Student Portfolio Review: Reviewer Prep Guide

Our annual Student Portfolio Review is in just a few weeks. We’ve put together this guide to help reviewers prep for the event. Whether you are a first-time reviewer or have been a reviewer in the past, these are good tips to keep in mind as you prepare for the event. Thank you so much for participating as a reviewer, we couldn’t put on this event without you.

The portfolio review is intended to prepare students for presenting their work to potential employers. It is not meant to be a simulation of a job interview, but rather an opportunity to receive advice on improvements that they can make to ensure they are presenting a polished portfolio.  As a reviewer, you will be evaluating both the work each student shares as well as how they presented the work. Presentation matters and students need to be able to confidently share their thought process and problem-solving approach to a design brief. So critiquing the presentation is just as important as critiquing the work.

Be a Good Listener

As the student presents their work, stay focused on what they are saying and not what you plan to say about the work. Keep your mind focused on their presentation.

Don’t Make it Personal

Don’t let your personal tastes cloud your judgment. Evaluate the aesthetics based on how well it solves the problem, if it is appropriate to the audience, and adheres to the creative brief.

Be Honest

As you critique each student’s work please be honest about your thoughts — being the “nice guy” doesn’t allow room for growth. It’s important for you to feel comfortable being truthful while allowing each student to understand why a certain element is not working. Give them some direction as to how they can improve the design. Be tactful. Be respectful. Be honest.

Seek the Positive

When viewing each piece, begin with the positive aspects. What works? What makes it effective? Why does it work? Then, provide constructive criticism and feedback. What isn’t working? What could be done differently? Why? Encourage the student to continue to refine their work.

Ask Why

Asking “why” does two things – allows the student to discuss their decision process as well as providing the reviewer with a better understanding of the design. It also prepares students to explain their design decisions as they present concepts to their peers or clients.

Be Specific

Avoid phrases such as, “That’s super cool” or “I like that idea,” as they aren’t specific enough to provide answers on what elements may or may not be working in a design. Dig deeper and be descriptive about your thoughts. When delivering your feedback, remember that the more detailed you are, the better.

Offer Actionable Suggestions

Offer feedback that is action-specific yet includes a variety of possible solutions to improve the design. This allows the student to ultimately be responsible for making their own decisions but gives some direction as to what to focus on when refining the design.

Internal Questions to Ignite Conversation:

  • What is your initial impression of the design?
  • Is all content present? If not, what is missing?
  • What is the overall aesthetic effect? Does it feel appropriate for the target audience?
  • What emotions does it evoke?
  • Does the style of the design directly align with the goal or purpose?
  • Are there brand standards that should be used? Are they used appropriately?
  • Do the elements in the layout seem to be in an appropriate location?
  • Does the content flow in a natural order and progression? How does your eye flow across the piece?
  • Is the solution easy to use and interact with?
  • Are typographic choices relevant and fitting in tone?
  • Are color choices suitable for the desired message?
  • In what way would the target audience respond to this solution?
  • Are the details in the graphic elements tailored to the purpose of the project?
  • Are there problem areas? What holes need to be filled as they could be more effective?
  • Is it visually appealing for the context that it will live in?
By Amy Lyons
Published March 30, 2018