CREATIVE CHALLENGE: For a graphic-design exhibition featuring the portfolios of graduating students, how can the supportive marketing materials be innovative enough to attract potential employers without distracting from the exhibited student work?
THE CLIENT: A dozen fellow graduating Oklahoma State University students displaying graphic-design portfolios to friends, family, professors and potential employers at a Senior Capstone Show.
THE ASSIGNMENT: Create promotional products for the event and plaques to accompany each student’s exhibited portfolio.
DESIGN OBSTACLES: My cohort, Aaron Dickey, and I were one of two teams competing for the assignment. The other side chose a comic-book theme with bold colors and BAM! POW! WHAM! Batman style graphics. We, on the other hand, knew we didn’t want the exhibition design to outshine our portfolio work. It was really about each student’s talent.
CREATIVE RESULT: One day months before coming up with Portalfolio, I was looking at the two monitors in my office. The monitor’s wallpaper color was similar to the beige walls in my office. I took a photo behind my monitor and used that as the desktop background. Looking back, I think that’s where the concept originated: Goofing off at work.
Senior year is a transitional time for any student; the hope is that we move from being a college student to a full-time professional. For a designer, the portfolio is that mode of transition through which we enter into the professional working world. Portalfolio presents a clean design that captures this idea of transformation. The portfolio is presented as both one passed through and one seen through. We were inventing a new word and playing around with different ways to mash up the idea of a gateway, a doorway or a passageway with our portfolio. We landed on Portalfolio. We spelled the name phonetically so people wouldn’t think Portalfolio was a typo.
First, a potential employer would receive the postcard with Portalfolio spelled phonetically, along with a definition to the side, and above they would see a student peeking out of their portfolio. Next, the target audience would see an A-frame sign, newspaper ad, and a door sign. Upon visiting the Gardiner Art Gallery, the potential employers would see a more massive poster featuring the same definition and student, but now the student has almost entirely emerged. Finally, the potential employer would see the individual student biographies next to that student’s work. The biographies featured the portfolio as one that is now seen through. All students were required to wear black and white with one small accent color. That accent color would correspond to their tags underneath their work. The students were also required to wear two contrasting clothing styles, one college-like and unrefined, and the other interview ready and refined. This further illustrated our point that we were a group in transition and through our portfolio, we can now be seen as a professional.
In the end, Portalfolio was the choice of our peers. The design also won two awards in 2009 from Creative Lightning in a statewide competition of student designers: the Gold award for Event design and the “Meta of Honor” for an event for its self-referential genre design. Lastly, by our professor’s estimation, this was the highest attended capstone exhibition to date.
Project completed as a student in collaboration with Aaron Dickey.