Ad designs to see how they measure up at ‘Yardsticks’

A student presents his idea at the Creative Smackdown.

Eric Coulter

A student presents his idea at the Creative Smackdown.

Marcus J. Reynolds

Yardsticks, formerly known as Creative Smackdown, aims to provide a competitive forum for West Michigan advertising and design students to see how they measure up to one another.

The event allows students to display their work for critique by area professionals within the same field.

Frank Blossom, a Grand Valley State University advertising professor, founded the event in 2002. Although the competition has been rebranded, the core remains the same.

“Creative Smackdown had an aggressive name, which may have put some people off,” Blossom said. “Yardsticks is a better metaphor. How do you measure up?”

Blossom said Yardsticks is the largest event of its kind involving Michigan students in the fall. Participants can enter one product into the contest in either the advertisement or the graphic design category.

“The event is a great way to have your peers and professionals check out your work,” said senior Kendra Lokker.

Eight professionals will judge the entries this year. The professionals represent companies such as Gordon Food Service, Palazzolo Brand Builders and Stegeman Creative. Entries will be judged on concept clarity, craftsmanship and creativity.

“The judges are all well known and carry some clout,” Blossom said. “If you get a good recommendation letter from them, others pay attention. The judges also use this event to prospect for new talent.”

Each judge will pick three of the products from the displayed work to receive a professional recommendation and critique. One winner from each category will receive the “Golden Yardstick trophy.”

Along with the name, the location has also changed, and the prize money has been removed from the competition.

This year, the planning team wanted a less formal and expensive environment. The competition relocated to the newly opened ACTIVESITE, a studio located at 40 Monroe Center in Grand Rapids.

With the new venue and format, the coordinators expect 50 participants and 200 observers to attend this year.

“Every year it keeps getting better and better,” said Adam Flokstra, part of the Yardsticks promotions committee. “I volunteered for the past two years to gain experience from someone who is knowledgeable about the field.”

Yardsticks will be held Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. Registration is free, and the deadline is Tuesday.

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