Before coming to OCAD, Robert Saxon was co-chair of a graduate program in advertising at Syracuse University.
“Nobody worked as a team,” he says when asked why he left. “Everybody worked as an individual, and that was fine 20 years ago, but the market has changed.”
Saxon is the director and co-creator of the new executive master of design in advertising (EMDes) program at OCAD. The EMDes is unique among advertising master’s programs because it allows students to remain at work while taking classes. Also, unlike most master’s programs, students must have at least four years of on-the-job experience to apply.
The program is based on a simple philosophy: “To be a successful leader in tomorrow’s industry, you need to be more multifaceted and holistic in your approach,” Saxon says.
To that end, students are recruited from varying disciplines in the advertising industry. The original class included a marketing director, research analysts, designers and “company owners who wanted to refresh their thinking,” says Saxon.
“We put those people into teams, and each team was composed of people with different expertise,” he says. “And as a result of working together, they were able to see the perspective of another person they normally wouldn’t be involved with.”
The program consists of three two-week sessions for three consecutive summers, on the OCAD campus; one two-hour class every two weeks, for two consecutive semesters; and what Saxon calls a “strong international component.”
“During the two years students visit six international locations for presentations by agencies they’ve always dreamed of joining,” he says. “Those will be in places like London, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Shanghai.”
Feedback has been excellent. “The students, who are heavy hitters in many cases, really love the program,” says Saxon.