Making Personal Connections

Making Personal Connections

Taking a seat across the table, Pamela Chavez 15 IL confidently unrolls a collection of painterly images used in creating Roses for Wolves, her enchanting stop-motion animation about a young woman who follows the guidance of a mystical spirit-wolf. As Alan Williams, an art director at the LA- and NY-based motion graphics studio Imaginary Forces, flips through the portfolio, he pauses to inspect photos of her endearing wooden characters, replete with hand-stitched clothing and bits of wool and string for unruly hair.

“This animation is simple and minimalistic – but there’s something raw and beautifully human that shines through,” Williams notes with a broad smile. “This attention to detail, love of storytelling and firm grasp on conceptual development is what we like to see when interviewing potential employees. So many RISD students have those skillsets.”

This positive exchange of ideas was just one of hundreds that took place at last week’s Design Portfolio Review, a full-day networking event hosted by RISD’s Career Center. Clutching iPads, laptops and hardcover portfolios, more than 600 juniors, seniors and graduate students zipped around the Rhode Island Convention Center to make invaluable professional connections with representatives from approximately 140 high-profile companies – including Apple, Chronicle Books, Converse, David Stark Design, Herman Miller, Pollack Fabrics and Robert AM Stern Architects, among many others. Carefully selected based on the quality of the company and the type of positions they offer, these experts give students feedback on their work, pointed advice on how to enhance their interview skills and fresh perspectives on the current job market. Some even offer full-time jobs by the end of the first meeting.

“This day is all about forging long-lasting relationships that can potentially lead to promising opportunities,” notes Susan Andersen, associate director of the Career Center. “We always encourage students to apply electronically to interesting jobs listed on Internet career boards. But a connection made face-to-face tends to be more memorable for the person who’s hiring. Countless alums have landed plum positions after attending one of these networking sessions, which provide personal access to some of the leading thinkers in design.”

With a glowing tablet in hand, Kevin Ma 16 GD meets with Google reps, eager to present a series of renderings that reimagine one of the oldest wings of the historic Providence Public Library. His interior design proposes that its slanted walls be painted in grey tones and lined with inspiring words by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. “The poetry would be set in a way that’s intriguing to the viewer and expressive of the poem’s personality,” he explains.

Google designer Jonathan Chung 11 GD responds positively, praising Ma for carefully considering the elegant character of the space while developing his conceptual project. “I’m impressed with this forward-thinking design and the smart use of typography,” he notes while poring over the junior’s designs. “It’s clear that you understand how to systematically work through problems to come up with inventive solutions. We’re always on the look-out for this kind of talent.”

Seated at a neighboring table, Koji Yamamoto 15 FAV shares colorful character designs and a segment of his action-packed degree project animation with representatives from Cartoon Network. Storyboard artist Megan Jo Nairn and Emily Walus 12 IL – a background artist for the television series Steven Universe – show clear interest in his claymation and an illustration of a pair of adorably cranky men wearing bright spacesuits. “These guy have some attitude,” Nairn exclaims with a giggle. “And I see that you find humor in movement – which is what cartoons are all about!”

Industrial Design senior Paul Bird 15 ID is excited to present his portfolio to designers from Rich Brilliant Willing, a wildly successful Brooklyn-based furniture design studio launched by three alumni in 2006 just as the economy was taking a nose-dive. Theo Richardson 06 FD, director of development, expresses interest in E’Block, a device Bird designed to track the amount of energy consumed by common household items. He asks the senior to follow up with him via email to discuss future possibilities.

“In one afternoon, I met so many people with unique perspectives and insights to share,” Bird says with satisfaction following the event. “It was just such a privilege to build a dialogue and rapport with industry leaders from a wide range of sectors. It’s a rare opportunity.”

–Abigail Crocker

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