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Virtual Design Portfolio Review Delivers 

Virtual Design Portfolio Review Delivers 

Hundreds of RISD students share their portfolios online with eager design firm reps from across the country.

futuristic illustration of a road winding through trees

Grad student Louis Rakovich MFA 22 GD presented an immersive large-scale exhibition exploring Victorian spiritualism. 

With the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel beginning to glimmer in the distance, a whopping 476 students took part in RISD’s all-virtual Design Portfolio Review in mid March. “In spite of the pandemic and all things being remote, 120 companies attended the event over two evenings,” says Career Center Associate Director Susan Andersen, “just as many as we’ve had in the past for on-site events.”

“From a technical standpoint, the experience was 100% smooth and an excellent digital approximation of the in-person event.”

grad student Louis Rakovich MFA 22 GD

And although there’s something to be said for in-person meetings and the opportunity to shake a few hands, most of the participants agree that prescheduled one-on-one Zoom meetings provided an intimate and focused opportunity to discuss student work and career opportunities. “The Career Center was really on top of everything,” says grad student Louis Rakovich MFA 22 GD. “From a technical standpoint, the experience was 100% smooth and an excellent digital approximation of the in-person event.”

graphic design work by Rakovich
Rakovich’s Möbius Shells, a 3D paper structure combining pattern, color and type, inspired by Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities.


A second-year MFA student in Graphic Design, Rakovich met with representatives from nine different companies, many of them RISD alumni, including Sophie Mascatello MFA 14 GD, design director at NYC firm Mythology. “The people I met with provided useful feedback and insights about my portfolio, answered my questions and were open to keeping in touch and looking at new projects in the future,” Rakovich says.

“The rigorous way that RISD students present work and defend their ideas in studio crits translates really well to the real world.”

Sophie Mascatello MFA 14 GD, Mythology

Mascatello, who attended the event when she was a grad student at RISD, was delighted to participate in the role of reviewer. “The rigorous way that RISD students present work and defend their ideas in studio crits translates really well to the real world,” she notes. One bit of advice she found herself offering again and again is the importance of editing down one’s portfolio and tailoring the presentation to suit the audience. “Also, professional portfolios need to be extremely visual since reviewers are generally looking through them very quickly,” she adds. “Many students have the impulse to include a lot of writing about their work, but a tight synopsis is definitely enough.” 

background animation for TV

another background design for animated television
Animated backgrounds by Illustration major Tora Khrobostova​​​​​​ ​21 IL.


Senior Tora Khrobostova 21 IL has a very specific career goal—to create background designs in the animation industry—and met with only one company at Design Portfolio Review: Cartoon Network Studios. “Their rep liked the variety of images I included in my portfolio,” she says, adding, “This has always been one of my favorite Career Center events. I even dragged a few friends to the Convention Center freshman year to start scoping everything out.”

Philippines native Javier Syquia BRDD 21 GD is on the hunt for a full-time job in UX design or branding somewhere in the US. “It was really helpful to get feedback from the three companies I met with on how much of my portfolio should focus on branding work versus UX projects,” he says.

graphic design work by Javier Syquia
Sample print work by dual degree student Javier Syquia BRDD 21 GD.


Syquia has also attended multiple iterations of the event over the years and says that his favorite part is speaking directly to RISD alumni about the trajectory of their careers. “The Graphic Design program at RISD is so broad that we can go in many different professional directions,” he explains. “It’s nice to see where people end up, whether it be two years after graduation or 15.”

intricate textile pattern
Textiles major Nari Ahn 21 TX juxtaposes Western and Eastern styles in pieces like Toile de Jouy.


Junior Nari Ahn 22 TX, a Textiles major, concurs. “It can be hard to connect with alumni working in professional settings, so it was really comforting to hear how they got hired and what might work for me,” she says. Ahn met reps from six different companies, including Eric Whiting 14 TX, a senior material designer at Adidas, and says the feedback she received was fairly consistent. “Most of them said that my website should be a bit more focused,” she says, “and that it needs to do a better job of explaining my process.”

“RISD’s rooted heritage and hands-on approach to creation is coming together with digital technology in really exciting ways.”

Eric Whiting 14 TX, Adidas

For his part, Whiting appreciates the opportunity to meet with young designers and review work in a wide range of mediums—from textiles to furniture to architecture. “RISD’s rooted heritage and hands-on approach to creation is coming together with digital technology in really exciting ways,” he says. “There’s a raw energy and purity in the work RISD students create. They are the future of design.”

Simone Solondz

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