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Mixing it up
Ad students launch Web site to offer peer-to-peer critiques  

Jun 11, 2009  
By Jeanna Packard  

If two minds are better than one, then a network of creative minds collaborating on a portfolio is better than solo work.

That's what graduating seniors Ryan Dease and Victor Rasgaitis believe.

This synergistic idea sparked TheCreativeBlender.com, a free Web site the two built earlier this year to facilitate creative collaboration between students. Site members build online portfolios and join forces with peers to critique one another's work. Another feature on the site allows members to search for students who have specific expertise they are looking to tap.

Items in creative advertising portfolios can be published or unpublished work the student created in his free time, Dease said. Employers are interested in the creativity demonstrated and the student's potential for big ideas. Students can benefit by posting class work on TheCreativeBlender.com before the due date or after. Either way, the idea is to learn and put the best work forward -- a job-worthy portfolio that can help seniors launch their careers.

"We are facilitating creative collaboration because in the creative world you have copyrighters, art directors, photographers, illustrators and all these different elements in advertising. We are helping people find those they need to work with to get their work to the next level," Rasgaitis said.

The site idea came about three months ago after an advertising conference in Chicago.

During the drive, Dease and Rasgaitis realized they had all the college credentials that should have resulted in a job. The two are graduating with degrees earned through the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism's advertising sequence, had been active members of the Ohio University Advertising Association  (both served a term as president), participated in internships across the country and cultivated extensive networks.  Yet potential employers weren't biting.

Both Dease and Rasgaitis were advised to attend portfolio school -- privately run businesses that assist job seekers in building a quality portfolio.

Portfolio schools are an extension of an advertising education. They are not degree programs, but they can assist student in breaching the gap between university-level work and industry standards, especially for students who don't have internship experience, said Hong Cheng, associate professor in the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism.  Every year one or two of the 20 advertising students from Ohio University attend a portfolio school.

"Right now if you want to be a creative in advertising it's pretty much looked on that you have to go to portfolio school?It seems unfeasible that students could come out of their undergrad and get creative jobs at major agencies," Cheng said.

Rasgaitis experienced this dilemma at the Chicago conference when he was inquiring about summer internships.

He spoke with his would-be employer who recommended he enroll in a portfolio school. After running his portfolio through The Creative Blender, Rasgaitis showed the same employer his improved work, and she hired him for a summer internship.

He hopes the site leads others to similar success stories.

"We wanted to create a site where students could actually go right into a job. They could build their portfolios on their own and leave their undergrad and start at major agency," Rasgaitis said.

Dease -- a strategic planner -- insists that those pursuing careers who aren't "creatives" can still benefit from using the site.

"I'm a planner, but something like the Creative Blender gives me opportunity to see raw creativity," Dease said. "It gives me the chance to help focus the talent. I can suggest better ad executions and campaigns."

The site is still in its infancy and a user-base is quickly growing.

A few weeks after the May 27 launch, the site had 13 members from Ohio, Chicago, Texas and Virginia, as well as a variety of majors and areas of study, including visual communications, magazine journalism and all aspects of advertising.  Soon, the founders predict every member of the Ohio University Advertising Association will join, growing the membership to more than 100 students.

In addition to facilitating the job hunt, the site can be an educational tool.

"We wanted to be able to give students who don't have the strong creative programs the opportunity to try it out," Rasgaitis said. "Everybody wants to try out being creative, see if they have it."

Many are unsure what is means to be a "creative" and the site can be a place to explore the profession, without costing the student time and money at a portfolio school.

If this peer-to-peer online collaboration can help students produce a job-worthy portfolio and get hired immediately after graduation without attending portfolio school, then they will save time and money, the two founders say.

As for the site founders' post-graduation plans, Rasgaitis will intern at DDB Chicago, one of the world's largest agencies, and Dease will intern at Cliff Freeman & Partners in New York.



Related Links
The Creative Blender (following this link will take you away from Ohio University's Web site):  http://www.thecreativeblender.com 

Published: Jun 11, 2009 12:32 PM  

The Creative Blender, built by two OU students, is a free Web designed to facilitate creative collaboration between students.


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