Making a Professional Impression

Making a Professional Impression

At the 2016 Design Portfolio Review, hundreds of students showed their work to reviewers from 150 companies. | photo by Jason Arnone

As Sebastien Albouy 17 FD shares his digital portfolio of intricately crafted woodwork and sharp retro headphones with portfolio reviewer Rachel Reding 04 FD, the Furniture Design student’s creative values come into focus. “The consistent thread in your work is that you’re always considering user experience,” the alumna from the renowned furniture design company Herman Miller notes with encouragement.

Albouy agrees that “user needs are always key to [his] process.” Their conversation at this year’s Design Portfolio Review then turns toward the future of collaboration in creative industries and insights about making the most of the junior’s time before graduation. “RISD is a good place to make mistakes, so use your last year to round out your skills,” Reding tells him at the end of their conversation.

Exchanges like this between students and scores of design professionals took place throughout the afternoon as RISD Careers hosted its annual Design Portfolio Review on Tuesday, March 8 at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Hundreds of students met with representatives from more than 150 companies from throughout the country – including startups such as Greycork and Studio DUNN, founded by RISD alumni.

Each student has roughly 15 minutes per appointment to show and receive feedback on projects and learn what prospective employers value in the people they hire. In five intense hours – between noon and 5 pm – more than 3,000 reviews take place, many by RISD graduates eager to return to campus to assist current students.

“This is an incredible opportunity [for students] to ask questions and get professional, real-world feedback about work in progress,” says Susan Andersen, associate director of RISD Careers. Student get helpful advice about how to build and refine their portfolios for the marketplace and to suit specific niches, she explains.

Tuesday’s Design Portfolio Review followed a networking reception Monday evening and preceded an all-day recruiting event on Wednesday, during which companies conducted formal interviews with students who responded to positions posted on ArtWorks, a job and internships site run by RISD Careers. In an expansion of the programming around this year’s Design Portfolio Review, alums from Architecture, Illustration and Industrial Design returned to lead related panel discussions about their professional paths and practices. Coordinated primarily through student and alumni initiative, the Monday discussions underscore just how invested graduates are in remaining connected to the creative community on campus and “their strong desire to bring RISD talent to their workplaces,” says Andersen.

On Tuesday, though, the focus was on selected bodies of work students presented, with conversations echoing the critiques that are central to a RISD education. Reviewers like Gregory Baker and Rachel Hallock 12 GD ofDesignMap (who joined firm partner Nathan Kendrick 98 GD) zeroed in on process as Hyemi Song MFA 16 DM presented Datalovers, an interactive data visualization application.

At a different table, Adam Tripp 07 ID, design director at Forms + Surfaces, asks Ruobing Chen 17 FD questions about the balance between experimentation and practical considerations in her work. Impressed by her angular chairRoundabout, he notes that it’s refreshing to see a piece of innovative studio furniture that shows the designer is also considering ease of manufacture. “I ultimately want to make something that can be reproduced and sold in the real world,” Chen responds.

Each year a new influx of representatives from companies that haven’t yet participated join returning reviewers impressed by the caliber of RISD students’ work. “They definitely remember the students they meet here,” says Andersen.

As a first-time RISD portfolio reviewer, Evan Fellers, an executive producer at the multimedia studio Black Math, is excited to see engaging, technically sophisticated storytelling from student illustrators, animators and graphic designers like Jisu Park 17 GD. Her motion infographic Foodporn – about Korean "eating broadcasts" – immediately catches his eye.

Looking for an “ego-free team player and diverse designer who can hit different styles,” Fellers praises the originality of Park’s design sensibilities while stopping occasionally to give nitty-gritty pointers. As the next student in line waits, he hands Park his card, telling her about Black Math’s internship program and saying, “I can definitely see you working with us.”

Robert Albanese

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