Saturday, March 22, 2014

AIGA Portfolio Review 2014

The talent is astounding. The work is impressive. The students are part of the annual portfolio review process and converge again on campus at Maryville University in the Donius Student Center. Maryville, of course, is well represented and showing an impressive esprit de corps. The pride is justified if you get a peak at the work. But Mizzou, Missouri State, and UMSL (The University of Missouri, Saint Louis) are well represented too. As are several other schools within driving distance of Maryville University, just west of downtown St. Louis. They are part of the annual ritual portfolio review presented by the St. Louis chapter of the AIGA. They are mostly graduating seniors at that career crossroad anxious to transition from academia to the cold hard reality of the real world of work.

These students have polished portfolios showcasing their classroom exercises. “In this assignment we were challenged to design three spreads of a magazine. It was entirely up to us to choose the publication but we were expected to show how editorial spreads and images might be presented.” So it goes, with student work. It is part reality and part fiction. But the designs are compelling and believable. “In this assignment I wanted to show how graphics might enhance the customer experience of using public transportation. A Metro-Rail rider can use a mobile app that will allow them to plan a trip down to calculating the arrival of the next train and paying their fare.” Wow, it’s graphically exciting and tech savvy. “My portfolio includes a number of logos and type that I have designed. I like to create images that will reinforce a brand story.” And another impressive presentation with unfettered confidence.

I love this confluence of passionate design students and those who emerge among the ranks of professional reviewers. I have participated several times in the past fifteen years. As such I have witnessed, in that span, evidence of paradigm shifts: from Print to Digital; from oversized portfolio cases to tablets; from respectful homage to designers and typographers to Wikipedia; from physical mock-ups to virtual experiences on student built websites. Meanwhile the marketplace changes and reviewers are relying on this new wave for completely fresh skill sets. The tables turn ever so slightly in favor of the emerging talent. The implied promise of training and development is now more elusive. The expertise, while undeveloped, lives with the next generation. These individuals have every right to assume they will rise, and quickly. If not they will leave for another experience or depart for an entrepreneurial venture. (Fair enough.) 

Maybe. But cash is king, Content is critical. Concept is still driven by strategy. And students know they still have a few things yet to learn about marketing themselves and their ideas. The good news is they have incredible tools to do so. I like what I see.      

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