Student Portfolio Reviews Can Teach Pros a Lesson

pencil on notebook in infomedia's web

In December, Infomedia web designer Joy Sandlin visited the University of Alabama as a guest of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations’ portfolio review. The review is part of a program the University began in 2015 to assist future art directors and writers with developing professional portfolios before graduation.

This portfolio critique functions as a learning experience for the students and an opportunity for advertising, PR and tech professionals to share their perspectives with up-and-coming talent. Throughout the year, the students work together on campaigns, switching out the roles of art director and copywriter. However, the individual portfolios should demonstrate mastery of strategic and conceptual thinking, which Joy said the students achieved.

After a review of the portfolios, discussion and note-taking by the reviewers, the group was joined by the students later in the afternoon for individual feedback.

“Overall, I thought the portfolios looked really nice,” Joy said. “There were some that were very polished and others where just a bit of tweaking was needed.” Her goal wasn’t to crush anyone’s ambitions, but to offer technical and design insight based on her experience as a developer.

“The takeaway I wanted them to hear from me was just not to give up. Keep working at one ad until it’s polished to perfection and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get positive feedback right away,” she said. That being said, she did offer constructive criticism to help the students improve.

The main pitfall to avoid is forgetting that neatness counts.

“I keep going back to ‘polish,’ but it’s so important,” Joy said. “In some of the ads we saw, it would’ve only taken a couple of tiny things in the way the ad was targeted or its overall design [to improve them].”

Were there any other things to consider?

“Some of the copywriting was really good, but there were a few things we questioned them about. Sometimes there are issues with the way copy comes across, and tiny things like that could cost you a job,” Joy added.

Also, being thoughtful about the order in which work is organized matters. Visualizing one’s portfolio from a potential employer’s perspective is important.

“Some of the students had the exact same campaigns, but the order made a difference in the way you took things in,” Joy said.

Teaching advanced portfolio preparation before graduation is important because it prepares students for presenting their work to potential employers. It also gives students who can’t attend portfolio schools the opportunity to organize their work in a professional manner.

What’s the takeaway for professionals and existing companies?  

It’s important to organize the projects you’re especially proud of in a manner that is appealing and appropriate. Not only does it help you keep track of the work you’ve done and demonstrate your credibility, it may help you gain new clients. Keep your portfolio up-to-date, and make sure you showcase the variety of expertise you’ve offered to show the depth of your experience. Rotate what you display to keep it fresh. And don’t forget that neatness and thoughtfully-written copy matter.  Need an example? Check out Infomedia’s web design portfolio to see some of our best work.

 

Journalist and blogger Alexis Barton has loved language and the written word for as long as she can remember; she earned her Masters in Journalism from the University of Alabama before joining us here at Infomedia where she puts her skills to work researching, interviewing and writing web copy for our clients, our own blog and our social media channels. She might be a self-described “grammar nerd,” but she promises she isn’t judging your texts, emails or emoji usage. When she isn’t at the keyboard, Alexis loves shopping, napping and obsessing over Alabama football.


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