Student design portfolios get a critical look from professionals

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 103 views 

As thousands of college seniors prepare to receive their degrees next month and then head out into the job market, a group of students from the University of Arkansas, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and other regional institutions received a head start Thursday with a portfolio review.

CJRW, a marketing agency in Springdale and Little Rock, brought professionals from Northwest Arkansas agencies together with 35 soon-to-be graduates, majoring in different areas of design and marketing, from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, John Brown University, NorthWest Arkansas Community College, The Design School, and Oklahoma State Institute of Technology in Okmulgee.

Students were assigned seats through the CJRW office suite and waited for any of the 13 professionals to make their way to them to review, critique and provide feedback on examples of their work in a portfolio. The professionals represented interactive, shopper marketing and traditional advertising. The portfolio event was intended to bring agencies and students together, said Tom Cooper, creative director at CJRW. It was the first time for such an event in Northwest Arkansas.

The portfolio is a collection of work examples from each student. Much like a journalism graduate would provide writing samples to prospective employers, the design student shows a portfolio in the job market.

It was also an opportunity for students to develop or sharpen networking skills, said Colin McLain, an assistant professor in art and graphic design at UAFS.

“The students want to get their work in front of professionals and ultimately get placed in jobs,” said Bryan Alexis, also an assistant professor in graphic design at UAFS.

Alexis said students at UAFS will have a portfolio review on the Fort Smith campus next Thursday.

Jarrod Ramsey, 22, of Lavaca was one of 13 students from the Fort Smith campus to attend the review. It was the first portfolio review he had attended and was anxious for some professional critique. He hopes to get a job in Fayetteville in the creative side of an agency after graduation.

Sarandy Westfall, 21, from Springdale, hopes to find work in Fort Smith or Northwest Arkansas. Westfall developed an interest in graphic design while working on the yearbook at Har-Ber High School.

Some students had hard copies of their work to show off while others used tablets or laptops to share their work.

Blake Reynolds, 22, of Dallas, will graduate in a few weeks from the University of Arkansas and hopes to get a job in a small agency where she can expand her skills in web design, photography and social media. Amy McLarty 22, of Rogers, said the feedback she received early in the event was positive. McLarty said she hopes to get a job in Northwest Arkansas.

“She admired my work,” McLarty said, noting the feedback came from a CJRW professional who mentioned the company would be hiring an intern.

“I have received a lot of good feedback. It’s motivation to go back and work really hard to make the portfolio more communicative. Fine tuning it,” said Hope Johnstone, 30, of Siloam Springs.

She was the office manager of a small construction company before going back to school at the University of Arkansas to major in visual design and sculpture.

“It’s really fun to meet people one on one who can give quality advice,” Johnstone said.

Alejandro Sanchez, 20, a graphic design student at NWACC and The Design School, said the feedback was that his work was visually appealing but he needed to consider his audience and to work more with color.

“It was very constructive and really good,” Sanchez said. “It’s a good process, very helpful.”

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