Even though it’s her first full-time job, it’s not her first experience working with Coca-Cola. A few months before being hired, she was part of a “live client” class assigned to steer the creative direction of an early-stage packaging innovation.
Students from Atlanta's Portfolio Center visit Coke headquarters as part of a 'live client class.'
Lauren is one of more than 50 students from Portfolio Center -- one of the country’s top postgraduate creative communication arts schools -- who have supported a range of Coca-Cola projects since 2012.
Each quarter, Coke provides classes of six to 10 students with a creative brief. From there, the students conduct research, develop and refine solutions, then present their recommendations to the client. Some of the students’ recommendations end up on the store shelves, while others are integrated into other Coke programs.
Scott Biondich leads the development of sparkling beverage packaging and immediate consumption equipment for Coca-Cola North America. His team has enlisted Portfolio Center's creative braintrust to contribute outside creativity and communication expertise to several key projects, including a cold-activated aluminum can featuring thermochromatic ink technology and a Variety Station, which enables shoppers to customize eight or 10 packs of Coke beverages. Several other projects the school has supported are confidential because they have yet to reach the public.
Portfolio Center students helped steer the creative direction of Coke's cold-activated cans.
The partnership gives Coke access to outside-the-norm insights from its core consumer target: Millennials.
“In essence, they’re their own audience,” says Hank Richardson, Portfolio Center’s design director.
According to Richardson, what sets Portfolio Center students apart are the broad range of creative disciplines they bring to the table – from design and screen-based media, to photography and illustration, to art direction and copywriting -- all coalesced by the school’s integrative teaching approach.
“Our curriculum focuses on applying design thinking to solve problems through integrated systems design using a think-plus-do model,” he adds. “With many of these projects, we’re bringing the art of storytelling to the engineering world and helping people who see in black and white see in color.”
Wade Thompson, Portfolio Center alum and founder and creative director at the Atlanta-based firm Son & Sons, has taught several of the “live classes” at Coke. Getting students away from the classroom and the everyday rigors of school and into a real-life business environment helps to create breakthrough learning moments, he says.
Portfolio Center grad Lauren Childs now works on Coke's Global Content Excellence team.
For Coke, the collaboration is helping to build a legion of brand advocates and, as Childs proves, a fruitful talent pipeline. And by taking time to work with the students, Thompson insists, Coke leaders are positioning their company as an innovative, design-centric organization.
“Coke is getting brilliant thinking and work from people who aren’t baked in the solution; they’re approaching their projects from outside the Coke context,” Thompson adds. “They’re comfortable making mistakes and going somewhere an agency of record may not have the freedom to go.”
He adds, “When we present to a Coke team, you see an awakening... people get re-energized. The students help them see challenges in a new light and open up new solutions. Their enthusiasm and energy are contagious.”
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