are creating and producing advertising and design work at the highest levels in Ireland.

It has also proved to be an ideal opportunity to make lots of contacts and friends. In the true traditions of our industry – there’s an active social side!

A significant portion of my own working year is spent on the Upstarts programme – we go from the application briefs being set, designed and published to the application and judging process and then straight into the induction evening and the workshops themselves. However, I find my work on Upstarts is always extremely rewarding and I always feel a certain pride when one of ‘our’ Upstarts is offered a job.

It is perhaps the spirit of collaboration and hard work that is the real key to the programme’s success. As we build on the programme year on year, there have been nearly as many mentors and workshop hosts as there have been participants. We are hugely grateful for the energy and commitment that our mentors put in week after week. And perhaps, this commitment is an indicator to just how much value the advertising and design industries place on nurturing fresh creative talent.

An upsurge in initiatives that focus on new talent

In the last two years alone, ICAD has endorsed Young Creatives, in association with Getty Images; Best Yet, in association with The Irish Times and Portfolio Night 8 & 9, run by Ogilvy Dublin. All are great examples of the enthusiasm and encouragement seasoned creatives are prepared to lend to their junior counterparts.

It’s in that spirit of collaboration, encouragement and opportunity that we look forward to the 2011 ICAD Upstarts Programme. Some of the agencies and studios confirmed to host workshops this year are Bloom, Bluecube, Cawley Nea\TBWA, Irish International, Language and Red Dog. Luminaries from the likes of Atomic, Boys & Girls, Chemistry, Conor & David, ICAN, Slater, Scale and Young Euro RSCG will also join us to mentor this year’s Upstarts.

The successful 2011 applicants received the career changing news last week and will attend the induction evening on August 22nd. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what they’re made of.

For more information visit us at or
The ICAD Upstarts Programme Facebook Page

About this Article


blog comments powered by Disqus
Web Design by ICAN Digital Agency