Gavin Halm


Adjunct Faculty, Advertising and Design
The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University

Gavin Halm

A positive, critical support system is key to grooming balanced, creative human beings. Gavin Halm , Adjunct Faculty, Advertising and Design , The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

Having been a classical musician as a small child through young adulthood, the notion of there being a “destiny” to being either a creative or non-creative person doesn’t make sense to me. What I mean here is similar to what the great Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges said about growing up in a household that spoke multiple languages: “I never thought of it as speaking a different language, just a different way of speaking (to a particular family member).”

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran’s sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the

For my Interactive Advertising course, I mimic some of the processes we go through at the virtual reality studio where I work, in the Los Angeles area, creating VR and mobile-VR experiences for the entertainment industry. First, we watch a Hollywood film, analyze it to pieces, gather together all of the existing marketing materials we can find—this makes the design part of the project easier, as often one must work with a preexisting graphical look-and-feel from the studios—absorb this advertising already created, and then get to work conceptualizing any kind of interactive project one can think of. 

Sometimes students come up with an interactive installation idea, to be placed at Universal Studios, for instance. Other students create a mobile app related to the film. Some create fully integrated marketing plans that weave traditional real-life pieces, such as billboards, with an app or mobile-VR experience. The medium may be the message nowadays, but the message will always need a good idea to program it, and thus allow it to operate successfully. 

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

For some of the courses I teach, I turn the environment into a small design shop or in-house department, in a sense, with myself acting as Creative Director, analyzing, evaluating, and critiquing the various Design Teams’ work. I perform as a mentor to guide the work and keep it on message in a supportive but firm manner, much like one would hope to experience in the real world. Though one often hears about creative leaders ruling their teams with an iron fist—think Don Draper from Mad Men—my experience has been somewhere in the middle and I thus feel, especially for junior creatives, a positive, critical support system is key to grooming balanced, creative human beings. Uneven tough love is as detrimental to the creative process as is sugar coating something. 
For my copywriting courses, I create hybridized learning environments that mesh both traditional creative writing—poetry, short stories—with industry-specific media—blogging, Twitter posts, tag lines, and even memes. The goal is, first and foremost, to approach this form of writing as a creative process like any other, including the visual. Many of my students express great joy in writing.

What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

Collaboration is key in advertising, and I emphasize this constantly. For instance, when I worked on broadcast television commercials, a team would consist of an art director, a copywriter, a film director, a film production team, a film editor, a motion graphics animator, a producer, an account executive, a media planner, and the client. So, right away, one can see that in order to create such expensive media, one is part of a huge team from the get-go. There’s no way around it! And, everyone is important, otherwise nothing would ever get produced successfully.

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

One of the most interesting things I found in advertising were people that placed too much personal emotion into their work projects. Sure, one must fight for a good idea or design in the face of all sorts of obstacles, but in the end, you’re creating things that the client needs. It’s their baby, not yours. My advice to young creatives who work under me, that tend to take rejection from a client personally, is that if they want real self-satisfaction with creative projects, have an outlet during your personal time. Write short stories or poems outside of work, or take photos, or dance.