ICAD’s Upstarts programme is a great way for aspiring creatives to gain invaluable experience in Irish agencies and design studios. The numbers on the course are small, with just 12 candidates from Design and Advertising. Places on the programme are won by completing a challenging brief issued by ICAD in June each year. Once on the course, you’re assigned a mentor, who will help you develop your ideas and challenge you to push the standards of your work, the way you develop it and present it. The long list of successful creatives who got their start through the Upstarts programme is testament to its ongoing success.

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Key Dates and Details

June 2016

Call For Applicants

Applications for the 2016 ICAD Upstarts Programme are now invited. There are two streams - advertising and design. You will find the briefs below.

1 July 2016

Applications open

From 1st July, applicants will be able to upload their details, application files and payment to the site.

15 July 2016

Application Deadline

Applications will close in July to be reviewed by leading Irish Creative Directors. Applicants must fill in the online form, upload their application files and submit their application fee (€20) by 15th July, 2016. Applicants will be advised by 17th August whether their application was successful or not.

29 August 2016

Introductory Evening

The Upstarts class of 2016 will kick off with an introductory evening in late August. This event is a great opportunity for new Upstarts to meet each other and those in the industry who will be involved in the programme.

September - October 2016

Upstarts 2016

The Upstarts programme will take place over 6 weeks throughout September and October 2016. As well as attending six workshops and answering six briefs the Upstarts are each assigned a mentor to guide them through the process.

16 November 2016

Upstarts Exhibition

Each year the Upstarts exhibition takes place in November as part of Design Week. The exhibition opening is well attended by leading industry figures and Upstarts are welcome to invite their friends and family. Sweet Treats is the 2016 ICAD Upstarts exhibition and it takes place in the Lighthouse, Smithfield.


Is there an age limit?

No, we welcome applications from anyone looking for an opportunity in creative advertising or design.

How do I upload my application?

Just go to this link

Can I enter as part of a team?

Yes, you can but you need to send 2 application forms and fees

Are scamps ok?

Yes. Whilst there's no doubt that good presentation can be helpful the judges will be looking for good ideas. Scamps are more relevant for the advertising stream than the design stream.

Should I submit one idea or more?

If you have more than one idea please feel free to submit several campaigns / executions as part of your entry but the judges will be looking for quality rather than quantity so this is not obligatory.

Should I submit back up work or a portfolio?

This is entirely up to you. You are free to submit notebooks etc to illustrate your thought process and to submit your portfolio but again, this is not obligatory. Your acceptance on to the Upstarts Programme rests predominantly on your response to the brief but other work might be considered in a tie-break situation.

What file types are acceptable?

Jpegs, mp3s and vimeo links please.

What file sizes are acceptable?

No larger than 5mb.

How do I pay the application fee?

When you upload your application, you'll be brought to a payment link.

Thank You

As we build on the programme year on year, there have been nearly as many mentors and workshop hosts as there have been participants. We are hugely grateful for the energy and commitment our mentors and workshop hosts offer. And perhaps, this commitment is an indicator to just how much value the advertising and design industries place on nurturing fresh creative talent. It is certainly the spirit of collaboration and hard work that is the real key to the programme’s success.