Archive for January, 2005


Ad School Essential Tools

January 6, 2005

The following are things that I wish I had had on the first day, and while I got along fine, having them earlier definitely would have eliminated some hairy moments. In no particular order:

USB Thumbdrive

Why: Use to transfer files between computers to share, print, or have printed at Kinkos or Staples. By far the easiest way to move multiple files between computers.


  • At least 128MB
  • USB 2.0 (not a huge deal, but faster)
  • One with an internal battery will help as you can plug it in more places (hubs, keyboards, etc). An unpowered one is fine (that’s what I have) but you will have to plug it into the computer proper, or into a powered hub.

Digital Camera

Why: No matter if you are a copywriter, art director, or account planner, you will need to get images out of reality and into a computer. A digital camera lets you bring just what you want to your finished ads and give them a unique feel as opposed to using the same grainy, wrong proportioned stock photography as everyone else. Granted, someone in your group will have a camera, but it is good to not have to rely on others.


  • 2.0 megapixels or more will be fine. Great deals can be had on 3.2MP cameras everywhere.
  • Optical Zoom is important, forget digital zoom. Digital Zoom is the same as cropping.
  • Manual controls are very nice to have, but are not critical.
  • You don’t need an amazing digital camera, or even a new one. You can always hook up with a kickass photographer with great equipment later if you have a really killer idea.

Day Planner

Why: You will have more projects, groups, and meetings to keep track of than at any point in your life up to this point, no matter what you’ve been doing before.


  • Whatever works for you. Cheap paper, phone, or expensive PDA, the key is it needs to be something you can always have with you and always use.
  • Online tools are great as a supplement, but you need something you can carry with you (and use in a power outage).
  • Your school may give you a paper planner at the start of the year (mine did). If you don’t have anything else to try, start with that, you may be surprised how well it works. If it doesn’t work for you, you’ll be better prepared to evaluate alternatives based on the strengths and weaknesses of that experience.

Adobe Creative Suite Premiere

Why: In AdSchool, Photoshop is a noun, verb, and adjective (with a y). You can’t get by without it. Acrobat makes PDF Files which is how you exchange files with professors, classmates, prospective employers, and print shops. Quark has pretty much lost the battle, so you’ll be using InDesign to layout ads. Illustrator is useful at times, especially if you can draw, and especially for logos.

  • Creative Suite Premiere because Standard does not include Acrobat Professional.
  • Adobe subsidizes students with a 75% discount on their products. The $1200 Creative Suite Premiere is only $400 with for educational buyers. So make sure to bust out your student ID and never pay full price.
  • You may not need to buy Adobe software if you have access to labs with the software installed. Most people, however, like to be able to work on their own computer (if they have one). Pay for it if you can.

Little Notebook and Pen

Why: So you always have paper to jot down ideas and inspirations as they happen.


  • Any notebook will do, but anything bigger than about 4×6 will be hard to carry everywhere. Small drugstore pads are perfect. Also, look on the sale rack in bookstores.
  • The Moleskine brand has developed something of a cult following ( but can pricey. I think they are great, but I write way too much to use them exclusively.

Color Printer and LOTS of ink

Why: You will need to present color prints of your work on a regular basis. You will either need a printer or make plans to make all of your prints at a copy shop or a school lab.

**STAPLES Copy & Print Center will do color laser prints for you for $0.39/each plus $2.50/first file and $0.99/additional files. Put all your ads in one PDF and save.**


  • A printer that has a tank for each individual color. This lets you replace what you use with less waste.
  • Price out ink cartridges on the models you are looking at buying. Some printers have only high cost, name brand cartridges available. Other printers have low-cost alternatives which are just as good. Search online and on Ebay for the best prices. For example, I have a 6 cartridge Canon inkjet. The Canon brand cartridges are $12/each. I can get them on Ebay for $2/each including shipping.
  • Buy a lot of ink up front and keep extra on hand. If not, you will run out at the most inoprotune moment imaginable. I promise.

General Supplies

Black Markers, Black Boards, Spray Moung, etc


  • Sharpies in Ad School are like No.2’s in Elementry School. Markers come in various sizes and weights and price ranges. Find one you like that is cheap enough to constantly replace. (Sharpies ~ $1)
  • Black Presentation Boards will often sell out at art stores as you near midterms and finals. You can reuse them to a point, but they beaten up pretty easily. Also, nothing sucks more than having to wake up early and go all over the city to find enough boards for your final presentation and end up paying 3x more for them. Always good to stock up. (Black Boards ~1-2)
  • Spray Mount. About $12/can but one can will last forever. Spray it very lightly, especially if you want to reuse the board.
  • Legal pads, notebooks, sketchbooks, etc: something to take notes with and jot ideas down. I buy the 12-pack of legal pads at the office supply store for $6. Some friends only use particular brands of sketchbook.
  • Sometimes there just don’t seem to be enough tacks to hang up all the work. They disappear like socks in the dryer.
  • Razor Blade Knife. You’ll need it sometimes, and nothing else will do. Box Cutters from the hardware store work great, and they are cheap. When the blade starts to dull, you break off the tip and have a fresh one. Exacto Knives are hard to make a long, straight cut with, in my experience, but better for detail work. Your mileage may vary.

  • Metal Ruler. Get an 18″ ruler with either a foam or cork backing to prevent slippage. 24″ rulers are really just too big and 99% of the time and 12″ rulers are too small. Some rulers have a tall, flat side designed specifically for cutting/drawing against, I find this very helpful.