Finding answers to portfolio problems

Guest post by Noah Herman, Daemen College ’18

Portfolios. They’re usually not an easy topic to talk about. Discussions often end up sparking more questions than answers, and end with comments like, “But, it’s really up to you as the designer.” However, for students stepping into the job market, the search for concrete answers that could lead to a job opportunity can be hard to come by. This year, the 2016 Portfolio Seminar shed light on the subject by featuring four different speakers in four different phases of their careers.

Offering different point of views, Angela Marini, a Daemen College student and winner of the AAF’s 2016 Student Portfolio Review; Greg Meadows, Creative Director at Telesco Creative Group; Jason Yates, Associate Creative Director at Gelia; and April Brown, Art Director at FARM, were able to provide unique information based on their own experiences to give more well-rounded portfolio advice.

The biggest takeaways at Portfolio Seminar:

  • Be yourself and be comfortable with it
  • Quality over quantity, always
  • An online portfolio is equally as necessary as a physical portfolio
  • There’s no right answer, but there are a lot of wrong ones

While these were the primary messages, they certainly weren’t the only ones. Other lessons learned included the importance of being able to talk about your work, the insight a process book can add to a project, the effectiveness of showing a wide range of projects, the value of tailoring your presentation for the job you’re applying to, and more.

This discussion didn’t just cover the do’s and don’ts of portfolios, but also branched out into career advice for finding a job that fits you, and insight into proper networking. In particular, April Brown stressed the importance of putting yourself out there, noting that you never know where a connection can lead. Jason Yates also voiced that as a designer, a job needs to fit you well for it to benefit you and the company in the long term. Greg Meadows continued on this subject as he briefly discussed his career path as a designer, and his broad amount of experience in the industry.

After the professionals finished their points, the conversation switched to Angela Marini’s presentation of her award-winning portfolio. Seeing a successful portfolio that touched on a range of subjects (from print design to motion graphics), along with her mature and concise choice of pieces, put the preaching of the seminar into practice.

The Portfolio Seminar touched on many tips that can be implemented by students searching for their first job or internship. Learning how to stand out in a competitive field can seem overwhelming at times, but starting with an outline created from the panelists’ main points is a good way to create a unique and successful approach to portfolio design.

The lessons covered here and more made the 2016 Portfolio Seminar incredibly influential; it provided those who attended with a comprehensive basis for a strong portfolio concept. Thank you to all attendees, and those who helped execute this valuable seminar.