Finding Yourself in Your Designs

finding your

Curating a first portfolio was one of the first steps in finding myself. It was like feeling in the dark for different pieces and trying to make them fit together. I thought talking about myself would be a lot easier but by trying to say everything at once, I ended up saying nothing at all. As a student, I’m working to define who I am as a designer every day. My portfolio is a reflection of that.

Self-initiated work; combination of drawing and digital manipulation with Photoshop CS4; using design as an outlet for personal expression and representation of my personality; shows ability to use a variety of mediums.

Self-initiated work from my first portfolio; combination of drawing and digital manipulation with Photoshop CS4; using design as an outlet for personal expression and representation of my personality; shows ability to use a variety of mediums.

My First Attempt at Greatness
The application for my dream school, dream major and dream job required a portfolio with ten pieces of my best work. Did I even have ten pieces I was proud of? I’d always been artistic and set my sights on the Graphic Design program in the College of Design very early. With the opportunity sitting right in front of me, I began to doubt myself. What kind of work should I include? With little design experience and amateur art skills, I prepared for months in advance. I thought the admissions committee would be expecting outstanding drawings, paintings and photography. Each piece required a 100 word caption and I found it difficult to explain my intentions in such few words. I focused more on my skills than my ideas and put together a portfolio with lots of variety but little depth.

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Self-Initiated work from my first portfolio; inspiration from magazine ad; displays drawing abilities and creativity with use of color. Digitally manipulated drawing using Corel PhotoPaint X4; shows ability to expand upon initial idea and work through trial and error to produce a final result; shows ability to incorporate a variety of mediums into one design.

The admissions decision came back in January: denied. At first, disappointment, sadness, defeat. But I knew the only solution was to apply again. When I entered the Design Studies program at N.C. State, my second choice, in the fall, I learned a lot about what the College of Design was looking for. I was still able to take a few design theory courses even though I wasn’t in a studio major. In Design Thinking, I learned to approach my work differently. It’s not about what’s in my portfolio, it’s about why. That’s where I went wrong with my first application.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

From a series of shameless self promotion animated gifs with personal stories and design philosophies.

From a series of shameless self promotion animated GIFS with personal stories and design philosophies.

I took at second shot at the College of Design’s Graphic Design application, using many of the same projects with new and improved captions. I explained my thought process rather than my techniques. The admissions decision came back in March: accepted. This time, happy tears, pride and relief. The difference? I had a direction, an outlook on my impact in the design community, a unique approach and way of thinking.

Self-initiated work; Corel PhotoPaint X4, photography and photo effects using Photoshop CS4, shows introspection and communicates a personal struggle; helped me gain confidence in myself and my design skills.

Self-initiated work from first portfolio; Corel PhotoPaint X4, photography and photo effects using Photoshop CS4, shows introspection and communicates a personal struggle; helped me gain confidence in myself and my design skills.

That was four years ago. My portfolio has seen countless iterations. Now when I present my portfolio, I don’t get stressed about not having a lot of illustration or animation. I don’t just explain the programs I used or my technical process. I talk about why, what I learned and the project’s impact. The work in my portfolio has changed, grown and improved but my design thinking is the thread through it all.

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An overview shot of my desk, including portfolio pieces.

About the Author: Chelsea Brown is a senior in graphic design with a minor in journalism at N.C. State. She has a passion for sharing stories and making connections through her designs and writing. She is a type-nerd, grid-lover and bookworm. On her days off, she enjoys running, baking brownies and blogging for Cut & Paste and Nights Like This with her roommate.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/chelsanne23
Instagram: http://instagram.com/chelsanne23
Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/chelseaannebrown/
Website: http://www.chelseaannebrown.com/

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