Remember your high school science fair? Tables set up in the gym displayed complex projects like Styrofoam planets hung together with paperclips. From the set-up to the peer interaction, this year’s ADDY Awards Celebration brought to mind such an event, but with the crappy volcanoes replaced with first-rate creative talent. Like the Grammys of the advertising world, the American Advertising Federation’s ADDYs honor the country’s top advertisers. Those who win within their local chapter move on to compete against the 60,000-plus entries from chapters and agencies worldwide.

At the Memminger Auditorium on Saturday night, ADDY Award-winners and their guests filled the hall lined with tables and video screens which displayed visuals from award-winning entrants. Attendees scanned the displays while sipping on drinks and munching on yummy food, like sliders and fries, noodles in Chinese take-out containers, and mac & cheese. Heightening the science-fair vibe, there was an overwhelming feeling of community among the advertising professionals, as if they were classroom peers. “It’s always a treat getting together with all the creatives in Charleston,” said Justin Harris from Rawle Murdy. “It’s nice to see everyone. We are more like one big family.”

While all of the entries were impressive, some applicants stood out among the rest. “Pretty much anything that Hook does is great,” said the College of Charleston Magazine’s creative director, Alfred Hall. “They always kick everyone’s ass.” Meanwhile, Brady Waggoner of Hook admired the ADDY regulars: “I like all the people that usually win, like Gil Shuler, Stitch, Blue Ion, and Fuzzco.”

Waggoner was one of many award winners who cited Shuler as inspiration. Gil Shuler Graphic Design is the agency behind images like the iconic logos of Taco Boy and Poe’s Tavern, countless event posters, brochures, packages and other creative designs. So, what’s Schuler’s secret? “It’s because I’m old,” said Shuler. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years.” Shuler is the youngest “old” designer we’ve ever met, with innovative designs that appeal to all ages. “It’s all about the idea,” he says, “coming up with a good idea and being able to execute it well.” As for the future of this local graphic design mentor, we can expect to continue to see great things. “We’re just getting started on some new innovative projects,” Shuler said. “It’s like I’m 17 again.”

As the celebration winded down, cupcakes came out and attendees hugged and kissed each other farewell. From great food and drinks to even better social interaction, Charleston’s group of fine advertising creatives know how to party.

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