TAI Student Wade Burton Shares Freelance Design Experience

Many creative advertising students and professionals alike have a working job as a freelance designer. However, not everyone is able to turn it into a successful job outlet. TAI creative advertising student Wade Burton is currently enjoying success as a freelance designer, while balancing the hefty load of schoolwork that comes with his major.

Wade Burton (’18)

Burton didn’t start designing with the intention to be a freelancer. After downloading Adobe Illustrator and playing around with it, he became inspired to constantly create.

“It was a very natural progression from there,” Burton said. “Friends and friends of friends started seeing this work I did, probably on my Instagram or Snapchat, and started reaching out. When labels need to be used, I prefer designer to graphic designer simply because when these people tap me for work, what I have realized they want more than my computer clicking abilities is the way I think, and that’s easily the most rewarding part of the freelance work I do.”

Through his experience freelancing, Burton has become firm in his viewpoint of creativity and creative work. He prefers to take a less mainstream approach to his work for clients.

“My learning experiences freelancing are also fairly nontraditional as far as I understand the industry,” Burton said. “[TAI] Professor Mendenhall once spoke to 99% of graphic design work being able to create on the computer screen what your client dictates to you, and 1% being you executing your vision. I took this to heart, and told myself from the start that I always wanted to operate exclusively in that one percent – to the occasional chagrin of Prof. Mendenhall’s project grading rubrics. I made the conscious decision that if I ever wanted to get into design full-time, I would only do so upon being recognized for my personal style. I hold respect for graphic designers, and I hold even more respect for those who break the mold, going against the status quo and earning recognition and praise for it.”

Created for the Perot Museum, from Burton’s portfolio.

As part of his time in the advertising program, Burton was able to be a member of SMU’s 2016 NSAC Ad Team. Through the Ad Team experience got a glimpse of what it’s like to work under the guidance of superiors.

“Ad Team taught me how to exercise humility and practice respect for authority,” Burton said. “Working under a boss is a subject that my freelance work never really broached on, because I always maintained total control of the product until the contract’s completion. Additionally, Ad Team taught me how rewarding a project’s journey to completion can be once you see it entirely through. Even in summer internships, that feeling of completion is frequently lacking. In the agency world, it can take months or even longer for something like a TV spot to go from project brief to production to airing. Ad Team provided a complete experience of this lifecycle in a single semester, even if it didn’t end on a nationally displayed television commercial.”

TAI’s Creative Advertising program has taught Burton a lot about the creative world, especially the many different approaches to creativity and how to apply that in the advertising industry.

“Temerlin’s Creative program has shaped the way I think about creativity as a whole,” Burton said. “Lots of people will say that you can’t be taught creativity, which I would agree with to some extent. But you can be better taught how to think creatively. Thanks to Mark [Professor Allen] and Willie [Professor Baronet], I have learned to take in everything as inspiration. Whether it’s inspiration for what not to do, or work that I wish I had come up with, I have learned a greater appreciation for everything artistic because sources of inspiration come from all over. Mark and Willie have also taught me the importance of creating good advertising work. Their constant feedback and willingness to help and see us succeed pushes me to always create the best work possible. These are people who I didn’t really know two years ago, and now would be ashamed of disappointing by doing anything short of excelling in this creative program.”

Created for Southwest Acupuncture, from Burton’s portfolio.

Burton is currently an art direction intern at McCann Humancare, a health subsidiary of McCann New York, where he’s been able to put his creativity to the test.

“It’s a pretty common industry stigma to work in health, or pharma as most people will call it,” Burton said. “So I learned quickly to get over that because worrying about other people’s negative opinions of your job can really slow you down and there’s no time for that, especially when you’re working in NYC. I’ve also come to learn that of the most exciting aspects of working ‘pharma’ is that the extensive restrictions breed creative excellence. The second week that I was here, the McCann Health network swept the floor at Cannes, heading home with 25 Lions. Suffice to say, any lingering fears of having to do mundane work subsided upon receipt of that announcement.”

All of his experiences, both school and work-related, have truly helped shape him as a person and guide him towards having a successful career while leading a healthy lifestyle.

“I believe that all of my experiences speak directly to my strengths of independence and adaptability,” Burton said. “Living in New York City is not easy, especially going into a creative field. Being able to live comfortably on my own and constantly roll with the punches has prepared me for life after graduation. I think independence is something extremely undervalued and under-taught. Having friends and a burgeoning social life is fantastic and undeniably necessary to personal health, but finding your own way in this transition out of college into the workforce doesn’t happen if you exclusively live other people’s lives with them and are afraid to be independent.”

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