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Marketing, website, and branding tips that convert


Portfolio review tips for graphic design students

3 min read

Last weekend, half the drift team drove up to Dallas and reviewed student portfolios and participated in the career fair at The National Student Show hosted by the DSVC. Good times were had by all! Here’s a few of our thoughts from the two-day-marathon of reviewing portfolios.


15 Minutes before the portfolio review starts, you’re already starting to sweat. You’re hoping the deodorant you used is  – oh crap. You forgot your deodorant. Just one more thing to have to worry about. While this article won’t help you remember to smell good, maybe it can help ease a few other worries.

01. Humility can go a long way – be nice!

At most portfolio reviews the reviewers are not being paid. They are taking time away from all the other things they could be doing to help your goofy portfolio get a little better. So just be nice and thankful and you know, like say, “thank you” at least once. If you don’t agree with their feedback, don’t argue with the reviewer. Just nod, smile and move along.

Note: When I saw students taking notes, as a reviewer it made me feel appreciated. Not a bad thing when you’re hoping for a potential job from maybe that same person.


02. Show some personality

Usually the reviewer is going to see a ton of people in a few hours. Everyone starts to blur together and it’s really up to you to make sure you stand out. Remember that even if it’s just a “portfolio review” it’s also a potential job offer in 6 months or maybe a year. You only have a few minutes at each reviewer to make sure you’re remembered. Ask how the reviewer is doing. Make eye contact. Make them feel appreciated. Compliment their sweet outfit. Tell them you reviewed their company website and really love project X or Y. We get it, you’re nervous, but don’t forget to be a person.


03. Time is critical

Be concise and let the reviewer do most of the talking. Portfolio reviews are not just about improving your work. It’s also a great networking opportunity. Which means, the more people you can meet, the better. Practice talking about your top three projects in a concise way that clearly shows you knew what you were doing. Saying things like, “I know this looks bad, but…” will get you nowhere real fast. If you don’t feel that you’re getting good feedback, don’t show anymore projects. Say something like, “Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate the feedback.” And get outta there!

Note: If you showed one of your apps for an Apple watch ON your Apple watch – that would be cool.


04. The more mentors the better

There may not be a job available at the moment you’re meeting with someone. Or you may not even be looking for a job at that moment, but if you found the reviewer to be giving you great feedback, it’s a good idea to ask if you could email them later for additional advice. Most professionals have/had their own mentors and understand the value. The more mentors you can bring into your circle, the more options you’ll have available to you.

Note: Our business has seen the biggest growths immediately following advice from our own mentors and advisors.


05. Presentation is everything

If a top rated chef prepared you two meals exactly the same way, but one meal was plated by a professional and one meal was plated by a child throwing a tantrum. Which do you think would taste better? Even though they’re going to taste the same, one is clearly a better option. If you leave anything behind, make sure it looks amazing. It may be the only thing they remember about you. It may be the thing that gets them to look up your website. Don’t let that business card of yours be something you rush together just to get it done. Present yourself like you would if it was a job interview. Even if it’s just a portfolio review, you never know who might be looking to hire. Make sure there’s nothing getting in the way of them seeing how awesome you are.

Note: We saw a few portfolios that had misspellings and pixelated prints. It made us very, very sad. 


06. Now what?

More than likely you got some valuable feedback on your work – hopefully without any tears. Force yourself to take the time to make edits and to improve the work based on the feedback you received. Portfolio reviews can be very helpful, but just make sure you do something with all the feedback you get.

Note: Trying to find a portfolio review? Check out your local AIGA chapter.


Next up! How to make your student portfolio suck less. Coming next week.

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