Seniors: Questions About Your Future Plans

As many of you may already know, I returned to Paxar for work this summer. They are a company that makes printed labels. They are very corporate and have plants located globally. I'm enjoying the work there this summer so far, and I get the feeling that they will want me to return after I graduate. However, it's not the kind of job I really want. It's great for the summer, but it's not something I can see myself doing for next however-many-years. But then again, I don't know what I want to do! I feel a little limited in the field of graphic design. Where can I work? Graphic Design Firms - yes. Advertising Agency - yes. What else?

So just out of curiosity, I wanted to ask all the upcoming seniors on DivCon/form what they plan on doing after graduation.
What kind of job do you want?
Where would you like to work (what type of firm/agency)?
Are you doing anything special this school year to prepare for your goals?

To answer my own questions:
I don't really know what I want to do. I feel like I need to do a lot more work to get a feel for my talents.
I don't know if I want to work in a "firm" or "agency". Are there other options?
I want to prepare my portfolio this year, tailor it to my goals.

Also, for you grad-students and teachers...any suggestions?

Answer however you wish, stay on subject (or take a different road). Keep it informal. No one needs to use a thesaurus to write on here.

posted by Jessica Rose on June 7, 2005 | comments: 27 | post a comment

Jessica, great that you are asking this of your peers and faculty!

There are a host of issues to address here but all seniors must start by carving out a productive year for themselves. The junior year is the first time that one can begin to differentiate the range of possibilities with some detail so I understand the alarms Jessica is setting off. This is the time to raise these questions in earnest and begin preparation for next year. You should plan your senior year to include research into a full range of career options, particular firms, and certainly yourself.

The number one issue for me with seniors is that they take full advantage of their last year of school to do this research and to push their skills as far as they can without great distraction. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen all too often. Outside issues take a huge toll on getting this done—some can't be avoided but many can be.

One builds some formal chops, learns some history, begins to see options, and when it is time to synthesize these things or to move on to new questions, they can’t truly engage because they’re putting in 20 hrs. a week working an outside job. If you have worked a particular job over the summer, then you probably have received the lessons it has to offer, have defaulted into production mode, and are in a hurt locker of diminishing returns.

I know one needs to eat, buy socks, etc. but if it is truly about money and investment—if it is about economics—one should guard their senior year and be extremely selfish with their time so they can take full advantage of their current investment AND their future investment in a meaningful career. The senior year is the most formative—it is time for you to define and refine on your own terms. If you are distracted, burned out, and bitter because your focus is split, this is a massive loss in investment and opportunity.

Slap me, call me insensitive, and completely unfounded but I think the majority of students balancing finances and school time could implement an austerity budget, cut out the extra stuff, be money smart, and make it without sinking their precious time in a job that demands far too much. You have studio and freeze dried noodle packs. What more do you really need to subsist? A cot and a closet will do. If not, take out a loan from here or there—that is what they're there for. I’ll spare you the personal undergrad/grad financial story, but I’ve been there, I didn't have a silver spoon or generous relative to fall back on, and yes, I’m still paying.

Maybe you will go to grad school but for most THIS IS IT. An aside: grad school should not be make-up time for what you lost your senior year—that would be really warped and not just on the money side.

Look at it this way. You have a year to position yourself for great things. I believe that one’s first post can have a major impact on the rest of their career. I don’t necessarily prescribe to the notion that one will have to slave in the trenches to one day in the far future finally work their way up to the killer drafting board in the sky. Some planning, solid strategy, and lots of hard work pushing yourself as far as possible will charge you up with well-founded confidence and put you where you want to be (and then some).

Posted by tony on June 8, 2005 10:57 PM

okay, so here's my suggestions having recently gone through the whole experience.

oneyour website is your new best friend. especially for anyone the least bit interested in (1) interactive or (2) a job OUTSIDE of raleigh. this is by far the best way to get your name out there. i got most of my contacts through this website (and according to my domain stats, i get most of my hits from this source). be warned, you'll also get a few firms wanting cheap developers. coroflot (which you get if you're a memeber) is also pretty good.

threeif you must have a job in order to maintain financial freedom, then get a job that will help your portfolio. in my case, most of my best work was completed during my junior year. and actually, i think thats true for a lot of people. so keep that in mind and prepare to get at least one or two solid projects out of your senior year.

fourcontacts, contacts, contacts. go to the aiga portfolio review—it's where i got the best feedback. and if you want a job in raleigh, go.

fivebe realistic about your competition. if any of you go to the ADC portfolio review in NY (which I did), don't let it get you down. people spend years—literally—preparing hot books that are professionally printed, embossed, photographed, bound, etc. but i promise you, beyond that glimmer was really poor conceptual work. by far, ncsu had some of the best conceptual (or what they refered to is "artsy") work.

sixdon't let the pressure of your peers and professors kill your energy. make your OWN plan and stick to it. by the time you're a senior, you know your weaknesses and strengths. fill out your portfolio, but do it with confidence! don't let your professors make you believe that you aren't doing enough. your senior year is going to be one of the hardest simply due to lack of time and pressure to find a job. trust your own judgment.

sevenbe patient. interview processes take a long time, don't expect to get a job within 2 weeks of your interview. i've talked to people who graduated several years before me and they all agree: be patient AND don't take the first offer you get (trust me).

eightlive. friends will disappear after graduation. don't be afraid to spend a saturday night enjoying them. after may, everyone moves. people lose touch. don't forget to enjoy any social life you've salvaged over the past 3 years.

ninelisten. talk to your professors about firms they suggest. find out where they have contacts. have them refer you to alumni — that's how i got my job.


note: these are not necessarily in order of importance. you can figure it out, though.

+ + +

Ms. Mia:
Many thank-yous for all your kind + laser-like advice! You are of a litho-like quality!

Posted by mia on June 13, 2005 05:54 PM

Great comments, Mia :-). I definitley agree with all that stuff. Jesscia: great post; take it from me, you can't start too early getting ready for this stuff. You're on the right track.

I'm currently out there looking for jobs and here are a few suggestions that I would have for you as you get ready:

Take the class. I took the exit seminar thing that Denise taught the first semester my senior year. Not only would I highly recommend that you take it, I would recommend you take it the first semester if you can. It's kind of a drag having to go each week, but it is well worth it. For me, it encouraged me to get my résumé/portfolio together (which really isn't that hard—see my next point), it gave me a great idea of what kind of places are out there (studios, in-house shops, ad agencies, etc.), and above all else, gave me confidence by giving me all the job-getting information that we're supposed to know, but no one ever tells us. Denise will also give you great feedback on what to put in your portfolio, how to get in touch with places, how to interview, and about a million other things. (Hint: Denise is also a really good person to know when you're looking for a job).

Don't stress. It's not as hard as you think. Once you get your résumé and work together, it's really a breeze (and kinda fun) to design all your materials and send them out to people. After the first couple of interveiws and once you get comfortable talking about your work, it's really kinda cool going around and talking to other designers about your work and their work.

Do everything you can to get motivated early. I started getting my résumé and portfolio ready, researching studios, etc. at about Christmas time my senior year and took only nine hours my last semester and still wished that I'd had more time. I mean, don't freak out, but just know that it's going to take a lot of time. It's worth it, though, when you're well prepared when you graduate.

Get to know people. Don't be shy. Go to reviews, ask professionals to sit down with you and talk (oddly enough, they will), go to AIGA stuff, e-mail your favorite studios, talk to professors (they have lots of good insight, believe it or not), etc., etc. It's all about the connections.

Be wary of design jobs in addition to school. Like Tony mentioned, jobs can really occupy valuable time if you're not careful. You have your whole life to get experience in the professional world. If it's not too late, do some summer internships to get your feet wet but do your best to leave time for school during the school year. If you have to, you can even do summer internships after you graduate to get more experience.

Some suggestions for when you get out there looking for jobs (things I've learned the hard way):

Do your own thing. This was one of the hardest things for me. I've always been a people pleaser and when it came to getting a job, I wanted to get one at the top studios to impress my professors and classmates, a job in New York or LA to impress my family and non-designer friends, as well as one that paid really well and had a really cool studio space. The further I've gotten in the process, the more I've realized that I have to find a job that is good for me. Personally, I'm interested in a place that does a lot of work for non-profit, arts, and educational clients. The other stuff would be nice, too, but don't sacrifice what you love about design or what you want to do with design just to impress people. It doesn't matter. With that said...

Aim high. When you start interviewing and stuff, don't settle for a mediocre job just because it's easy. There are people out there that have just settled for doing what's easy instead of going out there and working hard at getting a great job. Sometimes it means being willing to be jobless for awhile until you get the job you want, but the places that are worth getting into take a little bit of effort sometimes. Great jobs are out there, you just have to be willing to chase them down. And like Mia said, you might have to turn down a few offers before you find the right one.

Be humble. No matter how great a designer you think you are, and no matter how great a designer people tell you you are, when you get out there looking for a job, you're at the bottom of the ladder. Nothing is a bigger turn-off than an egomaniac, fresh-out-of-school designer that thinks their God's gift to the world of design. Knowing that you have a lot to learn is huge (and that goes for just about anything).

So that's some advice you can take with a grain of salt (from a designer who still hasn't found a job :-D). Best of luck!

+ + +

Forrest: Many thanks! —SystAdmin

Posted by Forrest on June 16, 2005 12:04 AM

hi miss jess.
i sincerely appreciate your openness on the confusing and mind-boggling months we are getting ready to dive through.
for me, this summer has been about summer school and working at The Republik. As I am interning, I am learning that the advertising industry is not where I want to spend my future days. It's high pressure, deadline-driven, and in my opinion does not leave room for the sense of detail we pride ourselves with. It's also fun, diverse, and possibly 'hip', and all about a unified team effort from all departments. When in Germany, I apprenticed at an advertising agency for two years, so truly, this isn't it.
Grad school thoughts keep scratching on my door, and remain a constant visitor. The idea of getting a firm grip on exploration, research, and possible teaching opportunities in the future sounds wonderful to me.
This in part because I want to challenge myself to become a conscious designer. CONSCIOUS of so much more than I can now hope to grasp. Consciously creating meaningful stuff \sounds corny, sorry\

I think a happy home could be in a design firm that produces creative work, less corporate and more different. or, freelancing.

As far as my plans for the coming year—dude, i just hope to find some more time for things. right now, it's been five weeks since the spring semester, and i have not had the time to even touch the website I have been dreaming over.

I truly want to take Tony's advice on laying low on jobs. don't know how easily that might be done, but we'll see.

don't want to get senioritis.

do want to make a lasting impression in our senior year.

Posted by carolin on June 16, 2005 11:31 PM

Love hearing all the responses guys! Thanks Mia and Forrest for the advice because yall have "been there done that" and the comments you made are reassuring as well as motivating to get our butts in gear. Also, Jessica, Im glad you started this thread, now we know that there are people in our class that have goals and that we can help and support eachother in the upcoming year.

I'm right there with ya Carolin about "Consciously creating meaningful stuff." I've been talking to some of my friends back here in cincy that are in design and they mention how conceptual some of my work is. I think that goes for a lot of the students at NCSU. We are conscious thinkers and don't just slap crap on the page. We try to make meaning out of every thing we make and communicate some kind of idea, feeling, reaction etc. Our teachers have really reinforced the idea of meaning and reason.

Anyways, to get to some of Jessica's questions. As of what kind of job do I want? I would like to work with people, conceptualize, collaborate and give and take. I like talking to people about ideas, feeding off of eachother and working in a team environment. Then there is a chance to learn and grow. Most of the time there is someone with more knowledge or experience than you which gives you a chance to learn. But if you have the most knowledge in a team setting, you have the chance to lead and teach. Teaching is when you really find out if you know your stuff.

What is the difference between an agency or firm? Is it a design firm and ad agency? I don't think I want to be the only designer( In House designer) Let me know if Im getting these terms right? Because it goes back to collaboration and working with others. It's nice collaborating with designers because they have a similar background to you. Also, I don't know if I want to channel myself into designing only certain things. I hope that I can work across applications and design books, identity, websites, catalogues, magazines, a lil motion, environment design etc. But I don't know maybe I should try to find my strengths.

Which takes me to not knowing what I really we want to do. I think that is ok if we don't know right now. We have the first semester of our senior year to really figure that out and even ask our peers what they think are our strengths and weaknesses. Do we have to specialize in one thing, or is it better to be knowlegeable about a spectrum of things. I don't know, it could be scary but I think if we are humble like Forrest said but confident, work hard and stay motivated; we can play our cards right.

"Let's make that lasting impression" -Carolin

Posted by vb2k(sarah) on June 17, 2005 11:35 AM

yeah! lets dO IT.

Posted by on June 17, 2005 03:07 PM

Thanks again J.R. (Jay ARRR), and everyone else who has posted.

I am not going to repeat the ideas that have already been stated, (for one because I don't want for you to have to read the same thing over and over, even if you need to see it that many times) but I agree on limiting the number of work hours during the school year, getting started early, getting connected, etc.

This idea has been touched on somewhat, but I want to keep talking about FINDING A JOB THAT YOU LIKE. Just has Tony has mentioned time and time again, there is no reason why we cannot find the right job with our first job. We should have confidence when we graduate, and we should not tell ourselves that we need to start out at the bottom of the ladder. Aim high. And aim it at those things that you are gifted and interested in. Jessica, there is a reason why you drag that little dinosaur around with you and made that big paint bucket. IT WAS FUN. Who says that we can't find a job that tailors to these interests?

I've talked about this with several others in studio last semester concerning combining graphic design with your hobbies. I, for instance, love the outdoors, camping, hiking, etc. Yes, these are hobbies and extracurricular activities and who cares, but I do! Can I find a job that fits both design and the outdoors? I hope to God so! I don't believe there is any reason why the two should remain seperate. I don't believe that we should conform, and I don't believe that we should settle. We are gaining the skills necessary at this very moment to create.

Sorry for the length, but I want to end with this. My Forestry professor this past year (Alex we are tired of hearing about that class, blah blah blah, shut up) began the semester with this speech: He had two sons, one who was learning basic math at age 4, and one was playing with toy dinosaurs at age 8. He had high hopes for the child that was learning math; most parents dream of their children becoming doctors, lawyers, and engineers. But most parents don't continue encouraging the playing with the dinosaurs. What is it with dinosuars that keeps us from learning everything else there is to know?

This coming senior year I hope to not discard my passions simply to conform with what is already out there.

Posted by al. f. on June 19, 2005 04:19 PM

We have a healthy group of alumni working all over the country in a range of specialties. Talk with the class of 98, 84, 00, et. al. They are very nice folks with a great deal of data, info, knowledge, and wisdom—and generally like to talk with their fellow SOD/COD grads. Introduce yourselves, ask questions, and get to building that necessary network. Who are they? How do you get in touch? I and others can assist.

+ + +

Here are a few more questions for the rising seniors:

What areas of knowledge do you feel are most important for getting the job you want—how do you know? What firms and/or designers do you respect? What professional goals do you have?

What financial plan will allow you to locate and secure THE/THAT proper post? You need to be able to act on your opportunities and not be encumbered in such a way that you must make do for the interim—financially plan. This includes being able to fully immerse yourself in your last year of studies and not burn out with the resulting wish of just getting the paper and getting out. Don’t just think/say it is a good idea to focus on your studies—do it. With a proper focus your last year, you will be able to deal with the financial side in terms of investment over the long run and not just putting out fires now that also burn up your learning opportunities. You are not going to magically get serious about all this when you graduate. The fact is that you should be in this mode and dealing with these issues right now. If you find yourself unable/unwilling to engage in this now, what is going to change after graduation when you have even more on your plate to be concerned about? Deal with money issues today.

I know some of these questions will require time to answer but start now and develop the answers over the coming year. It is also important to jump in and begin talking about these things. You are taking advantage of this forum as it was intended—use it and get much further along with your collective thoughts than what is generally possible when you are all of you are running around meeting deadlines.

Posted by tony on June 20, 2005 07:17 AM

I just found this blog...I am so glad I am not the only one concerned about these things and somewhat confused about how to approach these issues. My jobs this summer have been helping me to decide what type of job I want when I graduate but I'm not even sure if the job exists!

Like everyone else, I've learned that I enjoy working in a team and building ideas off of each other. The studio atmosphere we have at school is something lacking from my summer jobs. I've also realized that the part I enjoy most about a project is all the thought that goes into them. I love brainstorming and trying to figure out every tiny detail to fit into the system and style of the project. In fact, I would be content doing just this part and passing the production off to someone else.

As for the different forms of graphic design, I could see myself doing it all, except websites. I am nervous that this may limit me, but I know that I would not be as happy doing them.

So now that I have somewhat of an idea of the areas I enjoy, now what? This is where I need some help to figure out how to find this job and how to get it! This is my goal for my senior year.

P.S. One of my summer jobs has offered me a part time job for during the school year that would take up 15 to 20 hours a week of my time. I really appriciate what Tony said about jobs during the school year. Although the money would be great, it's not worth wasting my senior year and the time I need to prepare myself for the future.

Thanks everyone! Let's keep talking!

Posted by Colleen on June 23, 2005 11:37 AM

First off, don't let any professors or other students get you down. Some will work with you, some will work against you. Some will push you beyond where they should. Some will overstep boundaries, some won't even speak to you your senior year. Ignore the professors who get in your way; it will do no good to fight them or create problems. Learn when to keep your mouth shut, and when to speak. Learn to look at things from the professor's point of view (and for God's sake, don't burn bridges. They may seem like assh*les at times, but they generally have good intentions.

Also, don't do a project for a grade alone. If you find that a professor is working against you or that you keep doing your best and you don't get the grades you deserve, then ignore the gradebook. Do what you need for yourself. The grades disappear after you get your degree. Get what you need out of your senior year.

Get a design job during the summer. Freelance. But unless it's absolutely necessary, I agree with Tony, Mia and Forrest, and whoever else suggested not working. You get overworked for too little pay, and you don't need to add to your sleepless hours in studio. My most productive semester was my junior year. For some reason, alot of seniors burn out. Don't do that, if at all possible. Keep your interest in design fresh. Look at sites like and

Learn your competition. There are buttloads of better designers out there. No matter how good you are. Learn your weaknesses and strengths, and work on everything to improve your image as a designer.

Take a public speaking class. Learn to present your work in front of a crowd without stuttering, mumbling, crying, shitting your pants, or whatever may come. Don't pitch a tantrum and throw things (har-har Tony, you made me look like an ass and I got the point). Don't say, "And, um, this is what I thought looked pretty..." Make your work sound like you went to college for 4 years and that you know what you're doing—not Wake Tech for a semester of pottery or basic drawing.

Educate yourself beyond what Tony or Martha or Scott can teach you in the M/W/F 4 hours of studio. LEARN THE PROGRAMS!!! I don't care how well you know After Effects or Dreamweaver, or Photoshop. Learn them all. Learn interactive. Learn print (INDESIGN, people. Know how to prepare files for the printer). Learn letterpress. Visit a printer. Make Tony take you. Know your field, and know your terms. Do like Wes and learn 3D software.

Start your portfolio early. Get a domain name. They are roughly $100 for a full year. Give out "", not "". Photograph your work well. Use good lighting. Don't put Tigers in your site, no matter how much you love them. Do something different (and for God's sake, don't copy another student's site). Don't mimic. Be mimicked. Credit any collaborative work. Make sure you designate student work as student work, so that you don't get in trouble for saying you did a job for Nike when you only USED Nike's name on a student project. You really didn't rebrand Wal-Mart, but sell it like you did. Just point that out, somehow so you don't come across short anywhere. Make sure you are getting hits on your site. Learn Meta information. Ask Tony how.

{ I'm going to be blunt—Meredith Davis and Tony Brock will be your 2 best references your senior year. Get on their good sides. They spend hours at the school AFTER 5pm (*gasp!*), and even though they may be eccentric, they know their shizzle. Ignore their oddities (especially Tony's) because they have your best intentions in mind. Talk to them after class. Don't worry about seeming like a kissass. You'll piss them off enough in studio to counteract it (at least you will, if you do things right *wink*). Denise may be a good reference for some, but get appointments with her ahead of time. Say hi to Kermit and Martha. Joke with Scott. You may find it awkward, but they're your bosses right now, and you need to learn to talk with your bosses without sweating to death. }

Market yourself. Have a wide range of work. Studio work usually will not look great by itself. It needs help. Don't show any motion work to anyone unless you are Wes Richardson. Simply, student budget work sucks. Unless it's marvelous, then show storyboards and talk your way through the transitions. If you have a project where you can pick a "real" client to do a project for, it helps to sell with the big names. Research your topics. Get to know the "client". It will help you in the real world after May 2006.

Have one or more of at least SOME of the following:

You mean a logo? No. A business system. Collateral, business cards, letterhead, animated logos. Yes, logos, and logotype, and colors. Learn PMS colors. Learn how they print, and how they differ from screen. You won't be printing on a CMYK deskjet or plotter at McKinney or at Joe's Designery. Your work will go to a printer one day, and you have to get it right. Learn early.

A website, flash, html. Who cares. Storyboards, whatever. Just have something interactive that shows that you can think with a)time and b)transitions and c)user interface. Take Tony's interactive studio again in the spring.

Do something in motion. Storyboard it. At least know how to talk about it. Use Flash. Use After Effects. Use a camera and or stopmotion. Just get it in motion somehow. Read comic books.

Whether it's a catalog, or a series of postcards, or brochures. Have a series of something worthwhile. Have foldouts. Have die cuts. Have stickers, or turning thingies. Have DVDs and CDs embedded in the cover.

Packaging works really well. It shows that you think outside the computer and flat page, in 3D space. Learn box folds and packaging design. You will find in alot of ways, packaging can be as interactive as motion or a website. Tradeshow graphics. A visual space besides a poster. Don't put any posters in your portfolio unless they are DAMN good. Any designer can do a poster or a t-shirt. Make a system. Make people look at it and go, "Well, hell, why didn't I think of that? That's downright cool." Make people want to come talk to you at the AIGA portfolio review. Always have something with that extra "Mmph" to wow your customers. Keep an ace up your sleeves.

Sadly, you will not learn anything in school compared to what you will learn in the real world at a job. You just can't. There isn't enough time to learn all the tricks of the trade. But you will also have the most freedom and time on student projects. Make the best of the 5 weeks allotted to designing a website or poster in school—you will only have five days at your 9-5 job to churn out most website concepts, and 5 hours to do most posters (if that).

Choose stock photography well. Use good font choices, spellcheck your work. Print more than once prior to final crit. Have duplicates, just in case. Have variations. Don't go with just one version of anything. Think of alternates. How can I make a Public Service Announcement that isn't a poster? Make it a beer box. Or a pair of pants. Put pantyhose up on a wall and spell words with it. Get the point across, but don't do it like everyone else. Nobody will remember you if you blend in.

Be ready for any job. Have that portfolio ready in January. Add new additions to it as they come. Don't let your portfolio be stagnant. Be professional. Take your time on your resume and portfolio. Don't feel bad to contact alumni. Don't feel bad to contact Matt Checkowski. You may not be able to be Matt Checkowski, but he had alot of good luck, references, and he knew his shit. Do more than what is required.

Have fun, hang out with friends. Get to know yourself as a designer instead of a student. You have 3 years of it under your belt. You will never learn as much as you will from here on. Don't get down (even if there are Matt Courtneys out there who seem burned out. Know that you shouldn't design something just for the grade. If you get something out of it, then it was not wasted time. Listen to Tony. He is a good guy to have on your side, whether you always want him there or not. Keep in touch with him. Keep in touch with me. I may be a bit of a jerk, but I'm pretty sure I know what I'm talking about most of the time. If not, ask Mia.

Lastly, breathe. It will all be beginning in a year. You will find the job that is right for you.

Posted by Mr. Courtney on June 23, 2005 09:13 PM

and he can still write a book for an entry (:

Posted by mia on June 23, 2005 09:20 PM

Thanks Matt, that really de-stresses me. Your list of portfolio "must-haves" gives me a good idea of what I need to start getting into. I have a lot of work to do(of course), but I feel more comfortable making the work about what I want it to be. Thanks to all others that commented. I'm looking forward to the senior year with everyone.

{Please continue discussion and/or start new thread -- this is exciting}

Posted by Jessica Rose on June 23, 2005 09:56 PM

yeah, about portfolios...what is a good amount of pieces to have? I dont want to have too many and overwhelm them but I also dont want to have too few. What do you guys recommend?

Posted by Colleen on June 24, 2005 11:43 AM

Well, it really depends on the context. I've found that your portfolio is never the same. Its always changing, depending on the interview/context. So, consider the firm and the strengths you could present to them. If its a one-on-one interview, go with 8-10. But start with your stronger pieces, or plan on always showing 5 and leave the last few optional because you'll never know when your interview will get cut short. (Its also nice to keep your options flexibe based on how your interview is going). If you run out of time, you don't want your best work to be the stuff you DIDN'T show. Also, depending on how many people are interviewing with you at the same time (could be up to 5-6, I've had it happen), you have to leave extra time for comments/questions.

And remember that if you DO run out of time, have something you can leave with the interviewer that will send them to your WEBSITE which should have ALL of your "portfolio worthy" work. (Actually, they should already have a resume or whatever, but its a nice touch to end the meeting with).

One thing I learned the hard way, is with larger interviews have DUPLICATES. I had an interview with 7 people at once, which made the flow quite akward. I didn't have projection cability, so I had to go with my boards which were in my case for backup (YES, ALWAYS HAVE BACKUP—you never know what might happen on a flight). So, we ended up passing the boards around the table (because it was so large) and that left a lot of dead air and akwardness while people waited to see the work. Not good. But, somehow, I still got the offer. But thats not the point. The point is, be prepared. Be OVER prepared.

Oh, but for the AIGA portfolio review TAKE EVERYTHING. The more you can get feedback on there, the better. PS—If you don't go, you'll be making a huge mistake (thanks to TBrock, I did).

The key to your portfolio though isn't your presentation (well, that IS vital), but its how you talk about it. Your confidence. Your understanding of the project and its outcome. You.

PS — congrats colleen and adrienne on USA Today. NCSU can always use that press!

Posted by mia on June 24, 2005 02:39 PM

I'd like to say that I also really appreciate this thread. Thank you, Jessica, for starting it, and thanks to all who have given some great insight so far. I think I might print all of this out to keep with me :)

Rock out, and stuff!

Posted by K on June 25, 2005 12:55 AM

Is it possible to have a job not with a design firm, but the federal government?? Searching for how graphic designers fit into the museum scene, I found this title of "visual information specialist." It was an upper-level job opening at the Smithsonian, but included concieving exhibits, overseeing and developing all signage and print material, and much more.

So I looked up this title and found that it included a lot of government jobs. One guy works at NASA and visualizes ideas that the scientists are coming up with!! Another position dealt with visual experiences at arlington national cemetary.

The most suprising, though, was from a National Parks training website. It has detailed expectations for Visual Information specialists, at entry, mid, and top levels. Who would expect the first on the entry-level list to be Graphic Design Theory, and include Typography, budgeting, figure-ground relationships, analysis of current graphic design trends, research ability and goes on and on.

What is this title, and how do you start working for the government? I'm curious if this would mean anything different from other design jobs we have been looking at.

And is it as cool as it sounds, or is there a reason we haven't been told about stuff like this? If you guys know anything, please let me know. And I'll be looking around for info. We can team up if anyone is interested!

here is the NPS training site

Posted by Caroliiine M on June 28, 2005 09:53 AM

That sounds really cool Caroline...OH MY GOSH ALEX! This is your dream job: graphic design AND the outdoors!

Posted by Colleen on June 28, 2005 11:36 AM

count me in caroline. i'm interested as well. i'll start looking around for more info as well. are there particular sites you've been visiting, did you just randomly come across this one?

Posted by any on June 28, 2005 01:38 PM

shocking where you can hang your shingle eh?

i have a good friend that works at the ranger station just outside gatlinburg tn. she watches the deer out her window and does info design for the great smoky mts. national park.

CM: see what happens when you start doing a little research? nice. keep truckin.

Posted by tony on June 30, 2005 11:28 AM

my goodness, this is what i'm talking about. I have talked to quite a few people that thought it was quite strange to combine national parks and graphic design. Just as I have said before, there is something out there for everyone and there is no reason why we should simply settle. Find something that involves everything that makes you happy. I'm going to keep repeating this. We shouldn't just say, "well I guess I'll work in some firm" or, "I guess advertising would be ok". I challenge everyone to keep searching until you find that position that gets you so excited about your future in graphic design you want to hug your mother for having you.

Posted by al. f. on July 1, 2005 01:10 PM

p.s. Caroline, how did you come across this? I might be able to use a similar tactic to find something in an area I am interested in : )

Posted by Colleen on July 1, 2005 02:32 PM

yo. I found it by searching the smithsonian's job postings. Thier goals and achievements so far have been something that I really agree with, so I wanted to figure out how to get involved. There seem to be a few positions we could work our way towards. Check out and look under jobs.

Then from there I just did a search for other places that had openings for the same title. That's where I got the parks thing. I'm still trying to find out more. Last night I started looking up people on the AIGA directory who worked at places like the Smithsonian, National gallery, etc. I emailed a few, asking what their work includes and what different roles graphic designers fill in their institutions.

I hope some people write back! I don't know if this will bother them, but the worst that can happen is they don't answer, I guess.

And the best that can happen is they don't mind answering a few questions, in which case we can all get a writin and find out some cool stuff! I'll letcha know what happens.


Posted by caroline M on July 1, 2005 06:43 PM

happy sometime birthday colleen!
it is amazing to see how you guys are branching out to find your nitch. since my husband (stephen :)) will be attending grad school in Portland, Oregon, I have been narrowing my research down to that area a bit, just to get a general idea on what's there (A LOT!!!). So I guess you could throw in the geographical area, along with the preference for your field.

Matt—thanks man for such detailed and intelligent advice for us. I wanted to throw in another question. My current portfolio is bound (though I can take out and add depending on job), and ~14 x 17. Boards would be another option, though if going with that, how about laminating the boards and putting a velvet back on them..
As far as duplicates—I have learned that it makes a splendid impression to leave the prospective client with a 'summary' of your portfolio, whether it be in form of a mini-portfolio, or an interactive presentation on CD. Keep your work in their minds as long as possible.

And if you feel like doing some work on the side—consider your friends, see if they need something. the amount of creative freedom you get when you create for them is often much larger, and it's so much fun to make for someone you care for. i e cd packaging, wedding invitations, flyers....

happy summer::

Posted by carolin on July 4, 2005 11:39 AM

Great article to get you excited about information design: It has some stuff in there about designing for the national park service, I think. (Also good in the context of the food guide pyramid stuff).

According to Anna Huddleston: "visual information specialist"="graphic designer" in government speak.

Posted by Forrest on July 15, 2005 04:45 PM

One more thing that Carolin's post sparked: As I've been looking for jobs, I've found that looking at specific geographical areas is a really great idea. Find some cities that you like or want to live in (some of the best that are out there are NY, LA, San Fran, Minneapolis but you can find good stuff in almost every major city) and look up studios/agencies/shops/in-house places there that interest you. You can go to AIGA's site and look up members who work in that city and where they work, you can go to the local AIGA's site, surprisingly Yahoo has a pretty exhasutive list of places for all major cities (although you have to leaf through a lot of crappy places, too), look up alunmi that live there, and ask professors if they have contacts. This way, you can schedule all your interviews for a certain week when you plan on being there and you don't waste a visit.

In the same respect, as you apply to your "dream studios" schedule as many interviews as you can in that town; you never know what may come up or what connections you may find.

I've also learned that you can't really learn what a studio is like from their website. It can be a good indicator, but actually visiting and interviewing will give you a much better picture so don't necessarily write a place off just because of their site.

Annnnnd...Happy Birthday Colleen :-D.

Posted by Forrest on July 15, 2005 05:01 PM

For those coveted government jobs, go to . It also explains how their application process works. If you're applying for these, start super early...everything government-related takes a really long time!

Posted by berkoWho? on July 28, 2005 12:31 AM

curious: thinking about buying a domain name and setting up my website. Any suggestions to what is the best one to go through and do you buy the cheap one for a year, or the one that says 20 pages, and all that fun stuff etc etc for more.

Posted by vb2k(sarah) on September 13, 2005 12:31 PM