Portfolio Review: Then & Now Part II


Paula Savage reviewing student portfolios April 2000.

Jim Mousner reviewing a Junior Year portfolio, April 2000

Portfolio Night April 2011

For those of you that caught our previous post Portfolio Review: Then & Now below is part II of the post. When we went live with the first post we were still waiting on a couple of respondents. Well the response has been amazing and so instead of adding these new additions to the previous post we decided to make the post a two part series.

Brian Gossett | Art Director/Director at The Mill NYC


Brian Gossett / AIGA Student Portfolio Review Show Direct Mailer 2000

Brian Gossett | AIGA Student Portfolio Review Show Direct Mailer 2000

The AIGA Houston’s Student Portfolio Review was both intimidating and exciting for me. It felt a bit like little league baseball tryouts. You had a lot of nervous and young talented students from a handful of schools in Texas lining up for their chance to take their swing in front of the big boys. Even though on the outside I showed confidence to the point of arrogance, I was honestly terrified.

The reviews ranged from “oh, this is cool” to “I don’t get it” to the soul crushing “how do you expect this sort of work to land you a job?” It was the kind of feedback my 21-year-old-self needed. When you’re in school, and you’re in the bubble of junior and senior block at U of H, you can build up a false sense of what it’s like working as a graphic designer. I have since become a firm believer of the mantra “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” It took a while for that belief to sink in, but in our industry, criticism can be harsh and you have to learn how to roll with it.

Overall my portfolio showed pretty well. I realized that I was getting a great design education, especially with pushing myself to conceptualize and research my subject. I also realized the work I’d eventually create once I graduate will be quite different, and it was. However, the most important skill I did take away from the portfolio review is talking about my work. After graduating, the skills I honed in on through the portfolio review helped with interviewing for jobs. Talking about my work continues to be such an important part of the process to this day. As an art director/director, I am constantly talking about the work when pitching to ad agencies, presenting to clients, and managing the team I am overseeing.

My final bit of advice for future students is this; to take the portfolio review serious. Listen to what everyone has to say and to take it to heart. But don’t stop with showing your work there. Show it to everyone you know. Pitch future projects to people outside of your bubble. See what your friends who aren’t graphic designers think. Discuss a project to your neighbor or grandmother. Get a variety of feedback and take it all to heart because as a designer you will no longer be designing for yourself or other designers, you’ll be designing for a very wide variety of people.

Edmee Micheli | Senior Designer, Savage


Edmee Micheli | Light Captures Sleeve Journal, UH Graphic Communications 2003

Edmee Micheli | Light Captures Sleeve Journal, UH Graphic Communications 2003


Showing my work to professionals as early as my Junior year was extremely beneficial and convenient. It’s not often that you will be in a room with dozens of design professionals willing to see your portfolio and give you feedback. I remember getting to the event early and staying till the very end attempting to get face time with as many professionals as I could. It was also nice to see the work of other students from surrounding schools to compare portfolio, skill, style and to gage where I fit in to the designer spectrum and what I needed to improve on. Take advantage, this is one of the best opportunities to present your work regionally!

Leah Macey | Graphic Designer, Good Project

Leah Macey


Flux: Design in Time and Motion, UH Graphic Communications, 2004

Leah Macey | Flux: Design in Time and Motion, UH Graphic Communications, 2004

Strongly encouraged by my professors at the University of Houston, I attended the AIGA Student Portfolio Review both my junior and senior years of college. As much stress and anxiety it caused to prepare for, the experience I had was invaluable and helped me improve upon the presentation of my work and myself. It’s a unique opportunity to get so many different tips, suggestions and perspectives from several designers all in one day. I think the best way I can describe the critiques is tough love. All of the reviewers are there because they want to help you succeed, so you have to go in with open ears and an open mind. The review is basically practice for any future job interview one would encounter, and can help you discover what your strengths and weaknesses are as a designer.

I actually got really lucky my senior year, because one of the professionals that reviewed my work ended up landing me an internship. So not only is the portfolio review good practice, if you manage to impress someone who is looking to hire, you could get your foot in the door early. If anything, it can also be a great networking tool, because you’re meeting local designers in your field and you can give people a face to remember and a business card and résumé to hold on to. I honestly can say that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone to the portfolio review, so if anyone out there is hesitant and reading, jump in and go for it!

Erica Bogdan | Creative Services Designer, Schipul

Erica Bogdan


Erica Bogdan | Poster Project

I went to an AIGA sponsored portfolio review at St. Edward’s University in Austin my junior year. I remember being very nervous to show my work, since aside from my professors and fellow classmates, no one else had critiqued me. I’m really glad that I’d gone to the portfolio review, I knew right away that the reviewers were being honest and direct with me on what skills I needed to work on to improve myself. They informed me that I needed a more diverse range in my work. I was also told that much of my portfolio was too conceptual and to focus more on branding and logo design. I’m glad that I attended the Portfolio Review my junior year because it gave me an idea of what employers were looking for and I was able to add more diversity into my portfolio. I strongly encourage students to attend and take advantage of this great opportunity to get genuine feedback from a knowledgeable design expert.

Remember, Portfolio Review Night 2012 is this Thursday at Houston Heights Theater at 339 W. 19th Street.

Also to see more student work, check out our board on Pinterest showcasing student projects past and present. If you would like your project pinned send a link or graphic to Erica Bogdan socialmedia@houston.aiga.org with a title and brief description.

If you would like to share your experience regarding AIGA Houston’s Portfolio Review, please feel free to add them in the comments section or email them to info@houston.aiga.org.

By John Luu
Published April 17, 2012
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