Friday, December 3, 2010

Reactions to the BSU Winter Portfolio Show

Below is a post from Ryan Lascano on his website http://ryanpatricklascano.com/ under the notes section.  This is being reposted here with Ryan's permission to help future students. 
Thanks Ryan!

Every semester the Boise State students in the Portfolio class hold a show to exhibit the most recent graphic design and illustration graduates. Tonight was the winter 2010 show, so my coworker Thomas Walsh and I headed over to check it out.

Every semester the Boise State students in the Portfolio class hold a show to exhibit the most recent graphic design and illustration graduates. Tonight was the winter 2010 show, so my coworker Thomas Walsh and I headed over to check it out.

The show is something I look forward to as a professional, not only to see what work is being done at our local university, but what students are coming out into the market. Supporting emerging designers is something I personally place a great importance on, and believe it’s our responsibility as professionals to support them and help prepare them for life in the real world.
But I have to say, I was somewhat disappointed in this semester’s show, so I’d like to share a few things I experienced and some feedback I have for emerging designers in our community.

Present Your Work, Present Yourself

Portfolio shows like this are tremendously important for students to not only present their work, but to get a taste of the real world and interact with professionals that work in the industry. Showing your book and the projects you’ve done in school is part of it, but a big part is selling yourself. Present your work as if you’re excited about it (and you should be), tell me a little bit about each piece, the concept and the research you did and anything you learned while doing it. This is a demonstration of presentation skills and critical thinking abilities as well as your design skills. If I were in the position to hire a recent grad I want to know they can think about their work, put a concept behind it, and present that idea to me or a client.

Your work should also be relevant. I saw a few books tonight that had some really random work, supposedly self directed pieces that looked more like experiments in Photoshop. That stuff is great, but not when it’s the majority of your book. I want to see that you can do those experiments within the scope of a creative brief and successfully marry it to an ad campaign, an interactive piece or an environment. A good portion of the work you show needs to be relevant to the types of job you want — art for art’s sake won’t get you very far in the client-​​driven design world.

Engage Your Audience

Shows like this present a rare opportunity for young designers to have a few minutes of one-​​on-​​one time with local industry pros. These people are busy, and getting an interview any other way might be more difficult. So when given that opportunity designers need to make the most of it. Introduce yourself to anyone who stops by your booth, talk to them, engage them — don’t talk to your neighbor about unrelated things, don’t stare at the ceiling or just stand against the wall quietly. Be proactive about making connections and relationships.

Out of probably 9 or 10 grads tonight, one of them introduced themselves. I intentionally keep to myself in order to entice the students to make the first move, but this time only one gal bit. I would want to hire designers who are interested in what I do, who make an effort to talk to me and share their work. Likewise, if you aren’t interested in me, I’m not interested in you and won’t make the effort to critique your work or pursue you any further. Engage anyone who stops by, regardless who you think they are, because you never know what connections they have or how much say they have in recruiting new talent. At the very least it’s good practice. If you aren’t making an effort to present yourself, you’re just wasting your own time.

Are You A Designer or an Illustrator?

This is the same problem I see at every show — students who have on their promo materials that they are a “Graphic Designer & Illustrator”. That’s great, but you need to pick one. In my opinion creatives who try to do design and photography, or design and illustration, rarely excel at both. At some point you’re going to have to choose. In terms of finding a job, I would want to hire someone who knows design but might also be able to illustrate rather than an illustrator who sort of laid out a business card once. I’ve seen a lot of “designer-​​slash-​​illustrators” who have a book full of illustration and very little design. In a small market a broad range of talent will go far, but if you call yourself a designer then you better know your stuff.

More Than Design

The biggest thing that designers need to grasp is that it’s about more than just designing. It’s more than making something look pretty, or using that cool new font you found. Students need to learn early on how to do research, how to develop a concept and tell a story with their work. That may be a lot to ask for students, but in a small, competitive market designers who can do that will get the better jobs.

Why Should I Hire You?

This is the question every grad should be addressing right from the start. Impress me. How would you be an asset to our company and our clients, or anyone else’s? And are you someone I want to work with every day? I would hire someone with fairly good design skills who was also motivated, passionate about design and excited to learn new things. I wouldn’t hire someone who had great design skills but didn’t show any interest in presenting their work to me. Sell your work, sell your skills, and most importantly sell yourself.

As I mentioned earlier, only one gal introduced herself to me and presented her work. Her name is Jenny Flint, and I told her she’d be the one to get a job somewhere. She had good work, was well spoken and knew her stuff. I don’t remember anyone else, couldn’t put a face to a name, and certainly don’t remember what work belonged to whom. But I certainly remember Jenny Flint.

Overall I think the grads need a bit more coaching in their Portfolio classes — how to interact with people, how to be interesting and outgoing, and how to sell themselves and their work. I wrote an article about Career Tips for Design Students over at Arrows & Icons a while back, hopefully it might still be of help to someone. As professionals I think we need to be doing all we can to influence the local design programs and the students coming out of them.

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