Spokane PreFlight 09 – student portfolio review

Does all this metal help to conduct sound better?

This morning was the annual portfolio review for area students.  Students from the local colleges and universities came down to the Davenport Hotel to show off the fruits of their labor…and prepare for the upcoming job search season.

The first thing that I noticed was that most of the students really didn’t seem to be that prepared for an interview.  Now I know that this was a “portfolio review” but really, what is that.  It’s an interview!  And what is the first thing that you’re going to hand out at an interview?  How about a business card and resume.  Of all the students that Ryan and I talked to today only one had a resume. ONE!  can you believe that.  It’s that that kind of attention to detail that will cut through the mass of new students trying to get a job and get you some attention.  It makes it look like you want a job.

The next thing I noticed was the lack of presentation.  If I were going to show you my web portfolio, then I’d have everything pulled up on my laptop, ready to click from one to the next.  If it wasn’t already open, then how about a well designed portfolio page that you could click through to get to your samples.  Again I was really dissapointed to see that most of the design students didn’t really have that.  There was one that had a nice, albeit small, portfolio site that I was able to click through to see samples.  That was refreshing.

Finally, the most glaring omission that I saw across the board was that these students failed to as the simple questions prior to starting their designs.  The “who, what, why, when and where” type of questions.  When you start a design, be it web or print, the first question you should ask is “What do we want this piece to accomplish?”  The answer to that simple question will guide you to a successful design solution…if you listen.  One student was able to tell me who the target audience was and what the goal of the site was, but when we looked at his design the home page just had the mission statement on it.  Now I know that some people find a mission statement the most compelling and exciting part of any site, however it really doesn’t do much for showing the user what the site is all about.  There was no picture of the “product”; no “product” benefit statement or list of features; no call to action.  This theme repeated itself time, after time, after time.

My suggestion for any designer who is just starting out is to find a simple creative brief, there are tons available online, and use that as a worksheet when you start a project.  Ask the simple questions and you’ll have a much better chance of creating something that works.  As you come up with a design, check it against the creative brief.  See if you can defend your design using the direction set in the creative brief.  This will make selling you idea much easier when it comes time to present to the client.

Overall I saw some nice design work today, and there were a few people who really were outstanding.  The crop of professionals that the Ad Fed put together was really great, and I’m sure that all the students that attended got some valuable suggestions on how to improve not only their portfolios but their presentations as well.  All they have to do is listen.

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