Looking for a portfolio review! Draft #1

Hello Core77 Folks!

I’m new to Core77, and I was wondering if I could get some input on my portfolio! I’m a senior at Iowa State University studying Industrial Design. I’m looking for some constructive criticism on my layout, communication of concepts, renders, sketches, etc.

I’m trying to market myself in a way that shows that I’m an informal guy and interested in simple, minimal design with the purpose of solving a problem. Any suggestions on how I could do that?

Also, the last project is not only a packaging design concept, but a brand concept too. Is it a good idea to change the color palette of my Wild Oats project, or is it distracting?



Hi Brian,

I quite like the feel of your folio as you scroll through. A couple of notes:

I don’t actually know what your goal was on your first project, I know you have the brief there, but it doesn’t actually tell me what your design issue is. I’ve assumed that it’s for a more communal kind of meeting space. It’s good to get the problem/goal out there right away, in a way that can be easily and quickly understood.

Again, on your first project, you have the good conceptual sketches, and have written that you did ideation after research. I think it would be beneficial to use photos/keywords etc. to highlight what you actually found out from users about the space they work in, and what would positively influence a communal space. Then provide a visual link between that and your concepts, rather than just writing that you went from process A to process B. The sketches and models themselves are readable and understandable. The same principles apply to the page that mentions the features of your concept, a picture is worth a thousand words, and a detail render/photo would let me understand exactly how your chair works in different scenarios and positions, rather than writing about how it works, and lforcing me to assume.

The problem identification page on your ‘Mandrel’ project is a good example of quickly identifying what the project is, and what it does/needs to do better.

Finally, you are trying to come across as minimal, but you have lot of different fonts, grid patterns and colours in your folio, which can be dominating/distracting (particularly on your packaging project). I thought that halfway through the packaging project, due to the grid change and larger text, that you had introduced another project.

I’d suggest keeping it as graphically simple as possible, using only a few styles of font (heading, sub heading, body tex etc.), a common grid, and limit the number of full colour pages throughout the entire portfolio. A lot of your images and work are already speaking for themselves, I find that it needs to link and flow more visually, to give it that extra sleekness.

There is an extremely useful resource called ‘The Portfolio Handbook’, by the DAAP class of 2012 I think. If you don’t have it already, I would strongly suggest you do a search for it, it’s a goldmine for portfolio making.

A page with contact details might be useful as well :stuck_out_tongue:


Andrew, thanks for your input!!! How do you think I could better explain my concepts for the first project? The Adapt stool is made to allow a variety of seating positions, and Hedge is basically a small surface for passersby to lean, set a laptop, or take notes that sits on already existing low cubicle walls. Obviously, I want there to be little to no text, but what kind of visuals would help communicate the context/function of Adapt and Hedge?

Again, thanks!

Your page ‘field notes’ has the design challenges identified, but doesn’t communicate them particularly well. The images, for example, could be more direct:

  1. Show somebody working more actively while standing
  2. Have an image that shows a workspace with people collaborating
  3. Show somebody struggling to sit comfortably in an office chair.

The images of the first two come across, to me at least, as positive, and the grayscale images don’t communicate that feel. If there are people in the photos, even their expression will help to communicate this. I.e. the uncomfortable chair would have a person who looks uncomfortable. You could, for example, have the positive effect images in colour, and the problem image in grayscale, to visually back up the positives and negatives. The headings ‘standing desks encourage activity’ etc. could be 2-3 word dominant keywords, so that I know that it is important, but don’t actually have to read anything to know what it says.

I need to know that standing encourages activity, that spaces are becoming more informal and that current office chairs are uncomfortable, even if I just flick through the page.

Create sketch pages of your concepts/final concept to show how you were thinking of solving the identified problem. The two pages after your current concept page:
a) Probably don’t need an entire page each
b) Should be before the concept pages, seeing as they seem to be your inspiration and driving ideas behind the designs

Get creative.

A page that shows the chair being used in many different ways? An overlayed ‘movement’ style image that shows someone comfortable moving around on the chair? The hedge sketch actually communicates well, I just didn’t read the text next to it while flicking through. The hero images could do with more ‘pop’ to entice the viewer.

You do have an image of a person sitting on your proof-of-concept model, but their body covers the entire chair. Something similar, but showing how they are actually positioned, comfortably, in the chair.

A few notes I want to add…

interested in simple, minimal design with the purpose of solving a problem

That’s like… the most generic thing you could try to communicate. That is exactly what every single designer claims to be. Maybe you can think of something more original? Your style is, in my opinion far away from being minimal. Owning a macbook doesn’t make you an advocate of minimal design. Try to look at your work in a more realistic way, I think it would help to characterize you and adapt that to a coherent portfolio. You don’t need to be that “problemsolving, minimal, über Designer”. I think we already have enough of those wannabe Dieter Rams anyway. Find your own reasoning for things and stay true to them. That shows a way stronger character and is much less generic.

Office project:
You make assumptions and treat them like they are facts. I think that is extremely critical.

“Spaces are becoming more open and informal.”
I can live with that one. It is somehow general and doesn’t claim anything specific
But then it starts…
“Standing desks encourage activity.” Are they? Actually I have no clue. You say so… but why do you think so?
But I think the worst one is: “Current chairs do not offer variety of seating positions.”
That is just a ridiculous claim. There are like a million chairs that offer different seating positions. Every major office chair manufacturer makes chairs like that. Don’t lie to make a point because the viewer feels like: “this is bullshit”. That’s a bad way to start a project off.
Furthermore concerning that project: You mention the industry partner Allsteel. I don’t know them. I don’t know their brand, I don’t know what they do. You should introduce me to the brand you are designing at least briefly. And then you also should tell me why you chose to do what you did and how it fits into the brand and the current product portfolio. Show that you do not design in a vacuum but that you actually analyze a very specific brand, market and target group.

Dishcloth Project:

Personally I think you should skip that project all together. You have this brand and the briefing… and actually your product doesn’t fit AT ALL into it. And it doesn’t look like muji on top of that. You try to force your product into the briefing by saying “Handwashing has been around for many years…” but that is just not enough.
And personally I really hate to make things more scientific than they are. Just slapping numbers on a project doesn’t make it more relevant. Don’t throw graphs into my face as if you made serious research on the topic of, well, dish cloths. And again… you claim “There is a place in the market for a stand that elevates your dish cloth”. And how do you come to that conclusion?? Because people own dish cloths? Seriously? That start the project off with a “bullshit” aftertaste - again.
On top of that I think the design doesn’t really promote any of the skills you try to promote. I looks like a DIY-hack my mom would do. I don’t see a style, I don’t see the brand, I don’t see well thought out functionallity. I see a piece of wood and three pieces of steel wire. I don’t see anything that let’s me think: “man, I need to hire that guy who did that. You can really see that the last few years of design school paid off here.”

Salt and pepper project:
I kinda like the idea… but still, there are a few things off. Again, the briefing/problem you state at the beginning. You don’t really meet it.
“I can always add more salt, but it’s hard to take it off once it’s there.” “… can release a more than desired amount of salt or pepper…”
That’s a problem you don’t solve with your product. You spread things evenly. That is a completely different topic.
Furthermore I think that the product itself is really quite bland. Why is the shape the way it is? Why is the spring on the outside? why is that thing twice as big as any pepper DISPENSER out there? It is as big as a pepper mill! So many "why"s. I think the shape is ok for a first proof of concept. But you should go over the idea again and find a fitting outer appearance. Focus more on your inspiration… the sprinkler is a strong visual object that most people know. Derive a shape from use, context and inspiration and reason it properly. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it should show you actually THINK about things instead of going for the first, most obvious thing you could think off.

By the way, I think with that thing it will be much MUCH easier to overdose the salt on my food than with traditional dispensers. Especially if I don’t know the product. Something you also have to deal with when designing the thing.

Bird house:

I just don’t understand why an eco-conscious, creative, minimal design lover who lives in the city would want a plastic bird house?

You have to answer every question to a product before someone can ask them. You don’t show any process (the picture of all the vacuum forms don’t really show process. They just let me assume you didn’t go through any form development but went for the very first idea you had… over and over again.)
Why -in detail- is the thing the way it is? What is the problem you are trying to solve? Why should I spend money on it? So many unanswered questions. If you do not answer them it will always be a pice of plastic with a whole and not a desirable bird house.

Convenience Food:

I like that project best. Especially that you analyze a situation (pouring stuff into your hand) and offer a solution (sipping it from the package). I also like the graphic design here more… I would change the font to something that is more pleasant to read though.
There are still quirks.
You say you want to promote a healthier lifestyle… this is immidieatly questionable because granola contains a ton of sugar. Don’t rave about something that is too questionable. Take things as they are. You don’t need to save the world. Branding a Snack is okay.
Don’t waste an entire page on the material of the packaging. It is really not all that interesting. But please show more of the ideation you did for the project. How do the details look? How do you produce it? I doubt you can blowmold the entire thing as it is. Show more of the graphic design if this is part of the project. Show the packaging for all the different sorts. Show less beauty renderings but better renderings! The last two images show exactly the same… and they are not even that well made. Communicate the way you are thinking. That is important. Don’t try to copy high gloss product catalogues. That is not your job

Now all this sounds quite harsh but I think you should really put some more hard work into your portfolio. You want someone to pay you a lot of money every month for what you are doing. You should really try to show that person why. Especially show that you can stick to a topic and try different things. Right now it seems to me like you almost always go for the first solution you can think of.