Aaron Powers Portfolio Thread

Hey all,

I’m currently in my third year at the Academy of Art’s ID program and would like to begin a thread to get feedback on my portfolio. These boards have been a huge help to me, and after seeing many students get great feedback I’d like to hold myself accountable to improving my portfolio consistently by creating this thread.

Being that I have improved so much in a short period of time it has been daunting to continuously update projects so they don’t look out of place. With that being said I’d like to share the five projects I am able to show in hopes that you guys can point out holes and places for me to improve.

January 2014- 1 week - Marching band shoe: Behance

February 2014 - 2 weeks - Pensole, Search and Rescue Boot: Behance

March 2014 - 1 week - Oil Rigging Boot: Behance

February - May 2014 - 15 weeks - Shopping System: Behance

I really like this project, I think it has the most potential but I’m really struggling to explain the complexities that I intended…

September - December 2014 - 15 weeks - Music Education System: Behance

There’s definitely a better way to present my design intentions and the final cad model isn’t doing the project justice

My big question is this:

Based on what you see, where do you think I should put in my time to improve my work? Should I go back and revisit old shoe projects? Or focus on polishing my 15 week projects? Or create entirely new personal projects?

Thank you for your time!

Hey Aaron,

I think both the long-term projects and short term projects show a nice skill set. I would say put some extra thought into the presentation of your 15-week projects as they are significantly more complex would be the most bang for your buck because people can get really invested in the thinking behind the design solution. Particularly because behance has interface constraints (size of picture you can zoom into, etc) it can be hard to highlight complexity of through through the online format.

A few overall things:

  • (For all the projects) Concentrate on more of a balance between ‘ideation’ pages (ones with lots of little sketches to show brainstorming) and product pages (one fully realized solution…on its own page…with is own captions or pull outs). As dumb as it sounds, I find myself wishing for at least one or two full-page renderings of the product solution per project so that I can really see what you decided to do and how it narrowed from the mass of ideas you had.

  • (Music edu) Its great that you put out specific requirements / constraints at the beginning - find a way to show that you fulfilled them in the end. Highlighting features is necessary but I want to know why that specific feature solves the problem. Particularly in the instrument project I want to see how the final product is ‘intuitive, adaptive, relevant’ etc - not just that it implies those via these features.

  • (Music Edu) I think there might be an element of ‘teaching’ left out of the education project. Maybe adding a slide or two about how these would fit into a curriculum, or be used the same way / differently than other instruments would make the concept that more believable.

  • (For all the projects) Mockups are always mega-awesome, even if it only goes as far as material samples - it helps us make the leap that it could be real.

Awesome work! Thanks for sharing and good luck.

Thanks for taking the time to look at my work Teshia!

I definitely think more polishing and explanation of the 15 week projects is needed, right now everything is very surface-level. Do you think that narrowing down my portfolio to two big projects at this time is the best way to go? A part of me feels like two projects isn’t enough and makes me want to rework one footwear project to showcase my soft goods skillsets.

Thanks again!

Nice work overall but I think it might be interesting if you perhaps put a question or a mini brief on the cover page of each project…

For example your ‘marching band shoe’ - what makes your design different than anything else on the market? What is the purpose of this project?

Something that your final design can be presented as the answer to the question/brief. On that note it’d be nice to see an end outcome as at the moment theres just ideation. Be nice to see one clear hero shot of the final design, can still be drawn by hand but just something that clearly illustrates the end outcome of the project.

In terms of scope of your portfolio I think the ‘sandwich technique’ is a good way to go. Image the solid projects are the bread and the weaker/smaller projects are the filling.

Thanks for the advice Sketchgrad, I’m definitely going to reorganize the footwear pages.

I was picked as one of three students to compete for the spot to represent AAU at the IDSA conference this year, I’m compiling a 10 page teaser that a few industry professionals involved in IDSA will judge. I’ll be posting that work shortly, I think it’s a great step in the right direction!

Here’s some of my thoughts looking at my portfolio:

Marching Band Shoe:

I think this has good potential at reworking. I plan to spend a weekend or two taking the knowledge I have now and flushing out a better solution.

Search and Rescue Boot:

I really don’t like this project, being that it was only a week long with really tight deadlines lead me to some really bad design decisions. My first instinct is to scrap this project.

Oil-Rigging Boot:

Same with the marching band shoe, I think the story can be strong, but currently not executed very well, this is my last priority and I think will be taken out of my current portfolio

Amazon Driver:

Really struggling with presenting this concept, the idea is to rethink the way people grocery shop and use convenience stores. Heres some more info:

  • For the year 2025, I conceptualized a scenario with autonomous vehicles and city environments

  • Specifically, I found that grocery shopping in cities is overcrowded, and that there’s a more enjoyable and efficient way to go about it

  • My idea is that Amazon would create a brick-and-mortar terminal and run a prime car service

  • With the reduction of people owning cars in the future, I conceptualized a scenario where people will travel in shared vehicles, that focus on carrying people, not cargo, which is where Amazon would have it’s own cargo vehicle. The main critique I get around here is why doesn’t this car just go around delivering items without people using it? Maybe I’m making a huge mistake here, but I personally believe that if everything were to become delivery without any inconvenience, it would create more societal harm than good.

Which is why I created a scenario of someone ordering groceries from work, being picked up by their amazon service, taken to the terminal, and then home. By shortening the amount of time and making it easier to do, the service could drastically change the way we binge shop (largely because people don’t want to return to the store anytime soon).

Like I said, I’m really struggling here.

Google Cadence:

I’ve been working a lot on this project. I think I’m somewhat close, however the mockup page needs work, and some final beautiful product shots are needed which means refining the aesthetic, specifically on the guitar.

There’s a lot of work to be done, and any feedback is appreciated! Please tear into my work, I’m really unsure if I’m on the right track going forward, but I’m determined to keep improving.


Ok here’s a few updated slides with some more information.

This week I presented to a panel of 5 industrial designers for the chance to represent AAU at the IDSA conference. I’m pretty happy that I was chosen to compete against two other fifth year students. However, I’m really at a loss right now about what I’m doing and where I’m going.

On the music project the feedback I was given was that they felt I hadn’t designed anything. I was told that the project is very surface level and broad and that I should focus on one very specific part and not try to solve everything. One suggestion was to eliminate all of the products and just focus on the pad, and make it the entire solution, and dive into exactly how it works and functions, the UI, etc. This was really difficult criticism to take.

The Amazon project is not doing me any favors either, I think I’m going to take it out entirely from my portfolio.

The marching band shoe reception was OK, but I need to work a little bit more on the story and explanation and come up with a more unique design solution.

I feel like I’m really far away from having a good portfolio at this point, and after this review I’m a bit concerned if I have any good projects right now, and if I’ll be able to be at a competitive level when I finish school in 1.5 years.

Would love to hear the boards thoughts, criticism, and advice!

Thanks for your time,

Marching Band:

My 0.2$ worth-

  1. Potential employers look at your portfolio to see how you think, your process and what you can do, not really what you have done. As such, showing skills, process and thinking is more important than final result.

  2. I think the project you got rid of, the Merrel boot project is actually your strongest. Shows good range of exploration, good solid sketches, and nice looking final design. A bit weak on technical and construction, but realize it was a quick project.

  3. Band shoe doesn’t do much for me, even with the new render. Final design not that exciting, exploration not as strong as the other footwear project. Unless you really are familiar with Band shoes, you wouldn’t get the spats inspired look. Looks a bit like a kids velcro shoe.

  4. Oil rig bot project you can get rid of. I don’t get the design and it looks like a bunch of random features.

  5. Google car project I like as it’s one of the very few that shoes clear thinking about use scenarios, functions, etc. Sketches can be stronger and I think I recall you had some nice renderings in your sketch thread. Show those features you are designing better. Forget the UI stuff. Make the really tiny use cartoon a full page and much stronger to explain the what and the why.

  6. Music project. Obviously your big feature project.
    A. You need to show your exploration and sketching a lot more. It just looks like a few doodles and isn’t clear how and why you got to your final solution. I can more about this than a fancy rendering.
    B. You need to explain the system more. I don’t understand why there are 3 different grade products and if they have anything to do with each other.
    C. Renderings in use are not that strong. Visually there is no love to them. I wouldn’t do much more than skim.
    D. Mockups. I want to see more.
    E. Where is the final product beauty shot? Any details? Overall feels a bit unfinished and unresolved, like a first pass at preliminary CAD, not a final design full resolved.

Biggest thing just on first 10 sec glance is that your sketches from the sketch thread are really great and I’m not seeing any of that here. Just 3 pages of sketches from that thread would be more overall impressive than the entire portfolio you have here, to me, at least.

I think you are better than your portfolio shows. Which, in a way, is better than the reverse when your portfolio is only as good as you are and is still weak.

Hope this helps.


Thanks for taking the time to go through my portfolio Richard!

I’m starting to see more and more what I need to do. I’m in Spring break, so I’m planning to be in the labs all break and hope to flush some of this out.

As far as the music project:

A. Do you think that having this page before the refinement sketch page fills the gap you mentioned? Or do you think that there’s entirely not enough content/explanation on the refinement page for the K-5,6-8,9-12 sketch page?

B.I’m definitely having a challenging time explaining the system in as few words as possible, I’m going to try and get the entire story out and then simplify and remove slides from there.

C,E. Agreed 100 %. I haven’t figured out a successful way to showcase the final designs, I was hoping that by placing them into a scenario it would help, but I see what you mean. I’ll work out the details and have some updates soon, it definitely looks unfinished and bare.

Thanks again!

I’m working hard on fixing all these problems in my portfolio and should have some updates in the next few days but I have a question that’s been on my mind a lot lately so I wanted to put it out there in the meantime.

I’m getting a bit concerned that I’m running out of time to fix these big flaws in my portfolio and I’m going to miss a chance at a Summer internship. Can anyone lend some advice on this topic? I know portfolios are a living document and are always changing, but I’m afraid if I send my portfolio knowing of these mistake I for sure won’t be considered.

More soon,

So my goal was to make my stories a bit more coherent and explained, now the visuals are lacking. I hope they come across better and thank you for your time!

Looks better! On mobile so can’t see it all in detail well, but will check it out more later.


Thanks Richard, It’s been a heck of a few weeks balancing all my projects and portfolio. Being able to continuously check and reference feedback on here is really an invaluable resource, so thank you!

I just sent off my portfolio to get feedback from AAU Alumni at a bunch of companies also, and within the next day I’ll be sending it out formally to companies I would like to intern at.

Behance has all the updated slides. There is one major mistake on the music project which I’ve already fixed, will edit tomorrow.

EDIT: It looks like the maximum width for core77 is something like 800-1200 pixels in width so unfortunately I can’t upload larger image slides directly to the board.

Thanks again!

Already got some feedback from a principle designer at Frog this morning, I’m gonna type out his main points just to share with the boards and other students who may look at this thread in the future.

Much like we had talked about, the final product visuals and details are lacking, however, I’m really happy that this is now the glaring hole to focus on. When I first started creating a portfolio it was difficult to pick a starting point when every aspect is weak.

  1. Graphics and specifically Gill Sans Typeface can be improved. Seek out graphic design friend to help massage.

  2. Lacking detail and believable execution on renderings for music project. Outlined figures are tired, adding photos with real people will take portfolio to next level. Also, Ideation page could use some 1-2-3 read to be more dynamic.

  3. Amazon vehicle is cool, again, needs same level of refinement needed for music project.

4.Last page of sketches in sketchbook are worse than page previous, this page isn’t needed.

  1. Quality > Quantity

  2. Competition to get into Frog is fierce

Lately I’ve been working on organizing my latest studio project into a portfolio format, as always it’s still a work in progress.

Would love to hear what you guys think!

Thanks for your time,

Hi Aaron,

Nice project! I like the way you’ve portrayed the process. I have some questions and suggestions though:

  • How do you adjust the length of the nasal pillows strap?
  • How heavy is the PAP machine? Would it move sideways when you are sleeping? Is there a way to prevent that? Would it be possible to redesign the PAP machine and make it a bit thinner?
  • Could there be a way to adjust the position of the PAP machine? Some people sleep on their back, while others sleep sideways. I believe a little adjustment there could be interesting.

Other than that, where you explain the struggle with this kind of machine, I’d add a graphic explaining better the weak points. Maybe leaving the images as proof, but not the main source of information.

Last thing, in order to improve grip, most head mounts have a silicone stripes on the inner part. It’s just a detail, but it really helps. This is an example:



Thanks for taking the time to go through my project Alejandro!
- How do you adjust the length of the nasal pillows strap?
One of the main ideas behind my design is that the machine and straps are tailored to the individual. When a person is prescribed a CPAP machine they usually go into a sleep center, try on a few masks and take one home not knowing how it’s going to treat them when they try to use it at home. I wanted to change this experience so instead of going in the sleep center to pick up your machine and mask you would go in to be fitted for your machine. This would mean 3D scanning the head, and then printing the head cushion and nasal pillows. Those files would stay with the user for good and be used for future replacement parts (Currently, companies send out an abundance of replacement parts every month, many users I talked with have boxes full of these pieces)

As far as the strapping I intended for it to be fit for you as well during the initial experience. Both straps are designed to be stretched over your head and nose, so I didn’t intend for the users to be able to adjust the strapping, rather it would be fitted and the elasticity of the material would gently press the pillows against the nose. This decision came from finding a large community of users deconstructing their masks and using panty hose for strapping. The consensus was that by using a stretch material with a larger width it created less pressure points than current thinner strapping. One of the complaints with current straps is that they leave creases on the user’s face for a long time. My mom uses one of these masks and some days those creases don’t disappear until 3 or 4 PM. The other comment about using a stretch material for the nasal pillows was that it secured them in place fine and created a much more comfortable sensation.

- How heavy is the PAP machine? Would it move sideways when you are sleeping? Is there a way to prevent that? Would it be possible to redesign the PAP machine and make it a bit thinner?

The PAP machine weighs just over 8 ounces (half a pound). This came from research on current CPAP Centrifugal blowers used in standard PAP machines. I referenced one of the most quiet blowers on the market for size dimensions. A key insight into my research was that by moving the blower closer to the nasal pillows and drastically reducing the length of tubing the machine would run at a much lower speed which means a quieter experience and less dampening materials needed in the housing. I verified that this is a logical assumption with a few professionals involved in flow dynamics and these types of blowers. I did bring up the question about reducing the size of the blower, and we agreed that it could potentially use an even smaller blower, however, the larger the blower the quieter it will run. So by shrinking the size, it would run harder and louder and the only way to verify how small is too loud would be to do a whole lot of testing. I felt that shrinking the blower without any hard evidence on how small it could go would be dishonest and misleading.

As far as movement on the top of the head: I tested many strap iterations, such as a horizontal strapping method. The horizontal strap proved to be a lot worse for people who slept on their back as it wanted to fall right off the back of the head. What I found while testing my mockups was that when the PAP machine was in contact with the pillow it was entirely weightless, you would have no idea that it was there. So I placed the blower towards the back of the head as it served as a good axis of rotation for any sleeping position and had more contact to be supported by the user’s pillow.

- Could there be a way to adjust the position of the PAP machine? Some people sleep on their back, while others sleep sideways. I believe a little adjustment there could be interesting.
I’ll look into this some more, thanks for the suggestion!

Other than that, where you explain the struggle with this kind of machine, I’d add a graphic explaining better the weak points. Maybe leaving the images as proof, but not the main source of information.

Last thing, in order to improve grip, most head mounts have a silicone stripes on the inner part. It’s just a detail, but it really helps. This is an example:
This could be interesting, I’ll look into it!

Thank you!

Ok I’ve been working on presenting my music project better. It’s still confusing. Once I’m able to convey the story I think I’ll understand better what renderings I need in order to lift the quality of the project.

Here’s where I am so far: Behance

There’s a lot to improve, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of this whole portfolio process. Will be improving all the sketches, renders, etc. One thing I can do a lot better is present my ideation sketches in a way that leads the viewer to understand how I got to my final system. That first ideation page is causing a harsh transition into the final direction.

And here’s my CPAP project: Behance

Hey Aaron,

To me, I think your portfolio would be taken to the next level if you incorporate your great sketching/rendering abilities from your “sketchbook” on Behance into your portfolio projects. They seem to be at different levels and I think your projects would pop a lot more if they were delivered at a higher level.

Great work man!

Thanks PJ,

I’m on it!