Rising to the top

Jayanta Jenkins (BFA ’94) always wanted to be a creative problem solver, to manage the nuts and bolts of a commercial art space. Since earning his degree in fashion design at VCUarts, Jenkins has undertaken an industry-defying journey. His résumé is a tour de force, a who’s-who of the most eminent consumer brands of the 21st century: Apple, Beats by Dre, Nike, Gatorade and Powerade. Then, in 2016, he landed the highest creative role at Twitter.

When he became the social media company’s first-ever Global Group Creative Director, he told AdAge, “It’s an extremely exciting opportunity to go from a successful advertising career into a new type of leadership role. … For me, this was exclusively about challenging myself and looking to do something that completely disrupted my approach.”

Jenkins’ steady rise to Twitter all began at VCUarts. That’s where he took an advertising class with Jerry Torchia, who was also a creative director at the Martin Agency. Torchia was instrumental in setting the young fashion student on his career path. In 1996, just two years after graduating, Jenkins took his first job at the Martin Agency, where he worked for several years as an art director before taking a job with famed Portland ad agency Wieden+Kennedy.

Working at W+K—what Jenkins calls the “mecca of advertising,” with clients including Nike, Samsung, Coca-Cola and Airbnb—opened up his ideas of what was possible. After more than a decade working exclusively with agencies—including a seven-year stint with TBWA\Chiat\Day—Jenkins was eager to expand his oeuvre. Building off of his award-winning portfolio, he rose to Apple as the Global Creative Director of Advertising for the Beats by Dre brand, and finally joined Twitter.

Jenkins worked closely with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to shape the platform’s brand presence and persona. Last year, Twitter won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the biggest ad festival in the world, for an out-of-home campaign Jenkins directed for the 2016 election season.

Through it all, Jenkins says that it was VCUarts that helped him resist looking at himself as an “other,” and instead as someone who could contribute to any creative sector and project.

“Being from the South and being an African-American, what I took away from my time in Richmond was a great sense of self,” Jenkins said in an interview with Richmond Magazine. “Richmond was a great place to create a strong identity, and that became my anchor to look at the world in an interesting way.”

Date:

December 18, 2018