Recent RISD grad looking for some advice

Hello all,

I graduated from RISD ID this year (4 months ago), and I’m currently working a design job at a small company in the area. Throughout my time at RISD, I tried a lot of things within the ID program, because I wasn’t totally sure that product design was what I wanted to do (my sophomore design principles experience put me off it slightly).

In my Junior year I did one studio that was interaction/experience design which ended up being pretty badly managed, and because of the RISD lottery system of choosing studios, second semester I ended up in another very badly structured studio. I feel like my Junior year was wasted. But still, I worked hard and did as well as I could in those studios.

Senior year I decided I needed a change of scenery and went on exchange first semester, doing some service design and interior design abroad, and I learned a lot. Only during senior year did I find that I really did want to do product design, after trying all this stuff.

So I graduate, with honors too. I find that my portfolio is scattered and unfocused and unsuited to the jobs I want. I have one or two product projects in my portfolio at best. I’ve done 3 design internships, only one that is straight up product design. I worked hard at RISD, just in too many different directions. I just didn’t know what I wanted until way too late.

I manage to get a job (a decent one too), but I see all the great portfolios, jobs, and internships that other grads are getting, and I feel intensely jealous and disappointed at myself. I know that if I had focused my efforts, I could have that too. I’m set on developing my portfolio, but there’s only so far that will take me.

Recently I’ve been floating the idea of grad school at Art Center (or another school) somewhere down the line. There’s a lot of talk on these forums about not doing an ID grad degree after ID undergrad, but I definitely did not have a traditional ID undergrad.

I guess I’m just feeling super lost right now, and would appreciate advice on how to move forward in my situation?

This is normal. You have to remember that you are right out of school. School portfolios are always scattered an normally skill focussed. What you need to realize is that your career is organic. It will change, grow and evolve.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you is start making short and long term goals. Don’t just make them, but write them down. I have a small moleskin that put all of my career thoughts in. Keeps me on track and also let’s me analyze and reflect on them as they morph and change.

What is it that you want to do in the long term and what can you learn from your current job to help get you there? When you start to uncover this ALWAYS set yearly business objects. Keep your career objectives in mind while doing this. It not only helps you keep with business needs and accomplish your work, but it also helps you learn and grow as you will have clear direction and a plan.

On another note where are you currently working or currently working on? This info may help us tell you how to shape you career to accomplish your goals.


Do some self-directed projects, and work hard where you are at. This is the best way to get to where you want to go once you have a clear idea of where that might be. Grad school is not worth half of what real world experience is in either portfolio or real terms.

School, work, life is all a learning experience and in hindsight, there are always things you would do differently. Sounds like you’ve already learned a lot looking back on your school experience, take that info and run with it to get you to the next phase of your career.


PS. If you post your portfolio and let us know where you’d like to be, we can probably give more specific advice.