Life Goals: Or that time I went to a Portfolio Review

Last week I was lucky enough to participate in my local AIGA’s Student Portfolio Review as a professional reviewer. And I saw lucky because, up until 3 days before the review I wasn’t scheduled to do it. I had seen some info about it but wasn’t sure my schedule would work out to devote a chunk of time on a Saturday. But luckily for me, one of my good friends had to bow out of her spot and suggested I take it over. I’m so glad there was nothing else on my calendar that morning.


With coffee in hand myself and varied group of designers, creative directors and recruiters set out to review the work of designers studying at a few local colleges. All the reviews were one-on-one for about 25 minutes each. So we have a good amount of time to dive in. And these young people have all the skills. Concept. Illustration. Hand-lettering. Design. Branding. Animation. Witty Copy. It was truly inspiring to get to see all the work these students were doing. I’m pretty sure they put my college portfolio to shame!

After a couple of reviews, I found my rhythm. I’d have the designer talk me through their whole portfolio, I might ask a question or two about context. But then I’d ask them what they want to do or where they want to be after graduation. And then go back through their portfolio with suggestions and questions to consider to help them hone their work, presentation and pacing to show their strengths. All the feedback was based off of what I saw as basic questions ... What’s your goal? What type of work do you want to do? Where do you want to work? What is the job role you’d like to move into?

About halfway through the review, a lovely young lady, we’ll call her “L”. L stopped and said, “Thank you! No one has asked me that question yet.” And I was surprised none of the other reviewers asked that question. But then she went on, “Not even my portfolio class teacher.” She meant EVER. This broke my heart.

We need to ask these questions. We need to ask them of people coming out college and getting ready to enter the industry. We need to ask them of our teams, the people we lead and the peers we work with. We also need to ask these questions of ourselves from time to time.


These are the questions that will keep us on track and lead to continuous growth and improvement. These are the questions that will keep us satisfied in our careers and hopefully inspire us to do more of what we love.