Student Portfolio Review: A Student’s Perspective

Jordan Godwin, a participant in our 2015 Student Portfolio Review, shares her experience of the Portfolio Review.

I woke Saturday morning to find a crisp chill in the air, almost as if the weather had the same jitters I did. After final checks for presentation boards, résumés, and business cards, I felt ready to make the one-hour trek to Raleigh for the 2015 Student Portfolio Review. Myself being terrified of being late, I arrived to the RedHat parking deck with plenty of time to spare. I spent a few minutes in my car mentally going over my introduction for what was probably the fiftieth time before heading in.

I was greeted by security at the front desk, and waited with two students from East Carolina University (ECU) for a volunteer to escort us upstairs. Once arriving at the 9th floor, which we later learned was the cafeteria and lounge floor, I checked in with bright and cheery faces from AIGA Raleigh. I was given my personal schedule for the day, and immediately found other classmates to compare my schedule with. We spent the next hour socializing, networking, and trying to relieve the jitters and nerves that were in the air. Everyone moved towards the back of the expansive floor to find their table or room where they would be presenting, and we all had a few minutes to set up before heading downstairs to hear our keynote speaker.

Matthew Muñoz, a graduate of East Carolina University and North Carolina State University, and Chief Design Officer at New Kind gave a wonderful lecture on “The Art of Boundaries.” The work he displayed throughout his presentation was incredibly inspiring. I saw work he had completed with the Rebel Magazine, the Student Media Literary Arts Publication at ECU. I was able to immediately connect as I’ve worked on two editions of the Colton Review, a similar journal at Meredith College. Upon entering the room I saw the title slide and was immediately intrigued, as we often consider boundaries bad things. This is actually how Mr. Muñoz started his talk, before showing how boundaries actually help you grow. He shared with us how his boundaries evolved over time, adding things as he mastered previous topics. It was so inspiring to see his growth throughout the years, and how he was consistently adding to his list of talents. He encouraged us by reminding us to take it one step at a time, and to soak in the experience every step of the way. Mr. Muñoz mentioned in his speech advice that he was told, to not just gain knowledge but also to gain wisdom. Reminding us to absorb everything going on around us; to not be so focused on the end point that we miss the journey – life is about the journey, not the destination, after all.

After the keynote we all headed back upstairs to a gracious lunch provided by Jimmie Johns. Groups formed around tables as we ate and tried to predict what would be happening in just a few minutes. Lunchtime ended, and everyone began cleaning up and preparing for the reviewers. Just as I said good luck to a fellow classmate, my first reviewer introduced himself and we were off! All nerves immediately dissipated as we delved into our portfolios, discussing themes, projects and concepts.

I began each review by introducing myself and giving a short background about my work. Each review went slightly different, depending on how each person wanted to view my work. Some reviewers preferred piece by piece, while other reviewers wanted everything laid out at once. I was lucky in having a wide range of reviewers, aging from just a few years older than me to those who had been in the profession for many years. Each coming from different backgrounds, I really felt I had all my bases covered in getting opinions. Each 30-minute segment flew by; before I knew it, I was thanking them for their time and preparing for my next review.

In what seemed like no time at all, the two hours was up and we were all convening for a group question and answer. The fearless leaders of the day, Jacqueline McAdams and Sophia Hitchcock, had questions they asked to the reviewers such as, “What impressed you most about the students’ portfolios?” and, “What key skill or trait are you looking for in a Junior Designer?” Karl Sakas shared his advice for interviewing by sharing how he analyzed interviews: One- Can you do the job? Two: Do you want to do the job? Three: Is there a cultural fit?” Students were given excellent advice: to show passion and excitement in their work, to find mentors along the way, and to NETWORK! Multiple people commented on wanting to see your personality in all that you do. Interviewers want to know why do you love design, so show them! General comments were also made about enjoying hearing the concepts and articulating decisions behind your design work. It helps your viewer understand why and how you arrived at the final design. Fun door prizes were then drawn, before we all gave a hearty thank you to the events planners. A group photo was taken and we all dissipated to clean our spaces, collect our portfolios, say our goodbyes and depart.

Walking out of RedHat I felt tired and relieved, but most importantly inspired and energized to finish my academic career strong. The portfolio review made me want to try that much harder to perfect my designs, and gave me confidence in what I had already done. So often we’re blinded by the confinements of our classroom, professors, and classmates, but the portfolio review was a great eye opener to see what my peers are doing around me. I thoroughly enjoyed having fresh eyes review my work, and hear new opinions. While networking, someone made the comment to me that these people were not only my competition for jobs, but could possibly be my coworkers. Knowing I will be entering the job hunt full force in a few short weeks, I feel so much more prepared leaving the portfolio review than I could have ever imagined. It provided a dry run scenario for presenting my work in an interview setting, with the least amount of stress possible. The Portfolio Review was such an engaging experience, and an event I would highly recommend to anyone. It opened multiple doors to connect with people I didn’t know beforehand, to continue the process of criticism and growth beyond this one event.

On behalf of everyone in attendance at the 2015 Student Portfolio Review, I would like to whole heartedly thank Jacqueline McAdams, Sophia Hitchcock and Kristin Fowler for all their months of preparation, tireless nights, and all the passion that went into planning this event. We are so thankful for all the hard work you did and it was so evident in the seamless day created for us. I would also like to thank all the reviewers who took time out of their busy schedules to meet with us! As area professionals we know your time is so valuable and we really do appreciate you sharing it with us. Also to RedHat for hosting and allowing us to use the beautiful space, and to every single volunteer who assisted in making this day the success that it was. I am already looking forward to volunteering next year and helping make it a success for the next round of seniors.

DSC_0871_smallJordan Godwin is a recent graduate of Meredith College, where she majored in Graphic Design with minors in Studio Art and Photography. She now works as a graphic designer at Mainstreet Collection, a wholesale gift company located in Washington, NC.  She enjoys traveling, playing with her dogs, and NCSU Athletics.

By Amy Lyons
Published March 6, 2016