Next Steps: from classroom to competency

Several weeks after one of my design classes, I got together with one of the students. Over beers, he expressed frustration with the gap between his desire to be a skilled designer and his current abilities.

In class, he was eager, attentive, and dedicated. His design skills and thinking impressed me. Yet, here he was, unsure about his next steps and how to bridge that gap. I was also disappointed in myself and my own apparent gap in teaching. My hope is that students leave class with a proficiency in design. But, more importantly, the creative confidence to continue developing their craft. Obviously, this wasn’t happening. So, how can students confidently move from the classroom to a capable, competent creative?

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What’s Your Design Story? Tell it through a Memorable Design Portfolio

As a design instructor, the one thing that I hear from my students time and time again is how frustrated they are with their portfolios. Recently, one of my former students was walking me through his work. It was obvious that he was suffering from the same problems as other students: He had talent, but it was buried. His portfolio was a mishmash of isolated work and random design studies. It lacked focus and clarity. Worse, it was missing his story.

One way to avoid this is to think of your portfolio as your personal design story. It’s an opportunity to not only unify your design work, but also introduce and engage us into your approach, thinking, and inspiration. A solid design portfolio should show tangible design and execution skills. It should also give us a glimpse into what’s unique and interesting about you. We hire people, not portfolios. A good design portfolio showcases both with style and with personality.

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