Recent Grad in "The Funk"

Hey Core 77!

I’m the prototypical recent grad looking for their first real position and not having as much success as I was hoping. I reached out to Michael and he encouraged me to post my work here, so I will.

The documents I have been sending to employers are located at Behance. I have 3 documents there, a sketchbook document, a process book of my Thesis and a full portfolio. I’d love to hear more feedback about my work that will make me more attractive to employers.

A little about me, I graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art this year and moved directly into an internship with Little Tikes for 3 months and change. Once that ran its course and they sent me out into the real world I have been struggling with my search. I want to stay in the Toy business if I can, because I have real passion for that industry and the history that is there. I want to make my mark on the next generation with crazy awesome toys that I haven’t come up with yet. While I was at LT I was contacted by a toy specific recruiter who was looking to steal me over to one of LT’s direct competitors. I went through the interview process, but it was ultimately decided they were looking for a more seasoned designer. (LT never found out about this, but it was clear at this point they couldn’t add more people to the full time team) This recruiter has been helping me and has me in the running with some other companies but nothing serious has come out of that yet. In my personal search, I have been met with a few rejections (which I count as a success on some level) but have also had a lot of radio silence. I’m sure much of this is pretty typical for the post grad experience of a designer that doesn’t land a gig directly out of school. I’m being patient and trying to trust this recruiter to help me as much as he can, but he works fairly slowly.

On a personal level I love toys and run a YouTube channel dedicated to them. It really is my passion and main hobby. At CIA I was always a “middle of the road” guy, in a class that was generally overachieving and more successful than many of the other past classes in recent years. The validation I got from my Internship was huge to proving to myself that I can actually do this as a career. Mixing this with an unfavorable and unforeseen home experience post-grad in a city I have never lived in before (Vegas) I find it hard sometimes to stay motivated and keep improving and working but I’m doing what I can when I can. I’d love to do some freelance but I don’t know how to get started.

Anyway, I know I’m a little long winded but it feels good to vent a little bit to people who will (hopefully) understand my plight. I take criticism very well and to heart so please don’t pull any punches!

Hi Jesse,

My first impression is that you show lots of process which is good.
But take better photos of those processes man, the lighting is bad and you should put mock ups in context.
Look at your inspiration or competitors images, your renderings should be at that quality.
Now your renderings look flat, and textures are scaled too big.
Communicate your ideas visually, instead of so many words.
Why is something a certain shape or character?
Like your sanisponge, the facets should be a texture, instead the whole form (doesn’t look consumer friendly.)

If you want to work at the big toy companies like Hasbro or Mattel, focus on branded play.
That can be existing brands, or a brand that you create.
Either way, there needs to be a story to the brand/characters, and compelling insight you have on a unique way to entertain.

MOST IMPORTANTLY keep sketching.
look up tutorials to pump up your rendering and sketching skills
Look at design trends to help you think of forms.
Look at folios that are successful, they use forms that make sense with the target market.

You’re doing the right thing posting your work here.
It’s gonna take a lot of elbow grease, maybe redoing projects, or thinking of new ones once your skills improve.
But if you are willing to put in the work, you can land a gig.
Hope this helps



Thanks for the words of encouragement! I will say that graphic design was always my weak point in school. I’ve learned a lot but its still something I struggle with for sure.

I learned ton at LT about all kinds of stuff, and definitely improved my renderings and sketching ability. I don’t have a much work I can show from my time there, so most of my work doesn’t show my current ability, which I realize is an issue now. It’s a balance between quality and quantity that I’m not sure how to approach.

It’s funny you mention my sketching skills, as its always been a constant area of growth for me. I’ve been critiqued for being both too loose and too tight. I struggle to find that middle ground that a lot of the flashy sketches have. I put a lot of pressure on myself and get inside my own head when I’m sketching fairly often. I know I produce my best work when I relax but the perfectionist in me make it hard to let loose and have fun sometimes.

I got some good news today though, My recruiter has set up 2 phone interviews for me in the next little while. I’m excited for that!

Any more pointers or specific places you can send me to for good examples I should be emulating?

I would say, and it has been said on these forums many times, don’t show any work you are not proud of.
So I would not put in more to the portfolio just for quantities’ sake.
If you’ve gotten better at sketching, make some new sketches and show off those bad boys!

That’s great to hear, good luck on the phone interviews!

The Toy Industry is the best industry… I’m biased at all! :wink:

You said you won’t take comments to heart, so here goes :slight_smile:

  • The one thing that hit me first is the comment that you don’t have much to show from your internship at Little Tykes, and that your portfolio doesn’t reflect your current ability… so my question is… why don’t you do some work that you can show that does show your current ability? How do people know how good you are if you aren’t showing it? It doesn’t need to be a huge, in-depth exploration, just enough to show yourself as you’d like to be seen.

  • You also mention a toy YouTube? This would be cool to see, I didn’t see a link in your portfolio?

  • There’s a lot of work in your portfolio, admittedly I have a short attention span… but there’s a lot in there, maybe it’s worth thinking about making it a little more concise?

  • You have three sections to your link, and I got a bit confused about what I was looking at in the third section that was different to the others? It was a more in depth version of what was in your portfolio, but very similar to the content already there.

  • Looking very quickly at your bechance website, I don’t see mention of work experience / Little Tykes? Maybe this is worth including? with reference to what you did / worked on etc?

  • You also mention that you’re working with one slow recruiter… have you got in touch with any companies directly? Have you spoken with your contacts at LT to see if they can put you in touch with anybody else in the industry to look over your portfolio?

  • I also had a few questions about your problem statement for ‘Internet of Collectables’, but this is about portfolio, so I’ll hold my tongue :wink:

Any questions, feel free to get in touch,


I work for a toy company called Kiwi Co.
We will be looking to hire a junior industrial designer by the end of the year.
Thought I would share if you wanted to apply.


Hi Jesse,

My impression is that you have good ID skills and good ideas, you come across clearly but you need to focus on showing a better selection of your work, and presenting it more professionally.

As for your toys I like how you do your explorations and develop a 3D clay shape as well to aid in thinking out all the details and surfacing solutions. If you are familiar enough with foam and clay modeling, consider investing in a small 3D printer as well. I like most the toys that trigger new ideas, things like making a toy out of a tape dispenser, making a toy out of a clothes peg, making toys out of packaging peanuts. Rather to include children in adult processes and learn the joy of just taking on the responsibilities rather than escaping them is a philosophy that in reality makes more sense.

I also like how you target the millenial demographic but then in another project show a high-end coffee product in a very old-fashioned kitchen so also think about how you want to consistently present yourself as a designer. Then in your numbers on how much people spend on toys I wonder how useful those numbers are if you don’t know who they are spending it for.

Thanks, wish you the best in your career.

Hey guys, I appreciate all the feedback I got from this post. I recently completed a total portfolio overhaul, and figured I would post it here. I broke out all my project into individual documents for Behance, and I’d love some feedback. I also have new work on my “Blast” project, as a redesign of the “Internet of Collectibles” project which is still on my Behance for reference, and I’d love some feedback on that as well!

Thanks designers :slight_smile:

Jesse, just responding to your Blast project, this is a great idea and I would love to see that elaborated more.
The idea is clear and if you put more work into the industrial design and be able to target specific audiences with this device, you will have a winner.
I work freelance for Warner Brothers Studios and we have been doing R&D into quite similar concepts to enhance the home experience of their licensed toys. And presentation augmenters have a lot of impact, especially when programmable. I once did a library presentation about elastomers and simply adding $5 RFID tags to objects that link to a visual infotainment display makes the entire experience so much better.