5 Questions for Jean-Francois LeBlanc

I met Jean-Francois LeBlanc during the Cannes International Advertising Festival last summer. He currently works for Bleublancrouge, an agency in Montréal—he has won a number of awards and done work for many well-known clients, including Coca-Cola, Toyota, Burger King, Home Depot and Bauer/Nike, among others. So naturally, I thought he would have some good advice to offer those of us who are just getting started in our careers. I sent along 5 questions to JF, and I found his answers to be incredibly interesting and entertaining. I hope you enjoy as much as I did. 1. What was your first "real" job out of school? Well!...my first job after college...hum? It was a long time ago in a galaxy far away...I was doing some cheap handmade lettering posters with just a brush and One Shot paint for a vegetable store called Le Végétarien in Sherbrooke Quebec. Ouf! At the same time I was doing some graphic work for a silkscreen printing shop in Magog at 7$/h...Nice! But it didn't matter because at night I was the lead singer (Ok I was yelling) of a Speed Metal band called Blaylök and making records, touring, was my ultimate goal. It is not an easy thing to make a career in the Metal industry and I salute you Tom Araya (Slayer rules!). So that's when I decided to go back to school to have a back up plan if the band didn't work out. Exile! Montréal here I come. After four years of Graphic Design at university I tried freelancing. It was perfect for my flexible hours with the band. "Ok sir, when are you gonna send my check, I've got a microphone to buy?" was not for me at all. So six months later I saw a fulltime graphic designer job offer that I was really interested in. This agency was called Desjardins Bibeau inc. with about 35 employees. It was really perfect except for just a small problem... "I'm sorry but we have no more computers available for you," said the creative director. "...and what about I work during the night..." stupidly I said. I really wanted this job. "Good, I'll see you tomorrow," he answered with a smile. "F@ck! What have I done? The band is going to kill me," I said to myself. 2. What was the most important thing you learned in this job? "Hello? Anyone there?" It was kind of freaky to work at night in an empty agency. I was working from 5pm to 2am. "...All by myself...Don't want to be..." was the song I had in mind. That's when I began to understand the true meaning of «responsibility». When you have no one to turn to, you double-check everything, you make decisions on your own, and so you slowly start to build your confidence. That's what this job is all about. Three months later, I was joining the rest of team during daytime. After three years of hard work and the determination to always do great things, I was offered the job of the Creative Director. A year later, the agency split in two and I became partner with Desjardins in our new agency called STATION. So long Blaylök! Design is fun and it pays more! What did I learn: Believe in faith! Never give up! Listen carefully to what people tell you, but do what you feel in your heart. Stay alert and never forget to have fun! Always smile, it's such a great job. 3. What was the hardest part about transitioning into "the real world"? What! Is there a real world? Hardest part in 7 steps:
  • 1) Clients: They have the tendency to say "NO!"
  • 2) Account people: They have the tendency to say "Not on the brief"
  • 3) Producers: They have the tendency to say : "No money"
  • 4) Media buyers: They have the tendency to say : "That's the only format available"
  • 5) The boss: He has the tendency to say : "Do this"
  • 6) The coordinators: They have the tendency to say : "Hurry up!"
  • 7) Yourself: You have the tendency to say : "It everyone else’s fault"
The hardest part is to take time to think, everything is going so fast. Also it's not always easy to work with different people with different minds and point of view. Selling your concepts to everyone is tough. You have to trust your judgment without thinking your God. Some creative have the tendency to do. It's only advertising. 4. When you first started out, where did you picture your professional life taking you? I don't really know, around the world!... Working for Coca-Cola I guess, and so I did, but that's not important. For me it was always about having fun and doing cool stuff, learning, discovering, exploring the different aspect of creativity. 5. How does your present situation compare to this original picture and how did you get there? Well I think it is close and far away at the same time, it changed and it didn't. Like I said before, it was always about seeking new experiences. I could have been a Metal dude, a film maker (witch I'm starting slowly), a painter (which I'm doing as a hobby), a writer or something else; I was and still am looking for something that is related to my imagination. There is always new things to do, and for me you can never «get there» when you have a creative mind...

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