Alumni portfolios

  • Node A: Duffy

Aaron Duffy


Aaron Duffy is a partner and creative director at 1stAveMachine and co-founder of SpecialGuest, both of which specialize in visual storytelling.

Duffy grew up in Cos Cob, CT, where his interest in art was encouraged by his parents and his teachers at Brunswick School. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications/Illustration from Washington University in 2006, Duffy spent two months as an artist in residence in Paris as part of the John T. Milliken Foreign Travel Scholarship. In 2007, he moved to New York and joined 1stAveMachine, which partners with ad agencies and brands to create video, digital, and experiential content across media platforms. Soon after, he helped create the company’s “alter-ego,” SpecialGuest, a mixed media animation studio.

It is Duffy’s working belief that viewers are not puppets that need to be pulled at the strings; they should be “given a chance to shock themselves with the static built up by the friction in their own head.” Experiments with both concept and technique are central to his process, as is collaboration.

Duffy has received numerous awards as a film and animation director, including first place at the Stuttgart International Trickfilm Festival, and bronze, silver, and gold at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for his work for Audi and Google. His work has been inducted into MoMA’s archive for The Art and Technique of the American Commercial, and been shown during a commercial break for Super Bowl XLIV in 2010 and at the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase at Cannes Lions. In 2011, Duffy was selected for the Art Directors Club Young Guns award and featured in AdAge as one of the top 10 commercial directors in the “Creativity Awards Report 2011.”