Can you help me improve my graphic design portfolio so I can go to college, please?
January 29, 2011 1:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm a homeschooled high school senior and I'm currently applying to SUNY Purchase, and I'd like some ideas and suggestions for my Graphic Design portfolio.

I've been homeschooled since Freshman year of High School. I basically stopped going to school so I could teach myself illustrator, learned it, and started making infographics. I now basically do full-time freelance infographic design, which I really enjoy.

I'm applying to SUNY Purchase, where a couple of my friends are going. I did pretty poorly on my ACTs, so I'm stressing a little bit. In a week or so they are having a portfolio day, and I'd love suggestions from the hivemind on things that would help me stand out. I have a rather large infographic design portfolio, but I've been getting feedback that I need to be diverse. I've also designed flyers, and I have a photoblog of documentary photography.

Thanks so much, I'd love to knock a little stress off the shoulders and get a better idea of what to do. Thanks so much!
posted by ejfox to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I looked at your portfolio, and you have a very clear hook to help someone understand who you are and what distinctive thing you've been up to, which is fantastic for college admissions. Don't worry. Diversity in your portfolio is something I'd expect to see *after* college: logo designs / identity systems, cute illustrations, web page designs, Flash (or better yet SVG, HTML5, and WebGL) animations, random typography experiments, and so on. But that'd just be routine exercises showing you can do what everyone can do.

For right now, making a clear point about yourself that stands out is great. Your peers have mostly not been doing this kind of thing. In fact, I'd recommend applying to more schools to see what happens. The ACT scores, if they're bad enough, might spike your app in spite of the portfolio, but there will certainly be a good school out there aching to see something a little different, which you have in spades.

And when you do get to college, your portfolio tells me you'll probably also enjoy classes in statistics and social science (sociology/econ). Good luck.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:12 PM on January 29, 2011

Do you draw the icons that are in your infographic portfolio, or do you use stock vectors? If you draw the icons, make a separate page in your portfolio for vector work, and highlight some of the better ones you've done. This is something really small and simple for you to do, but it will really show the reviewers (much more than the infographics, which rely on a solid use of type) that you know your way around the pen tool.
posted by kerning at 2:19 PM on January 29, 2011

I don't have a lot (or really any) advice to add on the how to organize your portfolio question. But as the father of two teenaged homeschoolers, I just want to say nice job on using the homeschool experience to go deep on the subject you are passionately interested in, which IMHO is a much better use of 4 years than sitting through a bunch of classes that you don't care about, and will forgot completely within 14 days of passing the final. Both of my kids are doing the same thing.
posted by COD at 2:39 PM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am a graphic design professor, although not at SUNY Purchase. Our school, UNC-Charlotte, routinely graduates design students who go on to full-time employment in ad agencies and design groups in Charlotte or in other East Coast cities. We're not RISD, but we're not Nowheresville U, either.

In my experience most students going to school at a state university majoring in Art or Design have done some drawing, maybe some painting, maybe some clay in high school and that's it. It's fairly rare that a student has done some graphic design, and if they have, what they've really done is digital image manipulation that a teacher thought was graphic design. The fact that you are working in a specific area of design and that you are thinking about the purpose of design is important and it puts you miles ahead of many entering students who would do graphic design. One of the hardest things to teach a design student is that design is about communicating information or telling a story as much or more as it's about making a pleasing image. I imagine a professor at SUNY Purchase will feel similarly to me : that you have an advanced viewpoint about design for a high school level student.

Now, two things : art departments don't really have much sway about ACT cutoffs. If a University has a cutoff for these things, the department can't really override that. I think it is very important for a designer to be knowledgable about a range of topics and to have a keen interest in learning in general. You will be called upon as a designer to bring shape to a wide array of information and viewpoints, so it is very helpful to have some familiarity with a range of fields. I think you are already thinking about those things in relation to your infographics, so I have a feeling that your ACT scores would improve with practice. Once you get to school, though, put forth some effort in your non-art general education classes. There will be lots of great material there that can fire your design imagination.

Second, just as I suggest that you pay attention to a wide array of topics, I would also suggest that you make some effort to acquire other skills in the art/design area. Don't blow off your drawing classes. Your 3-D foundations class can be very important should you ever do design for anything 3-dimensional, such as a package or an environmental design. Even if you only did infographics for the rest of your life, classes like typography would be really critical.

Good luck! I think you will look like a strong candidate! And as Monsieur Caution suggests, you might apply to other schools. Even if you confine yourself to upstate New York, you could look at Syracuse, RIT, Alfred, etc.
posted by Slothrop at 3:01 PM on January 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Excellent point of view and advice, slothrop. I want to echo their points on maintaining a broader array of interests (beyond art and design), which will help you be successful in other art and design related areas. I'm a design director in the San Francisco area and almost without fail the most talented people I've worked with in design bring points of view from a whole variety of interests. I think creativity is all about being well rounded.

My father is the Dean of the graduate program at SUNY Oswego and has been talking to me quite a bit about their undergrad design program. Apparently they've brought in some really great faculty, and they have strong art, humanities, and computer science programs as well. I met a few of the students in the design program while I was at home in Oswego over the holidays and they seemed to be enjoying it quite a bit.
posted by pkingdesign at 6:18 PM on January 29, 2011

Even if it's not really related to what you intend to pursue, art school admissions folks love to see some life drawings in a portfolio, and if you're being encouraged to diversify, that's probably what they have in mind. You'll have to take some drawing classes as part of your graphic design curriculum so you may as well give it a shot now to show that you're game. Do like twelve observational sketches of things you find visually interesting--your friends, your bike, your house plants, whatever--and include the three best ones with your design work.
posted by milk white peacock at 6:29 PM on January 29, 2011

ejfox: "In a week or so they are having a portfolio day, and I'd love suggestions from the hivemind on things that would help me stand out. I have a rather large infographic design portfolio..."

Make an inforgraphic about yourself for your portfolio application. Make sure you print it or get it printed in a format you can leave with them and/or hand out, ie an oversized postcard.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:36 PM on January 30, 2011

« Older Blogging for dummies   |   How to port Excel applications to the Web? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.