Why haven't I been hired?
July 21, 2008 2:14 PM   Subscribe

I have been applying for entry-level graphic design jobs from Philadelphia craigslist for two months and haven't received even the slightest nibble of interest. What am I doing wrong?

First off, my work is online at my site

My ego would like to pretend that it's just a hard market, and that all entry level work is difficult to catch, but if I face facts, I suspect it's my portfolio or resume.

Three months ago, I graduated from a small New England school where I was a big fish in a very small pond. My professors loved my work, but the final portfolio class was a boondoggle and now I question their evaluations. I'm afraid I need a bitter dose of hard truth, and I know of no better place to get it than metafilter.

What needs work, what has to go, what should I build from scratch, and what errors have I made that are keeping me from landing an interview?
posted by Richard Daly to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I know very little about design, but the on-website text is in a weak font, poorly structured (just make it in a square box or something) and hard to read. Anyway, that sticks out to me.
posted by elisabethjw at 2:22 PM on July 21, 2008

Are you in Philly now? Start networking; who you know is important no matter where you live. Philly's a surprisingly friendly town. Go to art events. Read phillyist.com and go to local events. It's a close-knit city, so once you get to know people it might open some doors.

Volunteer for local nonprofits, whether it's theater, film festivals, homeless shelters, PAWS. I volunteered upon moving to Philly and met hundreds of people (really!) in the span of a few weeks.

Try the Philly online community (either through LiveJournal or other blog sites, yelp.com, philly.com commenter community (I recently found out that there is such a thing, sort of).

Often a personal referral (or even an "I know this guy who just applied with you") is what will finally get your resume pulled out of the mound of applicants.

Good luck!
posted by cherie72 at 2:29 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

The navigation on your site is a little unintuitive. If you can't structure and present your own work in a simple, attractive way (with no time limit), it leads people to believe that you will never be able to structure and design things for other people (with looming deadlines).

Look at some great portfolios of people that you feel are really above you design-wise and shoot for that level of quality and attention to detail. Don't copy...just reach for the stars. You might not get there with this try, but at least you'll hit the moon.

Also, you don't use capital letters anywhere, which may turn off employers, I think.
posted by milarepa at 2:29 PM on July 21, 2008

Your XHTML and CSS don't validate. It's not super important, but if you're looking for web design work, valid code could make the difference.
posted by kidbritish at 2:34 PM on July 21, 2008

As someone who was trained in HCI as usability in college, your site made me scream a little.

The navigation/layout is not intuitive at all. It took me awhile to figure out that each box in the left corner was a different example of your work, and even longer to figure out that your cute poetic descriptions explained what the work was.

Your resume/portfolio should be accessible. Rather than have everything how you do, why don't you try and simplify it a little. Your work should speak for itself, and your website should be a way to see that work, it doesn't need to be an artistic piece in and of itself, it just needs to be usable.

Have the starting point be your resume - perhaps have it look more like a resume - Having the important text run down the right handside always personally bothers me - people arn't looking for it over there.

Then have a different section for you portfolio. Have the link to it clearly labeled! Perhaps have it layed out in a photogallery style. With a brief description of each work under it. Maybe explain what class you had to make it for.

Overall your work looks good, and the design is clean, which I like, but it's just so inaccessible. People are not going to spend the time figuring out where your sample work is when someone else has made it easier. They'll just hire the other person.
posted by Arbac at 2:41 PM on July 21, 2008

Are you a member of any graphic design professional associations? Those will often list jobs that aren't on craigslist. You might not even need to be a member to view jobs, but being one can clue you into networking events and such.

Philly does seem to be a tough town for graphic design. I am not a designer, I just have a lot of friends who are and I hear about their experiences in applying for jobs every so often. There are quite a few art and design schools there, so there's a lot of grads being churned out every year.
posted by medeine at 2:42 PM on July 21, 2008

Okay, my company (mainly myself) just hired a graphics designer, and I just looked at your website, and I have three thoughts:

1) This menu structure drives me crazy. To be honest, it's already turned me off. If i'm selling a good or service, I can't lose the viewers focus for a second. I want to click the text on the right, but it's not clickable. Then i figure out that I have to click on the images itself...which is...weird.

2) This portfolio seems nice, but it seems too "arty". I'm hiring for a corporate job- I want to see a business card design, a brochure design, some letterhead, a website design.

3) The site seems really slow. Who's your hosting provider?
posted by unexpected at 2:47 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

The range of work in your portfolio is small. It looks fine, but the style is very similar between most pieces, and with the exception of the package design, they all have a similar, plain layout. Not the breadth of work that I would be looking for in a designer, especially considering all the different skills you list under "work". Unless someone is looking for exactly that look, they'll move on.

I'd rewrite the text in your portfolio. Right now you're selling the companies, what you want to sell is your work. Why did you make the design decisions you did? How did these decisions meet the company or product objectives? What difficulties did you have and how did you overcome them?

Spend your spare time beefing up your portfolio. Maybe take on some low paying work at a site like Elance to fill out your work.

And deemphasize your coursework. Your portfolio is what gets you jobs, not course numbers.

I don't know about Philadelphia craigslist, but in San Francisco I can easily get a couple hundred responses to a design job. Which means unless you've responded to tons of jobs, you haven't hit the odds yet. Anyone who doesn't follow the reply instructions to the very letter gets tossed.

On the technical front, I'd make two navigational changes to the site. One is make sure you have a way of getting back to the front page, since it has your qualifications on it. And two, don't put everything on one page. Have your portfolio pieces on separate pages so you can send specific URLs to address prospective clients needs. For example if someone is looking explicitly for package design, you can send them directly to your package design pages.

Also make sure you're applying for the right jobs. You are on the bottom rung at the moment.
posted by Ookseer at 2:50 PM on July 21, 2008

Are you only looking on Craig's List? Have you looked at AIGA, HOW, Print or Coroflot boards? In my experience good firms don't advertise vacancies. When they have a position to fill they ask around, or look through a large pile of resumes that they've been sent unsolicited. By good firms I'm talking about the kind that are featured in magazines, win awards and most design students want to work for.

As for your site, I like the look of it. However, I agree that it's not intuitive to navigate at all. The home page is your resume, but at first I was clicking on the words on the right, thinking they were links to your identity work etc.

You really don't have a lot of stuff up there to look at. Once I figured out that clicking on the images would show your pieces and that the copy was descriptions I'd already become annoyed. The descriptions aren't all complete sentences, capitalized and don't really make sense. To me that says "young punk who I don't want to interact with my clients." This is easily fixed so don't fret too much.

I would also suggest showing your logos in context. For instance, most logos aren't just marks without any text. I would also put an example of the identity system (letterhead, card etc.) on at least one of them if applicable.

The process for this logo's creation included inking a whole tilipia from the grocery store. When friend asked what I was doing. I have my favorite excuse: I'm an art student

This doesn't look like a logo to me at all. What is it a logo for? How does it represent the company? The story about the fish could be told during a portfolio review but shouldn't be a description of the project. And saying that the "excuse" is being an art student sounds juvenile and like you don't take the work seriously. Basically, it makes you sound young and inexperienced in the real (ie business) world. Despite what your teachers tell you very little about graphic design has to do with being an artist. You will realize this one day when you have to change a logo's color because the client's wife doesn't like it or it reminds them of a couch they had in the '70s.

Good luck!
posted by Bunglegirl at 3:04 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: This is written without knowing what types of places you are applying to. That sort of info would be helpful.

I just posted a design position on CL today and received a flood of emails already. Many of whom are very over-qualified and have much more experience than you do. Consider that it could be the venue. Try expanding your search on indeed.com or specific company sites.

To start out with - I had no idea all that text on the side was your resume. And then I had to search for your resume, which was frustrating to me. Anyway, your resume doesn't have any concrete work experience on it and your examples are too "non-corporate." Instead of telling me your experience in two words, tell me where you did it, for how long, and what you actually did there.

Under "work" (identity, logo mark and tag, etc), include links to the examples, as those items are more likely to be what people want to actually see. Unless you are applying to cutting-edge design firms, keep in mind that the output in most design jobs is not nearly as hip as your work is, and that may be putting some people off. For example, what I am looking for is nothing like what you are positioning yourself as, so that might put me off as a potential employer, even though you might fit my employment profile otherwise. Some folks will be able to see beyond that, but when hiring, people want to see that you can do what they need you to be able to do. (On preview: basically #2 in unexpected 's comment).

Finally, send a real resume and cover letter, then link to the site. Don't make people work hard to find info to hire you. Keep in mind that HR might be reading your stuff, not your potential boss. Make everything as easy and clear as possible.

Good luck!

One last thought: where are you currently located? If you are in CT and applying to Philly jobs with CT info, that is likely why you are not getting bites. If 100 people apply and 10 (including you) are qualified but you're the only one not located there, you may not get the call.
posted by ml98tu at 3:08 PM on July 21, 2008

My 2c:
Samples seem a little ... sparse to me. Not sure I'd include the pirate's chest thing, it doesn't look particularly well-crafted, even for a mock-up. 'Rectifier' doesn't do much for me. I like the fish thing, but if that's a logo, where's the rest of it? 'Impossible Toy' logo strikes me as the best thing there, and I can barely read the tag line. Craftsmanship matters a great deal for entry-level gigs.

Some of the captions are a little obtuse, might be trying a little hard to be clever.

Not sure I'd do a portfolio site that cuts off the top left corner of every piece shown.

One thing kinda lacking is a complete design program -- a logo you've developed, then the business stationary, a sample web site, a brochure, etc., all using the same graphics.

I hope you're looking on other sites besides Craigslist (i.e., Commarts, Coroflot, etc.). I've never been particularly impressed with the design work offered on Craigslist.

If it's any consolation, when I graduated (so many, many moons ago), it took about 3-4 months to get that first gig, and it was in the middle of a pretty bad recession. Hang in there, I'm sure you'll get something soon.

(...and on preview, looks like Bunglegirl has already delivered the smackdown!)
posted by Bron at 3:09 PM on July 21, 2008

I don't know anything about the Philly arts community, but I have some experience in the New Orleans community when I worked in printing and advertising so many years ago.

First of all, Cheri72 and bunglegirl have placed two nails on the board and hit them squarely. Pay attention to their remarks.

My opinion about your work scarcely matters, in all honesty. Indeed, the only people, IMHO, who matter are art directors in your area. They need to see your portfolio and provide the needed comments.

But since you asked... I see good design principals there, but few commercial examples. I can tell you that when I saw work as an AD, if you didn't show what you'd do with my account (or, at least, something in the genre), I would sometimes put your work on a pile to be looked at "later." Ultimately, I couldn't make a quick decision on how to place you and I would not get time to follow up.

In that vein, I would find local companies that buy interesting commercial art. Find out who does their art work. Give yourself a project based on what you find -- a campaign, a re-design, or something like that. Shows you're thinking about a firm's accounts and submit THAT work along with your resume and porfolio.

Then repeat the process again and again. At the very least, this will help you target those agencies that are doing interesting work. And remember: No response doesn't mean "You suck! I hope you die."

Lastly, I think that two months is a TINY bit of time. Every Tom, Dick, and Daley believes they can work in-the-field. That doesn't mean Tom, Dick, or Daley can't work in the field, it means there's a long road to walk. Treat EVERY project as important, create good artwork, show it off to people, and that will start you down the road. The steps, especially at the beginning, will be small.

(Of course, this is just one person's opinion. I haven't been in that world in quite awhile.)
posted by tcv at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2008

I'm a creative director in a corporate marketing department.

The text comes across as pretty flippant. Already I'm wondering if this is somebody I want working for me. Also, what's with references to religion and Freedom fries in that text? That is something I'd consider a VERY high risk strategy for somebody looking for work.

To the design, with a portfolio that you're using to sell your designs, why are so many of the designs cropped in weird ways? I want to see the work in a way that is easy and clear.

Navigation wise, it did take me about 3 tries to figure out where to click to bring up the designs. I'm not unsophisticated, and I found it eventually. Would I have bothered if I was also looking at 100 other portfolios? Not sure. Depends on how much I liked the thumbnails compared to everything else I was seeing I guess.

The work is pretty thin and not corporate. The fish is supposed to be a logo? I don't get that from looking at it. Show me how it works in context. If I'm looking to hire, I want to see a flyer or ad. I want to see some identity work (logo/letterhead/business card). I want to see some web sites.

Work experience helps. Find a charity you support and over to do work for free. That will give you some experience and show that you can work with an actual client as opposed to a teacher.
posted by willnot at 3:26 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

What everyone else said. Your job at this moment in time is to make it as easy for me to hire you as possible. Right now, you're making me work very hard and I already don't like you.

Redesign. Simply. Take every item on your Work list and make a page for it, with commercially viable examples. Take everything else that's listed and put it on a Resume page.

I don't know what types of work you're applying for, but if I'm hiring for print, I don't need to see an overly clever high wire of CSS acrobatics for a website. And if I'm hiring for web, it will be a cold day in hell before I hire anyone who doesn't put a Home button on their website.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:35 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey, that looks familiar. :)

First off, it is a difficult market, entry-level work is hard to get, and your work does show some talent. So don't take this too personally.

* That whole column of text at the right looks like clickable links, but isn't.
* First thing I did when I visited your site was try to click "Resume", which appeared to be broken, because it didn't take me anywhere. Only after viewing source did I discover that I was already looking at it.

* nobody cares that you can use Word, Excel, Outlook, or Powerpoint. It's expected that you'll be able to use Photoshop, Illustrator, et al. Listing the names of the courses you took in school doesn't tell us anything at all about your skills, and looks like padding.
* This is an empty resume. You have no experience. That's okay, everybody has to start somewhere, but the very first thing you're showing to visitors to your site is the fact that you have no experience. Don't put your resume front-and-center until you actually have a resume. Make a traditional, standard-format resume, so you have something to give to HR. In it, expand on what relevant experience you do have (the TA work) and leave out irrelevant experience (camp counselor). Link to it, quietly. Don't put it on the front page.

* It's a very small portfolio, and a bit scattered. If you're more skilled and/or interested in specific areas of design, focus on those areas. If you're casting a wider net, consider breaking this up into categories, so that people who are looking to hire a packaging designer can focus on your package designs, etc.
* Your layout leaves no room for expansion.
* You've chosen examples that are, for the most part, in areas of design that have little business value (posters) or that are difficult to break into as an entry-level designer (identity work). You've chosen not to present any examples of work in design areas that are much easier to break into (web design, text or brochure layout). You claim experience in Flash and InDesign but don't show any evidence of this.
* The copy is terrible. Most of it says absolutely nothing about the design; a lot of it reads like deliberately obscure art-student speak. Write about these from the client's point of view, not your own. How does this logo help sell the company? What does it say about the company's qualities? (As I said before, your sauce bottle design copy is pretty good; the rest need a lot of work.)
* Some samples are shown in-context (on a bottle or on a shopping bag) and wind up too small to see clearly. Some are shown full-size, but might benefit from being shown in context. (Is stimmhorn an album cover? Then why is it rectangular instead of square?) Some are shown so close-up that they're partially cut off by the navigation (Holy War). I'd suggest turning each of these into a multi-image set; this'll give you the chance to show close-ups when necessary, and will make the whole portfolio look less sparse.

The individual designs:
It's clear that all the examples are for self-generated, imaginary clients. Again, that's okay, everybody has to start somewhere -- but you set yourself up with some really easy, obvious briefs, and still wind up muddling the message sometimes. People go through a design portfolio looking for two things: technical skills, and ability to deliver the message. You're showing some of the first but very little of the second.

* Sauce bottles: These are strong designs, the copy is good, and the description of the tactile qualities and shelf efficiency are one of the few cases in the whole portfolio where you actually look at this stuff from the client's point of view. Excellent. But these brightly-colored, playful labels are the farthest thing from "stoic" -- choose a different adjective.
* It's The Balm: I bitched about this one already, not going to go over it again.
* Necessary & Sufficient: Everything about the name of the client and the description in the copy says minimal and clean. So why does the logo have frilly flourishes? The logo is also too small to see clearly; it's nice to show it in context on the bag, but not as the only example.
* Rectifier: The tagline matches the concept and the logo is clean and recognizable (though I'm not sure what the grungy treatment contributes.) Decent work, but it kind of looks like you came up with the design first and built a client around it, though; "socially aware electronic music" is... unusual.
* The fish: Second-worst copy on the site. (It's a cute story, but doesn't tell us anything about the design.) The logo is pretty, but says nothing at all -- I can't even tell if the client is a restaurant or a seafood store or what -- and looks incomplete. Back to the drawing board.
* Impossible Toy: Another too-obvious brief, but you successfully carried it through... then blew it on the tagline, which is completely unrelated to everything else in the concept. (I don't love the whitespace handling either; the text looks very off-balance on its own, and is more or less arbitrarily positioned next to the graphic.)
* Pirate's chest: I don't even know what this is. A toy? Some origami? Lose it.
* The 'freedom fries' thing: worst copy on the site. Who is the client? What do they do? What's the logo supposed to represent? Neither the design nor the copy gives the faintest clue.
* Stimmhorn: this is one of your stronger pieces. I'm seeing terrible JPEG compression artifacts around the word 'stimmhorn' though; upload a cleaner copy.
* Holy War: The poster itself is striking and quite pretty -- but: what does the design say about the event? If I'm just looking at the poster, do I have the faintest idea what the event itself is going to be (even if it were large enough that I could read the small text?) It's a, okay, a war of some kind, the font choice supports that; and it's... happening in a corner? In the dark? In what way is it holy? No clue. It looks great, but the concept is completely unclear.
posted by ook at 3:52 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Comments on the resume content: I was stupidly clicking on the word resume thinking that it would link to a printable copy of your resume - but I just noticed that the home page is your resume. You need to link to a pdf that can be printed. You need to put dates, locations, etc.

Also, how did you graduate summa cum laude with a 3.51 gpa? I don't really know how these distinctions are awarded, but that seems odd to me. If I see someone that's added summa cum laude on a resume, I'm expecting to see some awards or achievements as well.

As for Mitchell College - you might want to add the location of the school, and any awards or student affiliations you held. Lots of people haven't heard of many small liberal arts schools, so you'd want to add a little more info. (you don't want them to google it - I did and the website is super annoying).

Lastly, If you have extra time (and you'd have to have a little money, unfortunately), you could move down to Philly, take a class at Drexel University or another downtown school like University of the Arts, and start networking a little through the school.
posted by belau at 5:06 PM on July 21, 2008

Since you're looking in the Philadelphia area - check out Bailey Design Group. I just think they're a really nice company and have a great reputation (I was an intern there long ago). Once you make your resume/portfolio look professional, you might want to look into their internship opportunities.
posted by belau at 5:19 PM on July 21, 2008

disclaimer: i've never worked as a graphic designer nor hired one, so i'm definitely not an expert.

when i first opened your site, i saw 'work - identity.' i thought 'oh, i click there to see his identity work.' i clicked and nothing happened. same with the next line down. that confused me... why would all that text be there if it wasn't a clickable link? then i thought 'oh, okay... i click those images to see the work.' i clicked one and it displayed some stuff, but where's the link to the client's page? oh. no link. hm. is there a client? same reaction on all of them.

so my first suggestion would be to get a client. at this stage it seems that you're not having any luck getting one who will pay you, so get one who won't. lots of people need volunteer graphic design work. it might seem counterintuitive to waste your time doing work for free, but you're already spending 2 months sending out resumes which means you must have time. once you have some clients, you can build up a resume showing who they were, what they wanted, and the work you did for them. there's no need to note that they didn't pay you ;)

i'll even be one if you want! i need a new t-shirt design for my site, http://www.nwtekno.org. our current designs are awful (http://www.cafepress.com/nwtekno/) i can't pay you anything 'cause i'm a broke student myself, but the site has ~40,000 users and a link would bring in a lot of traffic, some from people who might pay you. it's mostly people who run electronic music club nights/events that don't make a lot of money so i doubt they'd pay a whole lot, but some is still better than none ;)
posted by groovinkim at 5:47 PM on July 21, 2008

Here's a good rule of thumb for creative types looking for a job: keep your resume/cv and portfolio separate. For the portfolio, go nuts, be creative. For the resume, though, even for that super-duper creative job, Keep It Simple, Stupid! Garamond is a nice font for a resume, IMHO. Past that, you're just wasting your time.
posted by zardoz at 5:54 PM on July 21, 2008

i'll even be one if you want! i need a new t-shirt design for my site, http://www.nwtekno.org. our current designs are awful (http://www.cafepress.com/nwtekno/) i can't pay you anything 'cause i'm a broke student myself, but the site has ~40,000 users and a link would bring in a lot of traffic, some from people who might pay you

Okay, with that nonsense out of the way, listen to ook. It's a solid critique. You're not awful, but you have to remember that 99% of the stuff you'll work on is boring corporate bullshit. Right now, looking at your portfolio, I have no idea if I can trust you to lay out a simple brochure. Maybe you can - but maybe you're one of those guys who has never used a guide in his life and will make me re-print five thousand pieces because the center panel is off 1/8". If you were in school for four years, you should have more samples of stuff like that. If you don't, that's okay. Don't try to fool anyone into thinking you did a "real" brochure. I'd be happy to see a three-fold with good whitespace, typography, and layout even if all the pictures were crappy stock photos and all the text was lorem ipsum.

(P.S. Don't do work for free unless it's for a good cause - a site with 40,000 users should have a revenue stream. If not, you don't want to work with them anyway. Trolling for free work from a guy who is desperately trying to make a living is shameful, groovinkim.)
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:12 PM on July 21, 2008

I work with some incredibly respected designers pitching and presenting their work and taught ad school for years. I'd echo a lot of the criticism.

The second best advice I was ever given in school was, "If you make your interviewer think it was really produced as student work, you're hireable." I think all the criticism you're getting is, although people like your work, it's the kind of work that teachers like, that design schools create, but that demonstrates little practicality. A bar code. A mailing label. Heck, a business name with the fish.

Design as a business solves a communication problem, not an aesthetic one. What problem did you solve with each of those - not coating a fish with ink, but what was the business reason you did it? What's it accomplishing? What's the target audience? What production, budget or space limitations is it solving? What's the strategy - the design thinking, the problem solving - behind each of them.

Sure I'm square. But I've had to sell enough design in my time that the first thing I think when I see the packaging is what a production - die cut and labeling - nightmare it is and unless it's accomplishing something specific, it shows you are going to need to be babysat by production until you've found your feet. And the lack of business thinking means I can't trust you to meet with a client or sell your own work - a liability in this market.

That's why the navigation and the captions are irking people so - because you're not solving a problem, you're doing it for you as the target audience, not a variety of target audiences.

Your work is good, but there's little of it and without seeing your thinking, it might just be your only good work, culled from reams of school wastage.

It's just the communications challenge of selling yourself. We're all bad at it. We're the hardest product we'll ever have to sell. It's not a lost cause in the least. Good luck.
posted by Gucky at 7:48 PM on July 21, 2008

I don't know anything about design, but looking through your site I found several spelling errors. Get it proofread. (phych = psych? tilipia = tilapia? burbons = bourbons?)
posted by jacalata at 8:54 PM on July 21, 2008

Your site should be navigable without javascript.
posted by PueExMachina at 10:53 PM on July 21, 2008

OK, you wanted harsh, so here you go:
  1. Why are you using DIV tags for headers? This is abominable:
    <div id="text4" class="header_element2">education<br> 
        <div id="text5" class="small_text"> mitchell college 2008 <br>bachelor of science <br> business administration <br> marketing and graphic design <br>gpa 3.51 <br> summa cum laude </div> 
    DIV tags? Fucking DIV tags? WHY!? You do know that there's a perfectly semantic tag that's designed for headers, right? A whole series of them, in fact. <H1>, <H2> ... <H5> will give you all the layers of nested header tags you'll ever need. You can style them to look identical to your current layout. The benefit is that in lieu of a stylesheet, your document still makes sense.

  2. Nobody cares about your coursework. That's the sort of thing you might (might) put on a resume--and even then, only when you're fresh out of college--but never on a portfolio website.

  3. Ditch the javascript. You're currently using it in completely the wrong way. You could accomplish the exact same thing by using a template and feeding parameters in the URL. This has the benefit of working sans javascript.

  4. The header text is the exact same size, weight, and font type as the subtext. Text that is exactly the same weight, size and font type as the paragraph text, except a different color, well in the world of the web, that's usually a link. I'd recommend bigger (font-size: 1.4em), bolder (font-weight: bold) and whiter (color: #f3a575) to make it stand out but still blend in.

    • your
    • site
    • needs
    • more
    • sentences
    • and
    • less
    • lists

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:21 AM on July 22, 2008

I've worked in creative project mgmt for 5 years. While I don't hire designers I work very closely with many of them. Many folks pointed out the obvious above, but I think there's one major thing missing which tends to highlight your inexperience. You don't have any example of anything "corporate" which leads me to believe that you've never worked with a real live client that has a brand.

In my opinion, the best graphic designers are not the ones that are the most arty, they are the ones that are the most creative...under a client's constraints. Which means they listen to the client, puts in what the client wants while still maintaining a sense of design. When it happens really well, a good designer will do what they want but be able to pitch it and show the client where their input was incorporated.

I highly recco getting involved and becoming a member of AIGA. Perhaps also offer your design services for pro bono to a non-profit or something to expand your portfolio. Or do a case study, see if you can get a hold of a corporate style guide. Ours is close to 90 pages of design "restrictions" (color palette, logo placement, specific measurements for fact sheets and brochures, photography style, etc.) but designers who can still be creative under that are truly exceptional.

As for the tilapia...I hate to say it's not a logo (or if it is you're not showing your knowledge of pre-press set-up). A logo should have a PMS color option, B&W or one-color option, and be easily reproducible in a variety of media. There's no way I could embroider that fish cost effectively or legibly on a golf polo or ball cap.
posted by pokeedog at 6:17 AM on July 22, 2008

What everyone else said, pretty much. I am a designer, web and graphic, nominally employed as a "web content designer" these days by a pharma firm of which you have heard. I've been doing this work for more than thirty years. All I have to add to what has been said was that I was highly annoyed that the larger image that appears after I click on a thumbnail is partially obscured by the cute menu to the left. Why did you think that was a good idea? It isn't, and makes you look like a duffer. You'll never get any web design work that way, if indeed you are looking for it.

And do pay close attention to the copy. (I am also a copy writer.) You've got some good input here from those that know, and I would nth it.

If you put an ad for poster design or something in the Philly craigslist musicians' area, you might get some low-paying work that way. I echo the statement that you shouldn't work for free, but at this stage in your career you might have to do a freebie or two just to get something out on the streets. And bands are always needing posters and handbills.

Sorry that you have had your ass handed to you, but that's an ongoing process. Get used to it, say "thank you," and ask for seconds.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:18 AM on July 22, 2008

Gucky said something I forgot to emphasize enough; these are wise words:

We're all bad at it. We're the hardest product we'll ever have to sell.

You should've seen my first portfolio. I'm so bad at selling myself I don't even maintain one anymore.

Also, this:

It's not a lost cause in the least.

Seriously, if you hadn't shown any promise, people wouldn't have bothered going into so much detail here.

And on the spec-work thing: a good rule of thumb is, if you're working for free, you get to pick who you're doing the work for. I've occasionally donated design and code work over the years, to people I wanted to support or when I saw a chance to broaden my skills without risking it on a real client. If you can find a local nonprofit or two that needs help, and are into the idea, go for it. But avoid crap like what groovinkim's trying to pull here, that's for sure.

This was probably not a pleasant experience; I'm sure if some of my work had been subjected to this level of scrutiny overnight I'd be reeling right now... you score major, major points for asking for it. Don't take any of it personally; we're critiquing the work, not your talent. Your school didn't prepare you very well for what comes next, which is strangely common -- I've never understood why there's such a large gap between academic design and real business-world design, but there is, and it can be a rough transition. Don't sweat it, you'll get there. Good luck.
posted by ook at 8:22 AM on July 22, 2008

This was probably not a pleasant experience; [...] you score major, major points for asking for it

Seconded. Actively seeking out criticism in order to make yourself better is a sign of humility--something that's extraordinarily rare and simultaneously wonderful to work with, from a professional standpoint.


A logo should have a PMS color option, B&W or one-color option, and be easily reproducible in a variety of media.

That's key. One of the easiest ways to tell if someone doesn't have any commercial experience is if their logos have hundreds of colors and gradients in them, like it came out of Photoshop (not that Photoshop doesn't support CMYK or Pantones, it's just rare to see people actually using it). Remember that colors cost. Most corporate logos I've seen only have one or two colors in them (you can "fudge" this by half-toning). Those colors are nearly always Pantone colors (in Photoshop or InDesign, you can access them by clicking on the color picker, then clicking "Color Libraries"). Keep in mind that the metallic colors won't look anything like you see on the screen.

Just for example, do a google search for PMS official filetype:pdf and you'll see an endless ream of corporate documents that specify the "official" colors for various company logos.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:00 AM on July 22, 2008

Late to the party!
I graduated a few years ago and have recently become employed at a start-up that I love. Yes, finding a job sucks and it is hard.
Here are a few things I learned in that process...

Craigslist is good for getting rid of old couches - networking is a better bet for the job hunt. Tell everyone you know that you are a graphic designer. Make friends with event coordinators, local bands/djs, programmers, small business owners, dog walkers... everybody needs good design.

Your website is not very flexible. What I regret most about my portfolio site is that it is a pain to add or take anything off of it. I spent hours getting just the right font size, colors, images, and smooth tweens. Two years later, I hate everything I have in my portfolio. Since then I have made a lot of great pieces, but can't really put them up there. If I were to do it over, it wouldn't be in Flash (Die die die) and would be easily scaleable. You have room for maybe 3 more pieces.

Another cool concept I have started to see is the "Lab" page. Designers are always experimenting and creating new works. However, these pieces aren't polished enough to land a spot in the portfolio. Instead, just put it in with all the other half-built monsters. It shows that you are always thinking, always working, always improving.

Market yourself the way you would a client. Step away from the computer and get out in the public eye.
posted by idiotfactory at 4:59 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

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