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Leading Companies Tap RISD Talent

03/22/2013

RISD's 2013 Design Portfolio Review was a full-day event that connected representatives from more than 160 major businesses.

Last week Matthew Bohne BArch 15 was ecstatic to meet with designers from Gensler, an international architectural leader that's now designing a visionary airport hub to literally float on the Thames Estuary outside London. The Architecture student spoke with the professionals about market trends, sustainable practices and the current job market. Most importantly, the Gensler representatives gave his portfolio a thorough look.

“It was amazing to hear feedback from some of the top architects in the world. I'd really love to work for them someday,” Bohne notes with optimism. “Reviewers especially liked the renderings that included the watercolor work I developed in Foundations Studies. It set my portfolio apart.”

Bohne's conversation was one of hundreds of promising interactions during RISD's 2013 Design Portfolio Review – a full-day event at the Rhode Island Convention Center that connected representatives from more than 160 major tech businesses, iconic apparel brands and design studios with RISD's talented juniors, seniors and graduate students. Amid flurries of handshakes and intellectually charged chatter, representatives from Apple, Herman Miller, Massachusetts General Hospital, Converse, Andreesen Horowitz, IBM Design and other influential companies offered students advice on their portfolios and tips for landing a dream job after graduation. Representatives from Square, the latest business enterprise run by Jack Dorsey, were also in the mix. The Twitter founder recently visited RISD to speak with students.

“RISD's artists and designers are gaining access to some of the world's most notable movers and shakers,” observed Kevin Jankowski 88 IL, associate director of the Career Center, which organized and hosted the event. “A lot of company reps find our students' professionalism and ambition to be quite refreshing.”

Beyond offering professional advice, many of these representatives are on a mission to recruit RISD talent. For instance, Natalie Adams, a studio coordinator for clothing company Diane von Furstenberg, was interested in filling designer positions with students who will graduate this spring. By the end of the day, she found a number of Apparel Design, Textiles and Industrial Design students who would be a perfect fit. “Big fashion houses want to hire people who know how to darn a stitch,” Adams notes. “The technical skills that we see from RISD students are exceptional.”

Elsewhere during the Portfolio Review, Annalisa van den Bergh 14 GD presented a painted process book to representatives from J.Crew. She specializes in women's wear and as a result of showing her work, will get a shot at one of the company's highly competitive summer internships in New York City.

Other students also shared examples of their work. Like a magician performing a trick, Dailing Chen 13 TX pulled a bundle of wonderfully sheer fabrics from her bag to show Georgina Melone 85 IL, a design director from the international toy company Hasbro. While examining one of the especially intricate swatches, Melone noticed a pliable green stripe down the middle.

“Is that gimp?” she asked. “I've never seen this material used so elegantly.” The Textiles major admitted that she used the plastic thread to add an element of playfulness to the mesh cloth. But aside from adding whimsy, the gimp fortifies the fabric to withstand repeat washings.

“It looks fragile but it won't fall apart,” Chen noted while tugging at the swatch, which was made on an industrial knitting machine. She then went on to explain that she envisions the fabric could have numerous applications. Because the plastic-based material is resistant to microbes, she imagines it might be put to good use in hospital rooms. “The textile can be easily sterilized,” she notes. “And it casts a warm shadow if hung in windows.”

Highly impressed with Chen's innovation, the Hasbro designer advised Chen to contact Material ConneXion, a global materials consultancy and library of sustainable materials based in New York City. “You have an epicurean aesthetic. These materials would be a good fit for luxury industries,” Melone noted. “You'll be able to make lots of contacts there.”

Chen was excited to hear the advice. Last summer the northern California native interned with Nike (which also sent representatives to the Design Portfolio Review) and worked on developing textiles that enhance the athletic performance of running shoes. After graduation she intends to pursue a position that will allow her to work with technical fabrics.

“Overall, this was a fantastic day,” notes Chen, while taking a quick break for coffee. “It was so amazing to make face-to-face connections with so many great designers. I know it'll serve me well when I venture out into the professional world.” -Abigail Crocker

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tags: global, internships, students

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The men in this 1903 portrait class were serious about the business at hand.