Put A Bird In It—Featured Maker, WK12

Wieden+Kennedy has been cultivating top-tier talent through their development program, WK12, for the past nine years. This “experiment disguised as a school disguised as an agency” has produced some of the industry’s leading young creatives, and the class of 2014 is no exception.

WK12 is a 13-month experimental advertising program that accepts 13 applicants each year for an intensive laboratory experience where students work for real clients under the direction of members of the W+K Portland office.

We are thrilled to have this talented bunch constructing a birdhouse for this year’s Put a Bird In It auction on October 12th. WK12-ers Nick Stokes and Wayne Kasserman gave me the inside scoop on how their house is coming along.

We’re stoked to have the WK12 crew design and build some birdhouses for our Put a Bird In It auction. Can you give us a some background on the WK12 program and the people in this year’s class?

We are psyched as well! Thanks so much for inviting us to participate. Nick Stokes who is in this year’s 12 class was a participant last year, so we are very much aware of what an honor it is to be invited.

Well, WK 12 is a experimental advertising agency masquerading as an experimental advertising school deep within the walls of Wieden+Kennedy. Founded in 2004, the program brings together about a dozen individuals from all walks of life for 12 months of creative thinking, making and, of course, failing harder.

This year we have 13 people who hail from all over. We are: Anna Zusman (Portland, OR), Nick Stokes (Portland, OR), Nick Finney (Los Angeles, CA), Delia Reyes (Santiago, Chile), Kate Digilio (New York, NY), Wayne Kasserman (New York, NY), Todd Saucier (Portland, OR), Ansel Wallenfang (Minneapolis, MN), Eric Swanson (Los Alamitos, CA), Brad Holdgrafer (San Luis Obispo, CA), Francesca Chabrier (Northampton, MA), Michael Nesmith (Chicago, IL), Vince Largoza (San Diego, CA).

Tell us a little bit about a typical team brainstorming session. When it comes to collaboration do the ideas come easily, or do you have to work at it? What do you do when you hit a creative block?

We really don’t have a typical brainstorm session. Sometimes we break into groups, other times we think and work as 13 people. For this project we broke off into teams of 3. Each team took a few days to come up with as many ideas as possible. Then we came together and presented those ideas to each other.

We debated. We fought. We cried. We yelled. We laughed. We threw things at each other and by the end of that session we settled on our final 7 ideas which we took to our directors, Jim Riswold and Byron Oshiro, who helped us land on the final idea we’re moving forward with.

The beauty of WK12 is the different perspectives that come from bringing in people from all walks of life. Sometimes it can be difficult for us to communicate effortlessly, but what it does is that it allows us to have a wider breath of experience and knowledge to pool from. Where else can a poet work alongside a concert promoter? Where else can a dog behaviorist brainstorm with a classical pianist?

Sometimes it takes us a bit longer to land on an idea, but the idea is usually far better than what would have been generated if we hadn’t go through the pain of the process.

How are the birdhouses are coming along? What are you finding to be sources of inspiration? Is there a theme?

We do have a theme that we are super excited about. We don’t want to give it away, so you’ll have to wait to see it at the show! But we will tell you that most of ideas revolved around themes inspired by the city of Portland. Portland is native to about a third of our class and the rest of us are coming in fresh to the city. Together we have shared and explored this city and have found new and exciting things that exist here.

What has it been like working with a 3D object vs. a more traditional digital design or illustration?

At the end of the day, it’s all about designing something that solves a problem. Just because the form is different it doesn’t mean that the goal of what you’re doing changes. We’ve had blast getting our hands dirty in a new way and we can’t thank you enough for the challenge.

Put a Bird In It is our way to raise funds to support art and music in Portland’s public schools. Did most of the WK12 team have the opportunity to try art and music when you were kids? Why do you feel it is important to provide the arts to children now and in the future?

Who said that children are the future? Cause we don’t think we could have said it better. All of us in some way or another was given the opportunity to experience art and music in our youth and we think it is our duty as adults to make this world a better place. And what’s a better way than sharing the gift of creative expression, imagination and self expression. Everyone should have that chance and be exposed to the best of humanity.