GET TO KNOW KT SCHAEFFER, BRANDCENTER'S NEWEST CREATIVE PROFESSOR
Two of our students sat down to get to know KT Schaeffer (AD ‘01), Creative Professor at Brandcenter. She’s about to complete her first semester teaching Creative Thinking, in addition to being a collector of plants and a cat lover.
Is there a place or time where you get your best ideas?
The best time is early morning. If I get up early it's quiet, and I sit quietly in a room deemed as my “plant room” - full of bright light and good vibes. It’s the perfect place to meditate and reflect on what the day can bring.
But then the rest of my ideas are literally popping into my head while driving in my car. I love to drive, especially long distances. The majority of my career life, I've had long commutes, the longest I had was while living in Long Island, New York. It was almost two-hours both ways, but I got to live three blocks off the beach so it was totally worth it. Driving, listening to music, and just watching things pass by is where I get a lot of inspiration.
What do you do if you get a great idea while you’re driving? How do you remember it?
When I’m driving, I'll pull over and write things down quickly, especially if I'm listening to an audiobook and there's a nugget of an idea or quote that resonated with me. It’s either on my phone in the notes app, or voice memo. But most often it’s written down in one of the multiple notebooks or journals I always have on me. You'll also never find me without a plethora of colored flair pens. Be prepared right?
Let's pretend that you have a sanity closet, filled with all of the things that keep you sane. What's in the closet?
My two cats, Freddy Pickles and Theodore Toulouse, for sure. My mom is a good person to keep me grounded, plus she makes me laugh. Also my assorted cards and stationary collection! I'm a big believer in snail mail and staying connected keeps me happy.
What do you love about teaching?
Everything! And not everything! I asked one of my students the other day how they were doing, and they said, “more importantly how are you doing? This is your first year teaching, how do you think you're doing?” I said, “great, and I've never been happier in my life.” A lot can change in one year and I seriously feel like this is what the universe had planned for me. I am ready to keep meeting the challenges put forth and help Brandcenter continue to grow.
When I was doing the “ad thing” and then working for Anthropologie and Nike, what I loved most about those jobs ended up being about me teaching, training and developing different teams. To this day, I still get letters from some of those teammates sharing accolades--I love that I've sort of built this foundation with them. It's rewarding and I think how cool I get to do it on a bigger scale now at Brandcenter.
In my life I have been exposed to great leaders, and the one thing they had in common was they led by example. I think that's what I strive to do and also teach. To get people inspired and tell them that they can do whatever they put their minds to, but it's going to take hard work. Back-breaking work.
Do you have an inventory of experiences you pull from to help you teach?
Documented? Most of it’s all up in my head. In creating my Creative Thinking class, I pulled as much as possible from my own experiences, and I pulled on what Berwyn and Wayne had done last year. I put myself in the student’s shoes every step of the way.
Every time I think about this class I instantly think, “what's the purpose of this exercise? What's the takeaway?” If I'm doing it right, there should be some purpose to everything. What we're creating is that each student leaves Creative Thinking with a full toolbox - packed with exercises, tricks, and tips so the next two years they can go into that toolbox when they get stuck or need help pushing their ideas a little further.
What I want to do is to make this class realistic. You're paying a lot of money to be at Brandcenter, and I don't want it to be just silly stuff. So I focus on making projects that will help you learn for your life after Brandcenter. When I was in school it was all the applicable learning stuff like “let's just make ads and get it done”. What I hope I am imparting on the students is how to integrate the problem solving skills- that I've either created or learned in my career- to understand how valuable it is to look at something from different perspectives.
If you were to go back in time, and have a conversation with yourself while you were at Brandcenter, what would you say? What would you do-over or experience again?
I would tell myself to not dumb-down my talent or dim my light to "fit in" with my classmates. I think I did a little of that and didn't push myself to the fullest extent of what I could have, to not ruffle any feathers for fear of being singled out as "cocky" or a "know-it-all". I would have also pushed harder on the program so that I could have taken copywriting and strategy classes, which I am sure they would have had no problem with-I just didn't ask.
If I could do it over again now as the Brandcenter is and what it offers? Yes, no hesitation. Would I be freaking out the first day? Hell yes. But I would love every moment of it. If you think about it, I really am getting my second chance to come back another time around.
Special thanks to Rachel Curry, CW '20 (interview) and Emmaline Terry, AD '20 (photo).