Help! Student in need of Critique and Direction

Hello everyone!

I am a student Graphic Designer in my 3rd year. I am enrolled in Liberty University’s online BFA Graphic Design program. This has been fine, and I have been learning a lot and getting good grades, but sometimes I feel like I’m not sure if my work is even any good, or what I could be doing to improve.
When I post work for critique in classes, I notice that I am consistently performing at a higher level than my peers in the same class. However, Liberty is not exactly an art school, and when I search for examples of student design portfolios online, they are typically way better than my work.

I’m not sure where I stand? I honestly feel like my portfolio needs a lot of work. I am currently trying to apply for internships (I need one to graduate) but I am nervous because I feel like my work examples are not up to par, and I feel like since my program is 100% online I cant really connect with anyone or get real productive feedback or advice.

All that said, I guess I’m seeking advice on three points -

  1. What can I do to improve my current portfolio? Does it look like a good start, or is there anything I should scrap?

  2. What should I add to make the portfolio better? What sort of projects should I practice?

  3. HOW do you find and get an internship?? I search online but all I find are positions posted on really scammy looking job sites that don’t look legitimate.

Any and all advice is appreciated, as I have no idea what I am doing but I am very determined to turn this into a career.

Thank you!

Portfolio -

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Welcome Aboad Lora! :slight_smile:

We don’t allow first time posters to add links as a spam reduction method. I’ve added your link for you and upped your status a tad if you need to change it.

:slight_smile: :+1:

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Thank you so much! ^-^

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Pet peeve of mine:
If a “University” requires an internship, they should be assisting the student in finding an internship. This place has no job placement office? The professors have no contacts?

If you are remote and on your own, I’d start looking locally. Print shop. Sign shop. Those would be first places to try. Studios and agencies are few and far between these days, but you can try.

I’ve never considered an online-only job to be an internship. I suppose it could be, under a very rigid set of circumstances, but as you say, most stuff like that online not only looks spammy but is spammy.

Definition of an intern: “An advanced student or graduate, usually in a professional field, gaining supervised practical experience.”
If there is no mentor to learn from, it is wasted time on your part.

PS, re: your portfolio
Typos get your work binned and you get no phone call. Just sayin’…

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Thank you for the input! I definitely would prefer an in-person internship, and I hadn’t considered looking into print/sign shops but now I certainly will!

A lot of programs have moved online due to Covid, but some are starting to open back up to hopefully be in person. With the lack of in-person classes I really would prefer a more hands-on internship to hopefully learn more.

My college does have job placement assistance, sort of? But its more like they just provide you with access to a student-only version of linked-in. I tried calling their career center and all she did was send me a list of big-name companies that have good internship programs to apply for…which is fine, and I did, but I still feel a little lost. I wish they had some sort of portfolio review/assistance program.

Thank you for the portfolio input as well! “Business” gets me every time. I went ahead and fixed it, and I’ll look more carefully for typing errors.

That’s likely because you’re only seeing their best work. No one puts their less-than-best work in their portfolios — at least they shouldn’t. Every art director judges designers, in part, by the worst pieces in their portfolios. I’m assuming you have a 4th year of schooling still coming up. Your work and your portfolio will improve during the coming year.

I like your Christmas tree. It’s very nice. Your last example — the photography logo — is likely the least strong piece in my opinion. Did you place everything in order of how much you liked the work?

I don’t have time right now, but I’d be willing to point out a few issues — both good and bad — in your other pieces if you’d like. If it’s relevant, I’ve been an art and creative director for longer than I care to remember and have seen, probably, thousands of portfolios.

You obviously have talent, and I don’t see anything that suggests you’re not achieving what might be expected of a third-year design student.

As for internships, we’ve always tended to take on students who showed the initiative of contacting us and requesting an interview. Their portfolios obviously needed to carry them through the interview, but the fact that they initiated the contact showed the kind of aggressive self-starter personality that (along with talent) is needed in this business.

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Hi B!
Everything is arranged, for the most part, in a chronological order. The photography logo is actually a personal project I made before I started any courses, and I have no issues cutting it out if it is a detriment!

I would absolutely appreciate some more in-depth feedback, whenever you have time!

Thank you for verifying that everything looks about where it should for a year three student! I struggle with being too critical of my own work and not being able to tell if I am where I should be.

Thank you also for the internship advice, as well! I will keep that in mind for the future applications.

You seem like you are genuinely interested in getting better and you’re pursuing an education, so I am happy to offer some comments.

Christmas Tree – Decent but basic AI work. The design portion could use some work. I don’t care for the way each layer of the tree has three points at the bottom. Mix that up some. Have have a layer that has two points or four points. Right now, it’s a little static looking. The type at the top needs more work. Seems weird to have “how to decorate” left justified and “a Christmas tree” right justified. The illustration at the very bottom with the circle around it, you have three mounds of snow. The points of the Christmas tree line up or almost line up with these. This is not good illustration, you should have a little air between the branch and the snow or make them overlap so the points don’t line up with the mound of snow.

Patterns – I think the tea and sundries and sweet like honey are nice. There are some awkward gaps in the chamomile lemon. I’d cut that one.

That’s So Groovy – I’m not really digging this, sorry. Maybe I’d feel differently if I saw the whole face developed and some words typeset in the font. That said, font design is its own beast. Being a good graphic designer does not necessarily equal type designer. Point being, I think you can get by without a font design in your portfolio.

Nature’s Anti-Hero – The overall layout isn’t bad, but there is a lot you can do to improve the typesetting. A few things I’m seeing. Never ever hyphenate a word in a headline or subhead (e.g rattle- snake in the subhead). A much wiser man than I once said “a man that would letterspace lower case type would steal sheep.” That’s my paraphrase, anyway. Point being, lower case type spaced out rarely looks good. Learn about kerning and then look at your headline. You have several paragraphs with one word on the last line. This is something I avoid like the plague unless there is no way around it. Study up on hanging punctuation. Study up on line breaks. Just because InDesign breaks a line one way, it doesn’t mean that’s the best way.

Wildwood – This is one of the better pieces. I wonder what it would look like if the pine tree was a little funky to match the type better. Also, I’d look at the kerning on this. It’s worth improving and keeping in your portfolio.

The Anatomy of Typography – This is okay, but it could be improved. The visual weight and hierarchy are off. The circle callouts are too close to each other. Make those smaller and put some air between them.Maybe put the terms outside the circle. Learn about kerning and then take another look at your headline. I’m not crazy about mixing the very nice, formal, serif face you’ve chosen with the script font. This combo isn’t working in my opinion. Improve this piece and keep it.

Sweet Sammy’s – I think you can improve this. Look at other bakeries for inspiration. I think you’ll see that what you’ve done here feels a little flat. The black type looks like death and decay next to the colorful images. Gotta change that type color pronto. Again, don’t rely on InDesign to make the best line breaks, and watch out for bad hyphenation. Improve this and keep it in your portfolio. Side note: consider adding one more two-page spread. That way, this could conceivable print as an 8-page piece.

Pup Cakes – I’ll give you credit for creative thinking in making the tongue the U. I think you’ll need to push this more and improve it if you’re going to keep it in your portfolio.

Peace, Joe, and AJ – Honestly, this is pretty amateurish looking, which makes sense since you’re a student, but this has got to go. Too much wrong with it to ge into, but I’ll cut you some slack since you said you did this before you started your coursework.

Bottom line time. I’ve seen better student portfolios, but I’ve seen weaker student portfolios, too. Way weaker. My overall impression, and I could be way off with this, is that the work feels rushed. Like you come up with a concept and rush to finish it without really thinking through the details or considering alternate concepts. If I am off base, I apologize. If I’m not off base, the way to improve is fairly obvious: slow down, develop multiple concepts, figure out which one is best, and refine, refine, refine. If you’re in your third year, you have half a year, the summer, and then all of next year. You should be eating, sleeping, living, and breathing good design.

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Thank you so much for all of your feedback, it’s brilliant and greatly appreciated! I especially appreciate your feedback for The Christmas Tree and Nature’s Anti-Hero; both of these are pieces that I really liked, but felt like something needed to be done to make them better.

I will be finishing up my coursework for the semester until Friday, but over the weekend I am going to head in and start implementing feedback!

It sounds like I really need to work on my kerning, and get better at type selection, pairing, and arrangement in general.

I mostly had the type design assignment included in order to flesh out the portfolio - it was another fairly polished, graphic-design relevant piece to add. However, I don’t intend to do much type design, and if you feel it is detracting from my overall portfolio it may be best to get rid of it.

You are absolutely right that they are rushed; I tend to fall behind schedule for school and that results in me submitting something I know will be good enough, rather than being the best I can do. I will definitely work on managing my time a bit better, and exploring more concepts before settling.

I’m trying hard to find lots of places to be exposed to good design! Behance, Design blogs/magazines, etc. Being on this forum has already helped so much as well, both from this post and just reading critiques of other people’s work on here. You all are so helpful and have a lot of really great insight and expertise.

Also! This -

made me laugh, and you are right XD Thank you, I’ll work out a better solution.

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