Arizona AIGA’s Spring Portfolio Review
On March 26 and 28, for obvious reasons, we tried something we’ve never done before—held portfolio reviews online. Usually a live event, the 34 participating students interviewed with 11 creative professionals from all over our state. This AIGA AZ event is a crucial service to students who are counting down the months to when they will actively be seeking work in the profession. Education & Mentorship Director Christina Carrasquilla expertly pivoted to make this event happen amidst the quickly-changing reality of the pandemic, orchestrating simultaneous 20-minute reviews over the course of two evenings.
“It’s good practice”
Christina shares some takeaways:
- Students and reviewers reported having better, one-on-one conversations in the virtual breakout rooms than the in-person events.
- Several reviewers asked me to connect them with the students they mentored so they could continue conversations.
- Many agreed that being able to present virtually was good practice for when they interview for jobs in the near future.
Letting the reviewer “drive”
Design reviewer GG LeMere explains that students need to realize this is a critique, like in school, but more relevant to real-world experience. For future events, she suggests that students “let me drive…I ran out of time with several people because they were talking about their [school] clock project, but really I could have given them useful advice on logo/branding projects or how to add a call to action to a poster so it’s more like real life.”
“It’s OK that you’re uncomfortable.”
We feel that communicating in person will always be the most valuable and efficient. Public speaking and communication skills are what you need to draw on to make a successful connection. As Dr. Leo Parvis from the National Environmental Health Association explains “…[it] is worth knowing that only 25 percent of our communication is verbal: the rest (75 percent) is nonverbal. Only one-fourth of our communication consists of verbal messages and speech, and the remaining three-fourths involve factors such as facial expression; postures; gestures; body language; spatial dimensions; voice intonations; and the sequence, rhythm, and cadence of words.”1
Reviewer GG LeMere drove this point home by warning students that “It’s OK that you’re uncomfortable. Better to be uncomfortable with us and get in-person practice, than to stay in your comfort zone and have the real interview be your first in-person experience.”
A structured conversation using the S.T.A.R. method
When figuring out how to lead a conversation, we’ve found that the STAR technique is a good place to start. “Using this method of answering interview questions allows you to provide concrete examples or proof that you possess the experience and skills for the job at hand.”2
S.T.A.R. = Situation. Task. Action. Result.
Describe a Situation. Explain the Tasks required. Outline the Actions you took, and close with the Results achieved further to your hard work. This article gives a lot of examples how to use this method in your interview: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-the-star-interview-response-technique-2061629#star-key-concepts.
Know their background & follow up.
Another reviewer mentioned that students should make a point to research the particular background of the person interviewing them, in order to ask specific questions and to demonstrate their willingness to listen and learn. Another common mistake is not following up; students must realize that it’s up to them to initiate the work of keeping in contact.
This year’s portfolio reviewers donated their time and expertise to students at the online event. Students are encouraged to follow up and keep the conversation going—use the contact information below to reach your reviewers from this year’s event.
A reason to ask for a second interview
What art director is not impressed when a student listens, responds, and follows up? This is the kind of performance you want an art director to see and remember! After your first portfolio review with a professional designer, you now have the chance to take the feedback received and not only to make your presentation even better, but to go back to those same designers to get feedback again—now you’re a step closer to demonstrating you’re ready to be hired.
AIGA Arizona thanks all the reviewers again for donating their time and energy!
More online portfolio reviews will be held by this chapter in October 2020, during Phoenix Design Week, and again in the spring of 2021.
Other portfolio reviews from other chapters and organizations are being made available to anyone who can join. We will be sharing these opportunities on AIGA AZ social media as we discover them.