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Students measure up at Yardsticks competition

The Yardsticks is a student advertising competition held downtown, and judged by advertising professionals from the Grand Rapids area.
Underwriting support from:

The Polishing Center

The Yardsticks was sponsored by The Polishing Center, a place where top creatives teach future creatives. For 15 weeks young creatives workshop with 20 to 25 top creative designers, art directors, writers and account executives to prepare them for careers in adveriting. 

Students check out entries to The Yardsticks competition

Students check out entries to The Yardsticks competition /Ashley Paige

The finalists from each category.

The finalists from each category. /Alexandra Roy

For the second year in a row, some of the top advertising experts from Grand Rapids mingled with some of the brightest up-and-coming minds at The Yardsticks Competition, sponsored by the Polishing Center. The Yardsticks is an advertising competition open to college students and critiqued by advertising professionals from all over the state. This year's event was held at the Thirty-Eight in downtown Grand Rapids on October 27th.

"It offers young creatives a chance to gauge their work outside the classroom and get a sense of where they stack up against other students," said head referee and Grand Valley State University professor Frank Blossom. The Yarsticks was founded in 2010, and the first competition was held at the Active Site @ 40 Monroe Center.

This year's edition took place at the Thirty-Eight, a Leed certified, multipurpose building on Commerce Ave. "We wanted something that was more organic, and the Thirty-Eight is essentially unfinished, with concrete floors and cinderblock walls," said Blossom. The building, low level lighting and sprawling view of the city all played into the creative spirit of the event.

The competition was divided into three categories: Graphic Design, Advertising and Mock Up. Several entries were selected from each category as finalists and one finalist was chosen as overall winner. Advertising professionals took turns reviewing the finalists they had selected, while the whole building listened to their critiques. Each piece was placed on a large screen at the front of the room, and the professionals combed over it before selecting an overall winner.

The Graphic Design category was reserved for "Posters, annual reports, CD/DVD/book/magazine covers, packaging, interactive design, brochures, invitation/announcements and environmental graphics," according to the Yardsticks' website. GVSU senior Meagan Norman-Meadows took home first place, and summed up her night, saying, "I didn't know what to expect from Yardsticks because I had never attended this event before. It was interesting to compare the different categories, and see the different approaches people made in their projects, and [it] was an overall good experience." 

The Advertising category followed a more traditional route of print ads, outdoor ads such as billboards, TV storyboards, radio and interactive advertising. GVSU senior Karen Verbrugge took home first prize with her print ad.

The newest edition to the competition was the Mock Up category, which required participants to sketch up an idea on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper using only a black marker. GVSU senior Caitlin Thrasher took home first prize with her design.

Each winner not only got to display their work in front of the entire audience, but also received a golden yardstick as a trophy.

However, recognition and a trophy were not the only benefits to the competition, according to Blossom. "This is a great way for students to connect to advertising professionals," he said. "Often times, professionals are there scouting for talent, filling job orders and setting up interviews." 

Erika DeVriendt, a senior advertising and public relations major at GVSU who participated last year elaborated on the benefits, saying, "participating in Yardsticks includes the opportunity to not only network with student peers in the advertising field, but also advertising experts in the Grand Rapids area. Yardsticks also provides students with real feedback from professionals that can be useful upon graduation."

All of the professionals in attendance were from the Grand Rapids area, which attested to the city's strong design background, according to Blossom. "Grand Rapids is very design driven," he said. "Due to the furniture industry, Amway and even Kendall [College of Art and Design], the design is more visual than verbal."

It was an interest in design that led GVSU senior Jessica Nowicki to enter an advertisement into the competition. Her work was selected as a finalist for the Advertising category. "For the past three years, all of my creative work and ideas have been turned in to my professors as homework assignments," Nowicki said. "However, after participating in The Yardsticks Creative Competition, I was finally able to receive an in-depth critique about my work and network with advertising professionals. Although I was nervous to enter this competition, I now have professional advice and feedback that will help me in my future jobs."

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