Posted October 21, 2020

One of a kind Owls hand picked by ONE School

Oriel Davis-Lyons, Spotify creative director and founder of ONE School, selected two Owls for a free, 16-week portfolio program for Black creatives. 

Tarahgee Morris and Jamal Parker

ONE School is unlike any other portfolio school. A portfolio school provides its students with a space to develop creative work for the purpose of applying for a position at an advertising or creative agency, and ONE School’s original approach offers a blueprint for similar programs to come.

Branching from The One Club, an international nonprofit creative program, ONE School is a gateway into the advertising industry for Black creatives. This comes in response to the high-cost barrier posed by most portfolio schools, disproportionately limiting opportunities for Black, Indigenous and people of color.

Oriel Davis-Lyons, Spotify creative director and founder of ONE School, reflected on his own experience navigating the advertising industry and portfolio school programs. Costs of tuition were too high—costing upwards of $40,000 a year—and the path to success seemed to only be navigable by those with economic and racial privilege.

To begin closing this gap, Davis-Lyons founded ONE school, a space where Black creative professionals connect along the east coast to collaborate and produce portfolio-worthy work. The entire program, as rendered by Davis-Lyons, is unapologetically Black from start to finish.

Jamal Parker, CLA ’19, and Tarahgee Morris, Class of 2021, a senior advertising major at Klein College of Media and Communication, are two of the 15 individuals selected for ONE School’s opening class. 

Like the program itself, the application process is one of a kind. As part of that process, applicants were asked to develop a campaign to increase voter turnout through mail-in ballots among Gen Z.

“I generated research on Gen Z and realized although they make up 30% of the U.S. population, only 4% represented voter turnout engagement in the 2018 midterm election,” said Morris, a creative visionary who as a student completed graphic design internships with Temple’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership (IDEAL) and Karma Agency in Philadelphia.

According to Parker, the Gen Z voter initiative proved to be creatively challenging. “Honestly, I worked the whole week on that pitch deck. It was a lot of coffee and late nights,” said Parker, a writer and performance artist who spoke at TEDxPhiladelphia last year

After conducting preliminary research, Parker proposed ideas like Giphy voter-themed stickers on Instagram and pop-ads on Spotify and Uber to target Gen Z voters. 

“Technically they asked for one idea, but I threw in around 10,” he added.

But hard work paid off, as Morris and Parker earned admission to ONE School’s robust, 16-week portfolio program. 

“Typically these portfolio programs are two years long, like in Miami and New York schools. Not to mention the cost,” said Parker. “Condense that to 16 weeks, it’ll be hard work. But we’re going to get into the nitty gritty of it all, and that’s something I’m looking forward to.” 

The program’s student body meets twice a week. Tuesday is a lecture night, dedicated to conversations with the top Black creatives in the entertainment industry, while Thursdays are devoted to assignment instruction and execution.

“We’re hearing from the likes of professionals from Burger King, Apple, RGA, Droga5, Adobe, and they are all well-known Black creatives in the industry. They come to lecture us on various topics in advertisement, like product design or mobile campaigning,” said Morris. 

“These are people who not only advocate for our success, but who have been in our shoes and are actively creating paths for us,” he added.

“And there’s an ample amount of creative flexibility, given our diverse areas of interest,” Parker said. “Artists in the program come from a multitude of backgrounds. I’m a performance writer, some are music video shooters, some of us are journalists, and some of us are still students.”

Traditionally, advertising campaigns require multiple positions representing specific areas of expertise. Yet, these illustrious Owls are taking on numerous roles. And they aren’t sticking to one medium either.

“It’s guerilla marketing tactics, it’s social, it’s digital media, it’s paid PR, it’s film. We’re doing the whole nine yards,” Morris said. 

“In the advertising industry, I don’t want to have a seat at the table. Marginalized groups live our lives saying, ‘Well, we need to have a seat at the table,’ but even if you have a seat, there are still singular voices being heard. And that isn’t enough,” Morris continued. 

“I think it’s time for us to create new tables. ONE School has begun this process, creating a new table for Black creatives in the advertising industry. My ambition is to one day do the same thing and give back to my community.”

ONE School is setting the stage for industries across the country. As the program combats systemic barriers and closes discriminatory gaps that permeate in industries across our nation, ONE School, with two Owls on its first roster, is on its way to creating a more inclusive future. 

—Nick Eiser