Form, Focus and Impact: Pedagogy of a 21st-Century Design Portfolio

Peter Lusch
Professor of Practice
Lehigh University, Bethlehem PA

Befitting careers of the industrial era—in which graphic design was focused on the creation of static artifacts and one-direction communication streams—the traditional format used to demonstrate professional credentials of designers and students has been a physical or electronic portfolio, generally showcasing five to twenty discrete artifacts with short descriptions.

Technologically, the tools and outputs designers now use have altered how design is distributed and consumed, which in turn has created new forms of practice. Moreover, the proliferation of social design and social innovation practices—work without familiar ends of products and services—have further altered the discipline. These changes suggest the traditional approach to teaching design portfolios is outdated.

If the portfolio continues to hold important relevance for employers, what form, format, and focus should it take? How might we best prepare our students to showcase their skills and start their design careers in this shifting design and media landscape?

In this presentation, we will introduce our research studying the pedagogy of the undergraduate design portfolio. We will share qualitative findings from our initial data-set, collected from interviews with design educators and practitioners. Gathered from the perspectives of different types of design programs set in different regions across the country, we share viewpoints between pedagogy and practice to fill gaps in the literature about the preparation of students for professional practice.

This research is vital as a new generation of design educators takes the lead in teaching future designers how to navigate the complexity of the design landscape.

The Graphic Design Portfolio: Process Over Product

Irina Lee
Design Director, Bureau Blank
Adjunct Lecturer, School of Visual Arts
Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Visual Communications: Art + Graphic Design
SUNY Farmingdale

Portfolio preparation can be a friendly approach to learning time management, identifying personal career goals, and transitioning from a student to a professional practice. 
 
“Live Interviews + Networking Night” was born out of the necessity to focus and motivate the graphic design seniors. Over the course of 6 weeks, the work leading up to the “big night” provides a real-world setting for students to research the design industry, identify personal career goals, iterate, self-initiate the necessary portfolio work, articulate their work through written case studies, seek out help and feedback from design professionals, and learn to make their own decisions. Instead of the traditional teacher/student reviews, students seek reviews from industry professionals and supplement their work with group reviews and self evaluations. 
 
Through this process, students gain confidence in their work, become stronger writers, improve collaboration and group facilitation skills, and learn how to build their networks. The talk will include students’ work, teaching methods, and tips for anyone interested in incorporating a similar model into their upper-level design courses.