Student Professionalism

Hi All,

As mentioned I’m teaching again at Carleton University, 4th year Minor projects. This time around I’m adding a component for Professionalism, as it is an area I find could be greatly improved upon by most students and is something surprisingly lacking in a lot of design education.

Here’s what I got so far. Any additions or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


  1. KNOW WHAT YOUR GOALS ARE. Detailed briefs are provided for your reference. Read and follow the brief and pay attention to the format and details of the required deliverables.

  2. BE PREPARED. Be prepared for all lectures, studio classes, tutorials and reviews. This means having the materials you need (ie. notebooks, sketching supplies, computers, pin-up materials, etc.).

  3. PLAN AHEAD. In addition to being prepared, always plan ahead and expect Murphy’s Law. It is better to be over-prepared than unprepared or caught by surprise. Always have a backup. Always leave a time buffer to account for the worst case scenario.

  4. RESPECT THE SCHEDULE. Professional work is always on time. Follow the schedule expected of you. This includes prompt arrival at lectures, studio classes and for all deliverables.

  5. COMMUNICATE PROFESSIONALLY. Email, written correspondence and text in your projects should be at a professional level. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Don’t write something you wouldn’t send your boss or client. It is always better to be in communication than not. If there is an unexpected delay or unplanned event it is better to give a head’s up in advance than an excuse later.

  6. PRESENTION COUNTS. How you present is as important as what you present. Your presentation should be well prepared, clear, and at a level of discourse and vocabulary that befits a professional designer. Also be aware you are presenting yourself as well as your work. Dress and conduct yourself professionally.

  7. BE ORGANIZED. Your work should be organized and formatted in a logical way. This includes filenames, board formats and layouts. It is suggested to follow a file naming/versioning system such as –


ie. rkuchinsky_IDES4301_Project1_Concepts_01.pdf

  1. USE YOUR RESOURCES TO THE FULLEST. Take full advantage of all the resources available to you. If you have questions, ask. Check with your colleagues, consult with someone outside the school. Go online. There are lots of resources and it is up to you to use them. Not asking or checking or doing your research is no excuse.


A few pet peeves of mine that I’ve noticed.

BE ON TIME: This means not showing up to class before 9am. But being ready for class to start at 9am. Deliverables are hung on the wall before the teacher gets there. Not during the first 20 minutes of class. It’s a waste of class time. (Also if you show up an hour late and try to get critiqued at the end of class, you should just be skipped, we all know you were finishing your project while everyone else was presenting.)

BE PRESENTABLE: Countless times I’ve seen students slave away o a product and presentation. Only to show up in like the rolled out of bed in un-ironed clothes. How you present yourself in a presentation is very important. Nothing worse than wearing nice business clothes with ratty paint splattered sneakers.

  1. PLAN AHEAD. In addition to being prepared, always plan ahead and expect Murphy’s Law. It is better to be over-prepared than unprepared or caught by surprise. Always have a backup. Always leave a time buffer to account for the worst case scenario.

Your printer will always break or run out of ink. It’s not an excuse.

Good points. Think I have that covered it #4 and #6. I also really dislike the “rolled out of bed and haven’t slept look in presentations”. You’d never get away with that in a real job.


Something I’ve struggled with:

Don’t let personal feelings get in the way of acting professionally. Even if you think your professor or client is a blockhead, you should never reflect that in your attitude in work or communication. It’s in your best interest to do your best, whether or not you think the receiving party deserves it.

When I taught, that one drove me the most crazy… particularly, students being sloppy the way they named files they were sent in. I was teaching on the side and had plenty of things going on including once a week commute out to the BayArea. Students naming things in ridiculous ways, sometimes without even their names, made things so much harder for no reason. When I didnt accept work without being in my format (which was a lot like yours) everyone straightened up pretty quick. Such an important lesson for working in the real world with teams and on long projects…

another excellent one for the real world. All of them really…

how many “unititled12.pdf” files did you get? I don’t even understand how people can do that and find their own stuff let alone send it to someone else…

Julius, Great point about the professionalism in treating other people. It’s like how it works in real life. You might not like your boss, your client or your colleagues, but if that comes across in any way in your work or communication, you likely won’t have a job/client/good reputation for long…


Spelling ALWAYS counts. :smiley:
Something I find all designers tend to overlook.

I also might add a point about listening and critiquing appropriately. As well, part of being a professional (I would hope) is to participate in discussing another peer’s work (after a presentation, desk crits etc.)

Ha!. I FAIL! I guess PRESENTION IS a word as spell check didn’t catch it. Thanks for finding that and preventing potential embarrassment.





Spelling ALWAYS counts. :smiley:
Something I find all designers tend to overlook.[/quote]

Ha!. I FAIL! I guess PRESENTION IS a word as spell check didn’t catch it. Thanks for finding that and preventing potential embarrassment.




No worries. Good luck with the class!

Great tip that is very important in the work place after school. Respecting your co-workers is critical. Even if you have disagreements, you probably can’t fire them or get them fired, so it’s best for you to treat each other with the respect you both deserve.

I do quite a bit of student sponsored projects, and as a client, this drives me nuts. I agree that you should have this as an over all rule and I do not know if you plan on doing a sponsored project, but this should be elevated if you do. As a client of the school I am looking at each student the same as if they worked for a firm. Coming to a presentation with ripped jeans and a t-shirt doesn’t cut it. I make the effort to look presentable when I come to your class, they should look presentable when they show their work.

Another thing I thought of, that may not be covered in your class is proposal and project plan writing. I know this is something I struggled with after I got out in the real world. I think it is something that every school should focus a bit more on.

All good.
I’d suggest meeting management and etiquette-only set a meeting if there is no other choice, set an agenda, keep to it, take minutes, communicate actions, manage expectations.
Peoples time is valuable.


It’s an excellent subject and your list is a good start to the subject. At first it’s a bit unclear, it seems you’re describing how to be a responsible mature student. I suppose that’s OK, a segue into business professionalism. However, student’s BS detector can be very astute, and such topics of be on time to my class, dress cleanly, etc. smacks of overbearing out-of-touch parent.

I would add:

Never blame. Student’s hate, hate, hate working in teams; some student is always lame, never contributes, etc. As we all know, everything is teamwork.

Accept change. In some teaching I’ve done, I would dramatically change project mid term. Student’s hate this, and love to blame change for bad job, lateness, didn’t understand brief,etc. All irrelevant, accept that change will always occur.

A pet peeve of mine, not limited to students, is self-deprecation. “I didn’t do my best on that” or similar. Of course, humbleness is admirable, but not necessarily so when presenting or making the sale.

Just to clarify,

The list is intended to be a primer on skills expected of a professional designer. Most students may have some of these and probably be aware of all at a 4th year level given they’ve almost all done 1 year of work placement, but you’d be surprised (or not).

I tired to keep the list pretty focused and actionable, and not go into personality things (be happy and positive), or general life lessons too much.

Since it will be used for evaluation I consider it key things that would become a note in an employee evaluation if I had hired a junior and I had to speak to them about any of these issues.


One thing I thought of that might be nice to do if there is time at the end of the course, is to do a reflective evaluation. Have questions like: what was your role in the group, what energized you most about the project, what drained you etc.

When I was in school I wish I had been prompted early in my degree with those kind of questions. Not thinking in terms of how much work I did or what my teammate didn’t do. I think learning how to be a professional (in almost any setting) is about being self aware - understanding faults, where you get energy from, how do you best communicate etc. and of course understanding about how to activate and follow those guidelines above is ultimately knowing yourself and style.

One more thing: lighten up a little bit.

If you impose a lot of constraints on yourself, the standard of your work is going to suffer. Being professional is one thing, but as someone learning industrial design, delivering poor quality work is inexcusable. You have to blow minds. Professionally.

Agreed, but asking a student to dress professional for a presentation is not too much to ask.