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The room is charged with excitement and the students are there for the pressure and fun during the 4th Annual “Let’s Charrette” event produced by the Gruskin Group and supported by the ADCNJ. Here’s an encapsulation of what I saw at this year’s creative shoot-out.


The ADCNJ is celebrating its 50th year as New Jersey’s only association for Art Directors, Illustrators, Photographers and other creative individuals involved in the creative development process of the communications industry. This years Awards Show is being chaired by Brec Morgan and Tara Orlando of the CAG Brand First group. This also marks the first time in our club’s evolution where all entries will be submitted on line, including membership fees. The deadline for submission of your best work is March 15th, so start compiling your entries, photographing the best of your work and then submitting them right on our site. As in the past, medal winners may be required to submit actual pieces for hanging during the Awards Show dinner, to be held at The Birchwood Manor in Whippany, NJ on Wed., May 15th. Submission is streamlined to make it easy for entrants to upload all necessary data and project information, so, stop sitting around reading this and get your best work uploaded so you can finally boast about winning an ADCNJ award. It’s that simple.


Renowned Mardi Gras artist Andrea Mistretta will be on hand with the original painting of the 2013 edition in her famed New Orleans Mardi Gras poster series. Over 28 consecutive years, the posters have become a true New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition. Mistretta will sign posters and her awarding-winning book, “Mardi Gras Parade of Posters,” with a foreword by Mr. Mardi Gras himself, Blaine Kern. Her poster series will be on display through May.

A Year in the Life: Backstage to Onstage at Universal Orlando Resort, an exhibition that gives visitors an exclusive look at the extensive process that goes into bringing the theme park’s iconic annual events to life, running through January 26, 2014. Opening with Mardi Gras, the exhibition will change prior to each Universal Orlando Resort® event season: Halloween Horror Nights, summer lagoon show and parade, and finally the holidays, focusing on The Macy’s Holiday Parade and performances of holiday music by Mannheim Steamroller.
The Exhibition runs January 26, 2013, through January 26, 2014.

Montclair State University Team Wins Both Awards

From left to right: Presentation Winners Carlos Norat, Lusine Katrjyan, Charles Leenstra, Meghan Dougherty, Juan Villanueva, join client Jenna Wetmore from "Morning Glory."

From left to right: Presentation Winners Carlos Norat, Lusine Katrjyan, Charles Leenstra, Meghan Dougherty, Juan Villanueva, join client Jenna Wetmore from “Morning Glory.”

L to R: Holding the winning logo/sign design is Carlos Norat, joined by fellow team members Lusine Katrjyan, Juan Villanueva, Meghan Dougherty, Charles Leenstra, and client Jenna Wetmore from "Morning Glory".

L to R: Holding the winning logo/sign design is Carlos Norat, joined by fellow team members Lusine Katrjyan, Juan Villanueva, Meghan Dougherty, Charles Leenstra, and client Jenna Wetmore from “Morning Glory”.

This year’s Design Derby client was “Morning Glory,” a thrift and gift shop whose profits benefit DASI services for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families in Sussex County.

The competition, sponsored by the club’s Education Committee and Smith Design, was held at the Newton campus of Sussex County Community College. The event brings together schools from throughout the state.

This year’s results were noteworthy as, for the first time, a single team captured all honors. A team from Montclair State University won both the Presentation Award and the Design Award.

Thanks to new club President Sherry Fitzgerald and her dedicated colleagues at Sussex County Community College for once again hosting the event, Smith Design for their continued support of the Education Committee and all students and professors that participated.

A special acknowledgement goes out to club member Nikki Pedersen who participated in his 17th Design Derby.

Student presents his ideas to team during this year's Let's Charrette, creative shoot-out, held during Kean College's Thinking Creatively conference.

Former ADCNJ President, Deborah Rivera, third from left, mentors her team as they compete in this year's Let's Charrette event during Kean College's Thinking Creatively conference. 

This year’s annual Thinking Creatively conference, hosted by Kean College featured the creative shoot out where students, studying graphic design, architecture and interior design, join forces to compete for bragging rights at the Let’s Charrette event.

Al Montagna's team presents their concepts.

Al Montagna, President of Small Earth Visual Communications, discusses concepts with his team. Sponsored by ADCNJ members, The Gruskin Group, for the third year in a row, the Charrette pitted ten teams composed of ten students, who design a retail environment, a product identity program, a multi-channel marketing campaign and product packaging with the guidance of a mentor from one of the cited industries.

Students present early ideas for approval from their team mentor, Jay Beispiel

This year, the product was a customizable sneaker, made on-demand, and the students had to create this experience for the consumer based on their own experiences.

ADCNJ Communications Chair and Gruskin Group Creative Director, Jeff Barcan advises students in their teams presentation.

Teams were given three-hours to develop and lay-out their ideas onto large presentation boards and then make a personal presentation to the crowd. Competitors learned the value of working as a team and the real-life deadline pressure to create a unified pitch, an invaluable skill that is not usually taught as part of the college curriculum of graphic design.

Ken Gruskin and John Weiman, center, discuss strategies for getting student presentations to be dynamic.

Join me as I interview the sponsors, mentors and students to delve into what we call creativity and how it can be wielded in many forms. And, of course, which team was judged the best.

Art Directors Paul Pullara and John Onushak discuss student work with Suzanne Giovanetti as they provide ratings.

Springtime is when all of the county colleges round up all of their creative artists and photographers and present their work.

This year, I joined a group of art directors at the County College of Morris to view the graphic design department’s student portfolio show.

The coordinator of the graphic design department is internationally recognized packaging designer, Steve Longo.

Eighteen of his students submitted their work for display in the CCM library’s gallery, where we would be able to experience the graphic design capabilities of these two-year students and the intense program they were graduating from.

A rubric, created by the college to help assess the quality of the student work being rated by ADCNJ members as well as other professional creative designers in attendance, just scratched the surface, as we, as a group, were impressed that the level of critical thinking and execution was way beyond what a normal two-year student’s work usually is.

ADCNJ member and package design professional, James Smith contemplates his score.

Attendees numbered around two hundred fifty and the food quickly ran out as students from other departments, parents, professors and industry professionals all professed a positive reaction to most of the work displayed and congratulated the graduating students on their accomplishments.

I managed to interview Professor Longo and a few of the other professional as well as other attendees to find out how the show affected them and to wring some advice from them for the graduating students trying to enter our industry.

Next year should be even more exciting as CCM launches NJ’s first two-year package design program and those students submit their work for this review.

Nicole Bucherer stands by her creative designs.

Creative people are always cooking up unique ways to launch their clients’ products and when it comes to launching their own, they take every opportunity to get the word out. This year, at the annual NJ Marcom Holiday Party at Mayfair Farms, member’s manned the ADCNJ sponsor’s table during the unveiling of the club’s new logo.

Designed by the ADCNJ Design Committee members, the new logo re-positions and re-affirms the design association’s leadership position within NJ’s creative community.  With over 230 party goers from all parts of the NJ communications industry in attendance, the club also launched it’s 2011 Call for Entries, designed by this years sponsor, Echo Torre Lazur. The “Call” is considered the single most critical marketing element for the ADCNJ’s Annual Awards Show because it becomes the theme of the show. Videos of past shows, also held at The Birchwood Manor can be seen on the club’s new website, developed by the ADCNJ Communications Committee.

The ADCNJ Annual Awards Show presents NJ’s creative community with its highest awards for achievement, because it is judged by leaders in their respective fields. With 173 categories in this year’s “call,” the opportunities for NJ based photographers, illustrators, printers and Art Directors to have their creative worked judged by experts and to win an award from such a prestigious group, gives these “Creatives” the validation they need to not only know their work is well executed, but that going up against some of the biggest agencies, their work is superior. This year’s call can be downloaded from the ADCNJ.ORG site.

ADCNJ unveils new look in a pop up banner printed by Newark Trade.

ADCNJ launches its "Call" at MARCOM event as Robert Ryan and Ken Riola engage party goers.

When the NY Art Directors have an event, it pays to go. I joined ad agency icon Ron Travisano (who was kind enough to drive into NY), Bernie Zlotnick, (another industry pertinent Art Director) who currently is teaching the newbies how it’s done, and my “brother” Steve Longo, one of the top corporate identity and packaging designers, now heading up County College of Morris’ graphic design department, as they foraged into Manhattan on their way to Carnival. The NYADC owns this nifty building on West 29th and they have a large gallery space that the ADCNJ used for their judging back in April. On Thursday, Oct 27th, the NYADC produced this mini-trade show event where photographers and illustrators presented their services to attendees. And, in keeping with the Halloween time frame, they invited some very special performers. The show was to begin at 6pm and we had a few hours to kill so it was decided we would have a late lunch at Kun Gan San on 32nd.
If you want to see Ron Travisano eat mandoo and pajun, click here.

Ron Travisano and Bernie Zlotnick pick at Korean eel and beef.

Part of the Carnival Freak Show performs for attendees.

Half android and hula wrangler perform at the NYADC Carnival.

After this amusing repast we meandered over to the Carnival and stayed for about an hour.  If you want to see the video,

click here.

Getting out of Manhattan at 7pm proved to be an ordeal, but to reward us, Ron stopped at Holsten’s in Bloomfield for ice cream sodas. Holsten’s is world famous not only for their home made chocolates and ice cream but for the fact that the Soprano’s taped their last show in one of the booths. I had the best ice cream soda and Ron, Bernie and Steve had theirs.

See video here.
Turned out to be a wonderful day.

Jenna Smith, President of ADCNJ introduces Eric Ottaway from Brooklyn Brewery

Montclair, NJ
September’s ADCNJ event originally featured Eric Ottaway from Brooklyn Brewery and his Agency Creative head. At the last minute Eric’s agency co presenter got sick and industry recognized illustrator, Joe Zeff was drafted and shared some of his experiences in learning and developing interactive social iPad applications for his many clients. I got a chance to ask Joe and Eric a few questions. You can see video excerpts from the event here:]]

Some of the attendees were kind enough to share their advice with students wishing to enter our industry. Terrence Pranses, a market research expert, who donated a door prize as well, shared his insight in securing a job in this competitive market. View the video interview here:]

Lisa Greebel, a long-time member who I remember from meetings held at L’Affair, returned to the work force at AJ Images and was very active in supporting the ADCNJ was nice enough to share her time with me. Find out what she learned here:]

Brooklyn Brewery produces several brands and Eric Ottaway divulged some of the successful methods he has experienced during the branding of his company’s products, including Black Ops, a revered brew made by a few employees. You can catch the interview here:]

Jeff Barcan and Keith Smerak display their wares

Our intrepid ADCNJ Design Committee was behind the bar, serving up Brooklyn ale, pilsner and lager along with other libations. I managed to ask Keith Smerak a question. You can view the video here:]

Join us at our next event. Stay informed about new trends and technologies that will help you do your work better.  Join the ADCNJ. Go to and download an app now.

Whippany, NJ

With 138 Winners, this years ADCNJ Annual Awards Show was one of the largest in the history of the club. Normally, most awards shows are simply reading from a text, calling up the winners and are considered dull, but this year, our favorite comedian, Sarge, provided the spark and humor necessary to elevate our show to “memorable.”  Harvey Hirsch, this year’s Show Chair and 2009 recipient of the Lew Kraut Award presented this year’s award to Rose Gonnella of Kean College.

Rose Gonnella accepts this year's Lew Kraut Award

Sarge reprises his role as Emcee, bringing the attendees and winners his unique brand of comedy.

With over 115 categories, Judges viewed over 478 entries to select the medal winners.  Attendees were also feted with the Birchwood Manor’s delicious cuisine and, what is becoming a tradition at our shows, the raw bar, loaded with lobster tails.


Kean College, which won 7 medals for work created was also represented by their students who swept the Scholarship Awards and alumni.

Kean College alumni join Kean scholarship winners.

Media Mix, a sponsor of our show, provided full video coverage and this year, Bob Suede provided music and mobile video for the many interviews performed by Sarge and Harvey.

Sarge interviews Neil Nathanson, who provided 3D images from the new ADCNJ 3D Photo Gallery.This year's show also had 3 new categories: Best in Print, Best in Digital and Best in Pharma, as well as the Best in Show.

Torre Lazur swept this event by taking Best in Print, Best in Pharm and Best in Show

This year, the ADCNJ started a tricky tray to raise more money for our educational activities.

Linda Lemos sells tickets for our tricky tray prizes.

Tricky Tray donations

Tricky Tray donations helped raise funds for ADCNJ Educational events.

Scholarships were offered by Smith Design for students majoring in package design, and by Nicklefish, for students involved in internet and website design.

Packaging Design Scholarship winners: Sandra Hogue, CNJ, Travis Poulsen, Kean, James Smith and Lindsay Ribe, CNJ.

An abbreviated video of this year’s show can be viewed here:

The ADCNJ wishes to acknowledge the following individuals and companies for their volunteering and support in producing this year’s show:

Neil Nathanson for bringing all of the wonderful 3D for the show and our new blog,  Richard Albeen, for assisting in developing concepts, providing copy and editing,  Keith Smerak, for all of the graphic work he and his team provided for the Call for Entries, certificates, awards, hang tags and placemat, Jeff Barcan and his team for all of the web page updates and email blasts, Joe Vargas and Chris Sebes of Media Mix for the lights, video, editing and video production facilities, Perry Mann and Shane Foubert of Mann & Co for providing the data merging and printing of our Call for Entries, Tony Costanzo and MindFire for providing the programming and email tracking support, Pat Hanley and her management team for making this whole show run smooth, Nancy Fisher for getting the judges to come out and judge our show, Laraine Blauvelt, for all of her time and diligence in keeping the other volunteers on schedule, Linda Lemos for making calls to get advertisers in our book, Robert Ryan for his constant support of our organization and this show,  Ken Riola for designing and constructing the centerpieces, Bob Suede for providing the music and mobile video, Frank Peluso for his constant photographic support, Jenna Smith and our current Board of Directors, and most of all, Sarge who left the comfort of his Florida life to make our event so wonderful and memorable, again. The ADCNJ is indebted to you all.

The Creative Group, one of our sponsors, specializes in finding creative staffing.

The Creative Group, staffing consultants, helped support our event.