Wednesday, April 13, 2011

AIGA Nebraska: “Me, Myself and Design 2011”

Portfolio reviews starting top left clockwise: Senior, Mark Veldkamp with reviewer Craig Hughes, Ervin & Smith; Senior, Addie Krosschell and Justin Kemerling, The Match Factory; Junior, Ellie Dykstra with Erikheath Thomas, Pen-Link, Ltd.; Junior, Annemarie Osinga with Julie Lingbloom, David Day & Associates. Top left photograph courtesy of Paul Berkbigler, Paul Berkbigler Design and Illustration.

Annually, the education arm of AIGA Nebraska organizes an invaluable event called Me, Myself and Design. This year MMD took place on Saturday, 9 April 2011, with a very good turnout in Omaha hosted by Metropolitan Community College—Elkhorn Valley Campus (faculty Jim Wolf and Luann Matthies). This fine event invites graphic design students from various college programs in the region to attend meetings with design professionals. This year the event introduced the theme, “The Future You” to students. Obviously, the focus is on what students needs to know about finding a job and the schedule for the daylong event begins with Q and A breakout sessions with students meeting the professionals. The event culminates, perhaps the highlight, with student portfolio reviews by guest professionals later in the afternoon.

Here are a few notes from the morning panel session that I attended:
“Client’s need design thinkers [problem solvers].” —Anne Maguire, Mutual of Omaha; Justin Schafer, Mutual of Omaha; Stephanie Jarrett, Ervin & Smith; Ben Swift, NoNoArt. All of these designers serve on the AIGA Nebraska board of directors.
Résumé advice for students:
Should have good typographic structure and layout and be easily readable.
Internship advice for students:
As an intern try to develop a role to play while on the job by taking the initiative and asking for work. Don’t be afraid of politely asking for help.

In the afternoon I went to the panel of designers affiliated with so-called independent design firms. This panel featured: Aaron Jarzynka, Local Hero Design; Donovan Beery, Eleven19; John Gawley, Omaha Publications; Clint Runge, Archrival; Adam Torpin, Oxide Design Co. One of points of discussion was about showing passion for design, which reminded me of correspondence I had several years ago with Mary Darby, president of Pulluin Software. I tell students her comments about portfolios and interviews, which are as follows:

Speaking from an employer’s perspective,

I have some definite criteria I use when looking at a candidate for a team position. There are specific elements I feel are helpful in a portfolio—and it is not just a final product, far from it in fact. Over the past few years, I have really learned to look at the process a person follows, their ability to make decisions independently, their proactive approach, teamwork capabilities, critical thinking, communication skills, ability to self-direct, passion, commitment, etc. If the final product is great but I can't see any evidence of the other elements I mentioned, I am not interested in that person as a team member. If the final product is just pretty good but I can see evidence of the things I listed above—I will choose the “pretty good” product over the “great” product every time and I think most employers would agree with me. There are ways to demonstrate these things in a portfolio.

[For instance] passion comes from love for the work itself (the task, process the person takes, the research they do, the torture and angst they go through to reach an end result, etc.) and it also comes from a desire to be part of “something” great.

In regard to measuring passion for the work,

When reviewing a portfolio and when interviewing, I want to see evidence of an acknowledgement of the needs of the project or the client, the process, the angst, the struggle, the identified foundation or solution they came to (why this style—why that color—) and why they chose that solution—some collaboration with others if appropriate, then their thoughts about the end-product and how they feel it meets the needs identified in the beginning of the whole process. Someone who is passionate will go through all of this—and be happy to articulate it or show it in a portfolio. If it is not in the portfolio but on interview they can explain it and I can see facial expressions and body language that would indicate how engaged they are. Passion does not mean a person is overly dramatic, or loud or anything like that—it means you can see the excitement they have for their work. … [1]
  1. Darby, Mary. “Portfolio Development.” Message to the author. 2005. e-mail.

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