Interview with Robin Milgrim, Art Director and PDN Self-Promo Judge

No Plastic Sleeves recently has an opportunity to ask a few question of Robin Milgrim, art director with R&R Partners on the Las Vegas Tourism, “What Happens here Stays Here” account. She was also a recent judge for the 2009 PDN Self-Promo Awards Competition. Below are her responses.

Robin Milgrim was born with creativity in her DNA. Her great-grandfather was founder of Milgrim’s, a historical New York City retail cornerstone that dressed celebrities and high-society from the 1900’s to 1950’s. Her great-aunt was fashion designer Sally Milgrim, creator of Eleanor Roosevelt’s inaugural gown. With that to live up to, Robin went to the Savannah College of Art and Design and started her career working in-house with artist Romero Britto, best known for his work with ABSOLUT vodka. She went on to graduate from the Miami Ad School, becoming an art director. After doing freelance stints in many of New York’s big shops, she moved to Las Vegas, where she has been working on the Las Vegas tourism “What Happens Here Stays Here” campaign for the past 5 years. Her work has garnered industry accolades, including Luerzer’s Archive and Graphis. She has collaborated with many of the industries finest photographers, and is frequent judge of photo annual competitions.

As someone who has reviewed so many outstanding portfolios and self-promotional pieces, what distinguishes the very best?

A creative person must demonstrate far more than technical skill if they want to be a real player in the game. In my opinion, the single quality that distinguishes the leaders from the followers is some type of uniqueness. Whether it is your use of color, space, type, or concept. Maybe it’s your process that results in a fresh look. Or perhaps you come to the table with a tight team of artists to create the final product. Whatever it is, do something to distinguish your self.

What do you think is the most challenging and rewarding part of being a judge for an awards competition, such as the PDN Self-Promo Awards?

There are so many talented people out there. When reviewing work for the photo-annuals I am most struck by how many people do not understand their audience, or how to distinguish themselves. At this level everyone is good, but only few are great. It’s easy to choose the winner’s. I am saddened by how many very capable talented people do not understand whom they are talking to. When submitting work for these competitions, keep in mind that the judges, as well as those that will hire you, see an enormous amount of work everyday. They devour creative. They have seen it all, and are hungry for something that breaks with convention.

How important do you feel a portfolio book and/or online portfolio is in securing a job in the creative industries?

Have both. Unless you plan on screwing your way to the top (which doesn’t work BTW) there is no way around it. It’s the cost of doing business. Make it as good as you can. No excuses. If you don’t love it, don’t put it in your book. If you don’t have enough solid work, make more. Learn to edit yourself. Remember who your audience is. Consider what would appeal to them. Take them for a ride. Entertain. It’s a word often forgotten at the convergence of art and commerce. The best of the best are in the entertainment business. If you hold yourself up to that standard, whether you are advertising creative, a photographer, or a designer, you will be starting from a great place.

Do you have any advice for a student or young professional currently working on their portfolio and/or promotional materials?

Every job is different, of which different skills are needed. Given that understanding, be yourself first and foremost. Find what it is you love about the work, your passion, and do that. The greatest talents live and breathe the business because they love what they do. It’s the commonality in most successful people, regardless of industry.
Also, make nice with EVERYONE, especially at school. I was told this early on, and I am convinced it helped me survive while many of my peers dropped out of the industry. The people you go to school with, other artists, illustrators, directors, designers, etc. They are the people that will refer you the most work. As creative’s our egos can often get in the way, don’t let it happen. I have seen the ego destroy brilliantly talented people. So learn to collaborate early on. Perhaps you are good at lighting, but not as strong at concept. Team up. Find partners. Work together. The greatest of the greats stand on the shoulders of us all.


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