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BA Graphic Design Portfolios: Modern? Innovative! Industry Responds

Written by
Colin Buttimer
Published date
29 June 2015

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Our BA Graphic Design students recently took part in a one-day portfolio-in-progress surgery. Giving out advice were industry professionals from renowned agencies such as Praline, Wolff Olins, venturethree, Makewow, Nicole Rose and Peter Anderson Studio.

Staff members Cath Caldwell and Catherine Dixon hosted the annual event, which gives final-year students the opportunity to bridge the gap between education and employability. Cath Caldwell explains: “This kind of event helps build the bridge between college and the design world. It also helps students to position their own creative practise within the design spectrum.”

Students were given ten minutes with each professional. They showed their work, discussed their practice and received feedback on how best to present their portfolios to industry. The invited guests explored the vibrant and varied portfolios created by students in moving image, design and interaction, advertising, and illustration.

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Taymah Anderson, a third-year BA Graphic Design student, talked with Nicole Rose from Energy Design Studio. Taymah says: “I had the chance to show Nicole Rose my website and various blogs I have, and she reviewed them all carefully with me, giving feedback and practical advice. It was really useful.”

The advice

The event offered students the opportunity to discuss their portfolios in relation to the current job market and to explore what potential employers are looking for. So what did the industry professionals advise?

Calle Enström, Designer at Wolff Olins Brand Consultancy:

“The email you’ll send with your portfolio is as important as the portfolio itself. It has to be clear, catchy, to the point and well written. It is also good practise to attach a PDF file to it. It gives a little glimpse of your work before heading to the website.”

Al Rodger, Senior Designer at Praline Design Agency:

“At Praline we respond much better to simple PDF portfolios, rather than websites, because there are too many opportunities to get lost on a website, and we don’t really have time to get lost. In the PDF portfolio I would recommend to show maximum 5 to 6 projects. It has to catch our attention within the first 2 pages.”

Anna Kealey, Creative Opportunities Manager for UAL and former design recruiter in New York:

“In a digital portfolio I need to see a great mixture of projects realised during the three years, as well as an understanding of what the digital medium can do – instead of being the pure translation of a print portfolio. The portfolio should be as modern and innovative as possible.”

Mark Williams and Joe Weir, Founder and Creative Director at Makewow Design Studio:

“What will make the difference is the person behind the work – your ‘unique value proposition’, your original approach. It is crucial to manage to communicate that through your portfolio. It is not the execution that is the most important, but the originality of the approach, the thought process, the mind-set.”

This week, students will be given a second opportunity to meet with industry professionals at a follow-up event. They will showcase their final portfolios and discuss how to land their first job.

More information:
BA Graphic Design