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Graphic Design Student tips for the National Student Show in Dallas

February 18, 2019

Dallas buildings with Drift Logo

Howdy, students of graphic design! We’re very excited to be attending the 2019 National Student Show (NSSC) in Dallas, Texas! Hopefully, you’re going too!? Please stop by our little Drift booth during the job fair and portfolio review and say hi! We’ll be dishin’ out portfolio reviews and Drift swag. Having been to a few of these before, we thought it would be helpful to share some insight that might help maximize your time during the conference. For you graphic design students, this is a golden opportunity to get your foot in many doors all in one place.

6 Tips for Maximizing your National Student Show experience:

1. Be Intentional – Before the conference, sit down for 15 minutes at least, and just think about what you want to get out of the conference. A little bit of planning and goal setting can give you a bit more focus.

Here’s an example plan: I’m going to the NSSC to win some loot, network, and have some fun. Another plan could be, I want to be a speaker at this one day when I graduate, so I’m going to learn how to give a great presentation by taking notes on how everyone presents. 

2. Set Easy Goals – Give yourself a few easy-to-complete-goals, but specific ones. Really though, make them easy; you’re at a student conference and you should be having a good time. Don’t let yourself stress. You already have plenty of other things that you’re stressing about, like which fun designy socks you should wear. (Always a struggle for me.)

If your intention for the conference is to network – then set a goal to talk with one of your favorite speakers each day. If you have an easier time talking to new people, set a bigger goal – talk to every speaker. Or go a step further, and get one person each day to agree to let you ask them follow up questions via email – the beginnings of a mentor!

3. Find a Mentor – Typically the Dallas design community is very open about sharing advice and providing guidance for those with less experience. That means you should completely take advantage of that (in a good way). Find yourself some mentors. The more the merrier.

During the conference or studio tours, find someone that could provide you value (yes you’re being selfish here) and ask, “Hey I’d love to ask you some questions via email after the conference. Would you be open to that?” If someone says “NO!”, Please email us and tell us who said no to you. We’ll send them some glitter in the mail. 

4. Be Memorable – During the career fair, there will be tons of people flooding through each agency, make sure you’re doing everything you can to be remembered (positively) after the 4 hour onslaught of portfolios/interviews. We also wrote about some tips/tricks for portfolio reviews that you should check out, too.

How do you stand out? We’ve seen students give out well-designed portfolios or some cool swag, which is great, but this can be pricey if you’re on a budget. One of the easiest ways to stand out is to be engaged with the interviewer. Ask them questions. Show your passion for design. Compliment them (who doesn’t love a compliment?).  Afterwards, follow them on social media, or even better get an email address, and personally thank them for their feedback. 

5. Give Yourself Time – There will be an overwhelming amount of things going on during the three days. Don’t let yourself feel rushed. Take the time, maybe even away from your classmates or friends, to soak things up. You are a spongy-sponge.

Really look at the student show and analyze the work, take notes, and consider what makes the work great. During the presentations bring something to take notes. Take lots of notes! Record everything. Not feeling the particular speaker or topic? Get up and go to another one. Don’t sleep in. Get breakfast with your professor and ask them questions. Make every opportunity a chance to learn.

6. Now Do Something – After the conference and show, you’re going to be buzzing with ideas, inspiration, and confidence – but it may simmer out after a couple of days. While you’re riding that post-conference-high is the best time to pull up your old projects and make them stronger.  You’ve seen the show and your competition. You’ve gotten feedback on your portfolio and hopefully have some direction for improvement. And you’ve listened and talked with industry leading designers that have given you courage and focus.

You should now have an animalistic feeling inside of you that is begging to get out. Open up your portfolio projects and unleash that insatiable urge to create. Add more depth to your projects. Spice up the presentation of each project. Boldly show your process. Be open to that.

As I write this, our team is scurrying about making some new sweet swag to bring to the show. If you’ll be in Dallas for the show hit us up on instagram! We’re always looking for talented designers to join our team and we love meeting people as passionate about graphic design as us.

P.S. Not sure what the National Student Show is all about? Are you a graphic design student that lives sorta close to the Dallas, TX area? If yes, please consider going. Find a way to make it happen! Graphic design students from all over attend, particularly from OK, KS, AR, and TX. There’s a three-day conference for students with industry leading speakers. And there’s a big design competition where you can win some great loot ($20k in prizes). And there’s a job fair. And a portfolio review. And, finally it’s probably the cheapest conference you’ll ever attend in your career as a designer. Learn more here. 

P.P.S. Still not sure if you should attend? Here’s a direct and real quote from someone that didn’t attend, “I wish I would have attended…” See what we mean? The regret you can feel in that ellipsis is so thick you can almost feel it. Almost.

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