Pitch & Roll: Exploring Low-Risk Entrepreneurship for Student Designers

Jennifer Kowalski
Professor of Instruction
Graphic Arts & Interactive Design
Temple University Tyler School of Art

Today’s college students are under increasing pressure to have a side hustle—a part-time job that is often related to entrepreneurship. Over the course of the next decade, half of millennials intend to start a new business or be self-employed. Students today are six times more likely to start a business while in school than they were in the 1960s and 1970s. Design students can leverage passion projects for income, practical portfolio work, and opportunities for professional networking. How can design academics foster this entrepreneurship and set their students up for success?

This presentation explores potential projects and existing platforms for design entrepreneurship that fit students’ limited budgets and time constraints. The presentation looks at ways existing student work can be repurposed for entrepreneurship and offers example projects that students can complete independently or as part of a curriculum. Pros and cons of sales platforms are reviewed—from self-hosted ecommerce through sites like Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify to print-on-demand services like Society6, Printful, and Spoonflower to design-minded virtual marketplaces like Etsy and CreativeMarket. The emphasis is on finding methods for students to engage in creative risks without taking financial ones. With proper support, students can gain valuable experience facing real-world challenges with real-world results well before graduation.

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.

PERSONALIZE. COMMUNICATE. SOCIALIZE. LISTEN. PREPARE: Teaching Professional Practices for Designers

“Professional Practices” is designed to help bridge the gap from being a student to becoming a working professional.

Holly Tienken
Assistant Professor
Communication Design
Kutztown University

When completing my BFA in Communication Design in the late 90’s, I felt 100% prepared to enter the professional world. Armed with a meticulously designed portfolio and ample technical skills, I hit the job market eager and willing to do whatever it took to land a job. Unfortunately, I found myself unprepared with necessary practical skill including interview techniques, contract reviews and salary negotiations.

My 20+ years in the industry working in a variety of settings including in-house, at small- and mid- sized agencies, and full-time freelancing have taught me numerous valuable lessons unrelated to pixels and printing. I believe experiencing both success and “failure” are necessary for healthy personal and professional growth—but with insight, many bumps and bruises can be avoided.

The course “Professional Practices” is designed to help bridge the gap from being a student to becoming a working professional. Course structure is varied and diverse including guest lectures from industry professionals; class exercises such as peer-to-peer interview prep and “Battle of the Elevator Pitch”; group discussions on topics such as salary negotiation, and understanding value and worth as a designer; and lectures on topics related to freelancing basics, cost of living, and job hunting strategies.

As the students embark on their career path the tools and knowledge gained will aid in navigating unfamiliar and sometime indimidating situation with more confidence and a defined direction. The objective is not only to help the students secure a job, but ultimately lead to an environment where they will thrive.