Sunday, March 22, 2009

Senior Portfolio Review at Catevo

Saturday was phenomenal, transitional, inspirational.

Saturday, I took four years of hard work and allowed three professionals to help refine my work and prepare me for the harrowing and likely painstaking job search ahead. I brought with me a variety of my work, from photography in the darkroom and on my own as a professional, posters from the tobacco-free campaign that I helped to create an identity for, logos of sorts, literary magazines I designed, cd's and dvd's, a calendar, and my book that I created several years back. The morning began with mingling amongst other seniors and volunteering professionals with jugs of coffee and every Krispy Kreme doughnut you can fathom. Bonnie, Tamica, Whitney, and I found a room and set up shop. It was strange seeing all of my work spread out in a small space-four years of myself, everything I've worked hard to conceive just sitting there before me. For a little while, we walked from room to room watching other people set up, all the while making our way past our own little area seeing people picking up our work with "hmmms" and "ooohs" and soft chuckles at posters such as the "Condom Sense" piece that became part of the Peace College Wellness Center and Wake County's Health Calendar. Not long after everyone set up, there was a panel discussion set up in a conference room with four members ready to talk about questions mediated by Kate LaMere, the Education co-Chair. Ryan Dean, Dave Alsobrooks, Colleen Simon, and Mike Josse each came from a different background but had wonderful insight into the world of design as a professional. The first question was what each panel member did once they first graduated from college. Some went home and recollected their self all the while searching simultaneously for a job, while Mike described his ambitious and risky move of only applying for the one job he dreamed of having and actually getting it. The honesty of each member made me realize that I wasn't far from this point in my own career and each testimony strengthened my own confidence to become an employed designer....somewhere....somehow. Something that was emphasized repeatedly was the necessity of networking and giving yourself as many routes to the job market as possible. Even informal sources such as facebook were described as useful for keeping and building a network amongst peers and other contacts. A topic that particularly touched me and got me thinking about my portfolio in a new way was even in a fragile economy, I need to market myself for the job I want. It seems like an elementary concept, but really a lot of what I brought as my portfolio work was good work, but not the type of work i'm necessarily passionate about. The labor of love is what I want to get me my job because what's the point otherwise? I love the fact that design, along with many other disciplines, is a continuous learning process. Work ethic can be an integral part of the extended learning process. Bringing in ideas beyond the rigid 8 hour workday brings more than you being an employee, it makes you someone that is genuinely passionate and valuable. Something that i've not thought about doing up until now is creating a process book. Mike talked about how this book allows others to see your process and the time and effort you put into your work. I also noted the idea of a .pdf packet, which becomes a briefer of what type of work you produce. The packet serves as part of the "cover letter" that is used to send online to prospective employers. This carriable concept of your self is ingenious as it doesn't reveal everything, but is one of many ways to put your face to your resume in the job market. Lo and behold, blogging was also discussed as an important part of your thought process. As .pdf packets serve as a printed self, the blog is a nice way for employers to see an internal self that gives personality to you as the prospective designer in a firm for someone who otherwise has no information about you besides your work. 

Now on to the portfolio interviews...

After the panel discussion, we were given sandwich boxes from Bear Rock Cafe, each marked with either an H, T, R, or V. My H turned out to be ham while Bonnie's T was turkey and Whitney's V was vegetarian. After the indoor picnic, the interviewing process began. 

My first interviewer was {ah-insert name here}. She immediately made me feel confident in talking about who I am and why I became a designer. I felt myself generating the same response to each of the reviewers:
I love the written word. Whether it is through my discipline as a writer or a designer, I immerse myself in the process of tweaking and perfecting an uniquely powerful concept; language. I became a Graphic Designer through my evolved passion for creating to communicate. Especially interested in Social Justice work through creating a sense of self-awareness and appreciation and ultimately an awareness of one's environment, the moment when I see my design becoming a tool for change and a reason why someone becomes more fulfilled in their life, I am happiest. Design is a powerful and lasting way to express myself. It's something that I continually grow through. It's a job doing what I love, something that is impossible to separate myself from because before I ever became a Graphic Designer, I innately designed with my senses and in my discipline as a fine artist.

My second reviewer was Chris Faith, one of the Programming Chairs of the AIGA board. Chris was immediately taken by the Homage book, which was something that I by this time was planning to use in my portfolio regardless. He also noted that my Numeric Institute Calendar, Breaking Boundaries CD, and Prism 2008 designs were powerful. He suggested that this work be what I show as my compacted portfolio because they all had the common element of being hand-made and innovative. He suggested that I avoid any work that I had done that used the generic photoshop filters because they, although interesting, scream amateur. I cannot help but agree now that I look at my Chuck Norris and Peace College Main Building and see nothing but "palette knife" from photoshop. A plug for Denielle is that this reinforces the importance of being advanced not only in my craft away from the computer, but also the necessity of being a "professional" in the Adobe Creative Suite. Chris also suggested that I avoid cliche work in my portfolio like photography and drawings because that is an assumed discipline in a designers education and my portfolio needs to be more client-based work that is effective rather than self-motivated work that is merely aesthetic. 

My third reviewer was Steven Pius, yet another Programming Chair from the board who left me with feelings of confidence in myself and my work and excitement and anticipation toward interviewing for jobs. Steven was drawn to the exact same pieces in my portfolio as Chris. Doubtfully a coincidence. By the end of my third review, I had a strong idea about what type of work I want to represent myself. If I got a job based on the 5-6 pieces that I show, i'd be optimistic about what i'd be doing in the workplace. Steven was encouraging, telling me that he thought my work was outstanding and solid. To hear someone who I admire as a professional and a mentor tell me that he admires my own work was touching. Seeing my fellow classmates Bonnie and Tamica also leave gratified and confident reminds me of the four years that we have spent at Peace working countless hours toward becoming the full-fledged reality of our dreams. Steven told me to apply to places that I think will allow me to expand my own style. He told me that while he was in the job searching process, he had people from one company tell him that they hated his work, while others responded to the same work with admiration and the desire to hire him right off the spot. This is probably the hardest part of being a designer because so much emotion goes into the work that you create and when it is rejected, it is a part of you that becomes rejected as well. Steven also gave me advice about current situations I've been having working with clients freelance. To hear that everything I find stressful has been experienced by at least one other person in the building yesterday allows me to mature my expectations beyond the classroom and prepare myself for a world that is tough, but not solitary. 

I wouldn't have missed yesterday for anything. Of all events I've attended through AIGA in the past four years, this was the one event that I would say was necessary for me to attend, even if I was unaware prior to going. It was the bridging between my lens of interpretation of the job market as a student and the exciting yet very new perspective of my future as a beginning professional. I hope that five years from now, i'm back at the event as a reviewer helping to prepare seniors get their portfolios and their hearts oriented toward their future careers.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with Bonnie. It was encouraging and inspiring to be with so many other students and professionals. I am so glad I got to be apart of it.