Students Stuff


Brand Hack was back in person this fall for a fun-filled morning of branding excitement last week. 

The student event was held by AAF Buffalo at Daemen College and was free for AAF student members. This year’s featured organization was Candles in the S.U.N., a local nonprofit that uplifts the Buffalo community through extra curricular youth activities, mentorship and donation drives.

The morning kicked off with some branding 101 tips and a creative briefing from AAF: Buffalo’s Education Committee Chair, Noah Herman, along with opening remarks from Dakarai Singletary, Head of Candles in the S.U.N.. Armed with ideas and their pencils, students took to their sketchbooks alongside the Pros. Art Directors from Crowley Webb, Gelia and Renoun Creative collaborated with students on logo concepts for the organization. Students benefited from getting an inside look at the brainstorming process from professionals in the advertising field. Distilling the best concepts, incorporating type and color were the finishing touches as the clock ticked ever closer to the finish line. 

After the students finished their work, they presented their concepts to Dakarai, walking him through each component of their work. Dakarai raved about each concept, finding something of worth from each piece. For example, he loved Coolt McAndrew’s logo, which he felt would make a great piece for the company’s youth sports jerseys. Karion Carter’s graphics would be great for donation drives, and Katelynn Stechsor’s badge logo made him think of ways to implement this idea onto t-shirts.

Ultimately, Emma Lonnen’s logo was the winning concept to be chosen by Dakarai to move forward with for the company’s logo rebrand. Dakarai felt Emma’s concept successfully took Candles in the S.U.N. s original logo to the next level without changing directions. 

Congratulations Emma and students for completing this year’s edition of the Brand Hack! We are looking forward to seeing you again at next month’s Portfolio Seminar. Stay tuned for details!

Events Students


The second virtual Student Portfolio event was a total success! Thanks again to our wonderful professional volunteers and student participants for your patience and for dedicating the time to make this event happen.

Although many of AAF Buffalo’s events have taken a virtual spin, that has not stopped us from providing support and resources to our student network in the most important time of their life – exiting college and entering the professional world.

The 2021 Student Portfolio review was conducted through Zoom Breakout Rooms. Registered students had fifteen minutes with each professional where they had the opportunity to share their work, ask questions, and network.

Similar to last year, each Breakout Room nominated a student portfolio of their choice and selected students received a cash prize. Many colleges and universities were represented including Rochester Institute of Technology, Villa Maria College, Daemen College, and Buffalo State College. Congratulations to all the winners:


Henny Zack, Villa Maria College

Laurie McMurray, Buffalo State College 

Kelsey Sikora, Villa Maria College

Zachary Nosbisch, Daemen College


Thanks again to everyone who participated. We look forward to the 2022 event, hopefully, it can be in person!

Events Students


Each year, AAF Buffalo hosts a scholarship competition honoring the late Buffalo great, Don Nichols. Don Nichols began teaching at the Albright Art School. He founded its Graphic Design Program in 1950 and brought it to UB where, until his death on July 7, 1987, he served as the program’s head and an extraordinarily dedicated teacher. He educated hundreds of graphic designers, a number of whom attained national prominence. Nichols received the Osborn Award for Creative Excellence from the Art Directors/ Communicators of Buffalo and the Chancellor’s Award  for Teaching from UB in 1982.

The scholarship competition was open to all Western New York undergraduates in design, writing, communications, illustration, photography, and fine arts. This year’s theme had students reimagine their take on the year 2020. Entries were judged by a panel of professionals from Crowley Webb. And the results are in.

Please join us in congratulation this year’s winners!



People can say “don’t judge a book by its cover” as much as they want, but that phrase will never apply to the job market. Appearance is everything and an interview is essentially a judgement day, so applicants want to be sure their portfolios are as refined as possible. AAF Buffalo hosted a Portfolio Seminar virtual this year, with three speakers to provide insight to college design students on how to best prepare for entering the job market.

Maggie Blaisdell AAF Buffalo 2019 Portfolio Winner and a Graphic Designer at RIT; Noah Herman a Graphic Designer at Gelia; and Dave Riley, Creative Director at The Martin Group sat on the panel for this year’s Seminar. AAF Buffalo’s Board Member Cody Andres, Graphic Designer at The Martin Group hosted the event, sharing his own insight, as well, during the Q&A session.

Maggie Blaisdell, 2019 Portfolio Winner; Graphic Designer at RIT
Blaisdell began the Seminar, focusing on the best formatting of a portfolio and suggesting the best pieces to highlight in an interview, estimating around 6-10 of the applicant’s best examples of work. Adding variety to these pieces is best, selecting examples from different genres to reflect the range of skills.

To further reflect skill level, highlighting just a couple of these pieces to show the timeline and the progression will portray brainstorming and creativity, workflow and the skills in each step; such as illustration and sketching, problem solving, etc. When doing a storytelling approach on a piece, it is important to not show every step, but rather just a few of the checkpoints that reflect key skills. Furthermore, showing the finished product first before going into the steps to reach completion is crucial; that way, the applicant can be sure the interviewer(s) will see the finished product.

Noah Herman, Graphic Designer at Gelia
Herman encourages students to have their work speak for itself. He reminds students to embrace white space and to avoid their designs being influenced by surrounding noise. Their pieces can be a reflection of not only their skill levels, but also their creativity and personality.
“Don’t live on a static definition of yourself,” Herman said during his session.

In order to be as efficient as possible, he recommends students updating their portfolios periodically to avoid it being a bigger task leading up to an interview. For students to truly make a memorable impression, he suggests paying for the domain for their portfolio to avoid the added text in the URL, and to go into each interview with enthusiasm and confidence, as that will shine through in their work, as well.

Dave Riley, Creative Director at The Martin Group
In addition to showcasing a collection of design pieces, Riley says to list two to three references on a resume with their portfolio. He also suggests for a cover letter to reflect as much personality as the design pieces themselves. The letter is an outlet to showcase an individual’s brand.

Students should do interview prep leading up to their appointment time, including a list of questions, printing out copies of the cover letter, resume and pieces of the portfolio. He believes self-promotion pieces are equally as important, as well; showcasing the designer’s creativity, individuality, and complete skill set. Brand is important as an individual when it comes to design work.

Key Takeaways:

  • Include 6-10 pieces in portfolio, with a select few showcasing the design process
  • Add 2-3 professional references in the resume
  • Prioritize the cover letter as much as the portfolio to reflect your brand
  • Buy the domain for chosen portfolio site
  • Be confident, enthusiastic, and most importantly, yourself.

Be sure to check in with AAF Buffalo in the spring for the Portfolio Review, the second part of the design portfolio series.

Events Students


Many thanks to the pro volunteers and students who participated in AAF Buffalo’s first attempt at an online Portfolio Review Day for area creative students. As the leading advertising professional organization in WNY, it is part of our mission to support future creatives, especially during an uncertain time. We put our heads together after COVID-19 forced us to cancel the physical Portfolio Review. After some planning, the day ended up being a success thanks to pro volunteers and Zoom Breakout Rooms. Students who registered in advance participated in several twenty minute interviews, where they had the opportunity to chat, ask questions, and share their work. Many colleges and universities were represented including Rochester Institute of Technology, University at Buffalo, St. Bonaventure, Villa Maria College, Daemen College, and Buffalo State College.

In order to offer opportunity to win an award to a wider range of students during such an uncertain time, we decided to give each Breakout Room one vote towards a standout student portfolio of their choice to receive a cash prize. Several students were awarded more than one vote. Congratulations to students who won kudos from the professional volunteers:

Crista Sukennik, Communication Design, Buffalo State College
Junyan Chen, Studio Art with Graphic Design Concentration, University at Buffalo
Lindsay Neilson, Graphic Design, Villa Maria College
Deztinhy Di Meo, Graphic Design, RIT
Maggie Blaisdell, Graphic Design, RIT

We look forward to hosting this important event for years to come, and will continue to grow and evolve it in an effort to best serve future creative professionals with an effort to make it fun and beneficial for pros as well. We truly appreciate the time, professionalism, and dedication of the pros and students who were involved with this event. See ya in 2021!



Recap: Don Nichols 2020

For this year’s competition, students were asked to submit work of a reimagined movie poster or trailer. 

The scholarship competition was open to all Western New York undergraduates in design, writing, communications, illustration, photography, and fine arts. Entries were judged by a panel of professionals from Crowley Webb. And the results are in.

Congratulations to this year’s winners:

$600 First Prize: Bird Box: Kelsey Sikora – Villa Maria College

$400 Second Prize: Psycho Trailer: Jennifer Myers – Daemen College

$250 Third Prize: Joker: Zach Huber – Villa Maria College

Honorable Mentions:

Midsommar: Colt McAndrew – Villa Maria College

Black Hawk Down: Jonathan Murtha – Villa Maria College


About the Don Nichols Scholarship

Don Nichols began teaching at the Albright Art School. He founded its Graphic Design Program in 1950 and brought it to the University at Buffalo where, until his death on July 7, 1987, he served as the program’s head and an extraordinarily dedicated teacher. He educated hundreds of graphic designers, a number of whom attained national prominence. Nichols received the Osborn Award for Creative Excellence from the Art Directors/ Communicators of Buffalo and the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching from UB in 1982.

Announcements Blog Events Latest News Speaker Series Students

A Message from the President on Covid-19

Hi Members, 

By now, it seems like you’ve received this email hundreds of times. From your favorite store. From your airline of choice. From that one startup you met at SXSW six years ago. 

While this one will detail much of the same — cancelations, diligence, and caution — my hope is it will also be a bit more personal, as our extremely close-knit community we know and love is being directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic here in Western New York. 

We’ve been monitoring the pandemic as it continues to unfold, and makes its way into our beloved community. In doing so, we made the decision to cancel all our events scheduled in April, both professional and student. 

For pros, this includes our third Spotlight Speaker of the year, Liz Jackson, who was scheduled to join us on April 2nd. It also includes a brand new event that we were ecstatic about, Laugh Ad Loud, which was planned for April 23rd. 

For students, Portfolio Review scheduled for April 18th is canceled. In brighter news, our Don Nichols scholarship competition remains as scheduled with entries due March 27th, however, all entries are to be submitted digitally only rather than dropped off at Crowley Webb. Students, if you have questions, we encourage you to reach out to your school’s ambassador or to us directly at

All those who purchased tickets for the events detailed here will be issued a full refund. For those with the Spotlight Speaker Series Pass, we hope to reschedule Liz’s talk, where we will honor your series pass. If that’s not possible, we will address more robust reimbursement options at that time. 

In the meantime, we are exploring creative ways to possibly bring one or more of these events to life digitally. More info will follow in the coming weeks. 

We’re continuing to closely monitor this global event as it directly impacts our community, as we expect each of you surely are as well. 

More updates will certainly follow. Until then, we urge all members of our community, in advertising and beyond, to work from home if at all possible, be diligent about social distancing, and responsibly support local businesses to the best of your ability.

On behalf of our entire advertising community, I want to thank you for your continued support of what we do. Our hearts go out to all those affected by this pandemic. We look forward to reconvening at a happy hour on the other side of this.

Josh Gumulak
President, AAF Buffalo

Blog Students

BrandHack 2020: Family Promise of Western New York

The fifth installment of our BrandHack event featured a local non-profit looking for a new postcard, brochure, and social media campaign to generate awareness for their organization. Family promise of Western New York is an emergency shelter for homeless families. They help families experiencing homeless stay together during tough times. This event was hosted at Daemen College in Amherst, New York.

Five teams of students from Daemen College, Buffalo State College, Villa Mariam and Hilbert College were tasked with creating these final deliverables. Leading the teams were seasoned professionals from the area – Samantha Lonczak from Fifteen, Caroline Jette from Delaware North, Andrea LoPiccolo from Fifteen, Holly Norris from White Bicycle, and Cody Andrees from the martin group. These designers and art directors provided guidance and advice for the teams from brainstorming and development through execution.

The format remained the same from 2019. Teams had five hours to organize and create their ideas before pitching them to our two judges, as well as the representatives from Family Promise of Western New York.

Our professional judge for this year’s event, President and CEO of Luminis Tim Bouchard,  offered his expertise throughout the event, and made sure the teams were on track and accomplishing what they had to on the tight deadline. While representing Family Promise of Western New York, Annalyse Paulsen provided the students with valuable information as to the various needs of FPWNY, as well as their process for working with various individuals.

Each team beat the clock and produced some well-executed, unique work along the way. Congrats to all the students and captains for producing another great event!

WINNER: Hilbert College captained by Holly Norris
Check out the work!

Events Students

RECAP: Portfolio Series Part 1

Portfolio Series Part 1: Pro Panel Success. Several students and local pros spent their Saturday morning chatting about design, careers, and portfolio building on October 26th, 2019.

The annual AAF Pro Panel featured a diverse group of panelists this year, where they shared their stories and dropped their knowledge from both a student and professional perspective.

Tim Staszak, veteran designer at Block Club shared some of the awesome branding work he’s done during his career for local greats such as Big Ditch and Swan Street Diner. He shared a ton of practical advice, including knowing how to build a mechanical file (Not sure what that is? Ask your professor or design mentor to teach you).

Holly Norris, designer at White Bicycle showed us all to embrace our paths and oddities, because they make for interesting skills and memorable interviews. Fun Fact: Holly started her career as an obituary proofreader, and noted how the weird job made a mark with interviewers, and knowing how to proofread has made her a better designer. If you see her out in the wild, ask to see the portfolio book she designed to get the job she landed; it’s glorious.

We were thrilled to see a fully digital portfolio shared by 2019 portfolio review scholarship winner, Andrea LoPiccolo  Her previous motion design degree shows in the beautifully designed motion page on her website. She shared all kinds of tips and thoughts for how students might land an internship, job, or win the portfolio review. And shameless pat on our back: she said that AAF changed her life because of the connections she has made. Just sayin’… get your student membership here.

Many thanks to all who attended, it was a morning well-spent and we are grateful for the panel who took the time to share insights, as well as the students who committed their morning to furthering their design skills.

Events Students

Fall Student Agency Tour

On September 28, 2019, AAF Buffalo hosted its fall agency tour. Nearly 25 college students joined us as we strolled up Main Street visiting some of the top advertising agencies in the heart of downtown Buffalo.

Students learned about how agency departments work together to create high-impact campaigns, agency processes, and they picked the brains of some of Buffalo’s top talent. Not to mention, the weather couldn’t be better. 

The first stop was Crowley Webb led by Matt Lowe. Matt gave students a tour of Crowley’s newly renovated office space, a walk-through of their departments, and provided students with insight on getting started in the advertising industry. 

From Crowley Webb, this group of students made the trip across Main Street to Luminus. Tim Bouchard, former AAF Buffalo President, gave students a tour of the Luminus office. This was followed by an overview of the company’s history, their process for working with clients, and ended with showcasing a recent multifaceted campaign.

After Luminus came Mower. Sarah Neundorfer, Creative Director at Mower, led students on a tour through their beautiful office on the 13th floor with some great views of downtown Buffalo. Sarah provided insight into how their agency works with clients and between multiple Mower offices. Students asked questions on various aspects of advertising.  

Afterwards, students made their way to The Martin Group. This tour, led by Caitlin Higman, allowed students to see the various areas of Martin’s historic office building. As students ventured through three floors of historic greatness, they were able to see how different departments in their agency worked together to complete client work. 

Then, the short walk was made to dPost. Andy Donovan and Shannon Silva took students through dPost and dStudio. While viewing dPost, students had the chance to see the final touches being added to a 3D video for a client. In dStudio, students had the chance to see what a professional video production is made of and how various set pieces can be created within their space. 

The tour concluded at Block Club, which is just a stone’s throw away from dPost. Brian, co-founder of Block Club, talked about how the agency and Oxford Pennant were started and a bit of their journey to where they are today. Students toured toured through both offices and it ended with some Q&A at the Oxford Pennant storefront.  

The students were happy to participate in this event. They gained a lot of knowledge (and connections) from within the agencies and some even had the opportunity to turn in some resumes for future opportunities!