Taking a year out after graduation

Is it OK to take a year out after graduation, and then work on improving my portfolio? I have the framework for ideas, all I want to do is turn last-minute presentation renders into something more eye-pleasing, and exhibit anything that is just about good, then get some press reviews and references.

Is this a good thing to do, or do employers really measure someone’s potential, based on how good a portfolio is straight after graduation?

There’s nothing wrong with that, plenty of people do it. Some will have to do it since they won’t be able to get work right after graduation. I don’t think you’ll need a whole year but definitely take some time to make the portfolio what you want it to be and so that it truly represents you, not just what you could whip out before you graduated.

I think skinny nailed it - you really may not have much of choice right now. I know too many designers and friends that are losing their employment. That just makes the competition that much more fierce for any position that does open up.

That being said, if you are fortunate enough to get an offer, it may not be wise to let it pass as one can never know if another such opportunity will come along a year from now when you are finished with taking your time off.

I perfectly agree with the above, however, there is a risk of me getting really crappy grades, on top of mediocre work. It’s due to personal circumstances and also because my course is not so well organised. I know that I can do way better in one year or 6 months out of college. I will not be fortunate enough to get an offer with a crappy portfolio :wink:.

That raises another question: is being out of college too long a handicap? Is jobhunting for a whole year too long? Will employers think I’m lazy?

This has been discussed a bit before. I’ve recently heard in the news concerns about all the current unemployed workers (outside of design) who are going on 1 year out of work. There is real concern that these people will suffer from skill errosion / stagnation. Meaning that the longer you sit around the house looking for a job, the longer you don’t use your valuable (employable) work skills, the harder it is to get a job, and the cycle continues.

That is why it is always advised to stay fresh when looking for work by doing freelance, independent projects, competitions. Many things change in a year, and your fresh-out-of-school skills could very well be rusted and outdated by the time you get around to applying for jobs. On the same note, don’t spend too much time honing skills that may be soon obsolete or are too specific (one particular CAD package, when a job may require another, for example).

I wouldn’t spend a year polishing renderings. I’d spend that time and effort making the project shine from beginning to end and creating supplemental work instead. Hot renderings may catch the attention of blogs, but they won’t necessarily help you get a job, especially these days when everyone churns out hot renderings.

Another consideration might be, that if it takes you a year to put together your portfolio,
is that portfolio truly reflective of the level work you would generate on the job. I got a
review from one firm that said they hired a guy who’s sketches in his portfolio were just
incredible and when he showed up for work they were wondering where they guy they hired
had gone, later finding out he had spent upwards of 6 months getting his all of his portfolio
sketches perfect. He quickly found himself out of a job. I understand needing some time to
get your portfolio to be more reflective of your current skill level, but 1 year sounds a BIT
on the long end for that, I’d say 1-3 months max, but as others have suggested given the current
job market, you’ll probably have that time “built in” to your schedule.

good luck

Great point- when you are cranking 24/7 at school, you never think of all the time you put into your projects as billable hours…

I took a year out from graduation to improve my portfolio, but not by choice. :frowning: You should have a portfolio ready, and try to follow up any leads you hear about. You don’t want to be caught off guard. Do this while working on your stellar portfolio.
I graduated in 2008. I retained my student job through the summer for the flexible hours. Guess what happened that fall? 2 part time jobs, 3 portfolio revisions, dozens of job applications sent out, and I still haven’t landed anything. Maybe it’s just me. But I wouldn’t wait to apply places while you add some extra polish.

I agree, the efficiency counts. A designer who can do good work quickly is way more valuable than someone who needs weeks

I agree, the efficiency counts. A designer who can do good work quickly is way more valuable than someone who needs weeks

there might be a bit of a stigma if you’re out of work too long and don’t have much to show for it. If you’re going to take time off, you should at least make sure your doing some projects on the side to keep your design thinking sharp

It may be a stupid quiestion, but are there actually many designers out there who produce amazing work in say, one week of ideation?

In college, all I have is about 8 hours a week for project ideation, because most of the time is taken up by non-ID subjects. I’m managing fine, but the work is obviously very rushed. I’m clearly not happy with it. Is that the kind of environment that I will face at work?

I also got fed up with all the non ID stuff at school. Some of it is fine, and I understand about being well rounded, but the balance has got to be on what you actually want to do. My senior year I actually pulled a couple of my elective course instructors aside and just let them know that I was going to be putting 90% of my effort into my 2 sponsored projects (one for Nike, one for Nissan) and I just wanted to know what I needed to do to just barely pass their classes! One of them was so shocked by my honesty that he told me to work a bit of his class into one of my projects, show him at the end, and never show up to class otherwise, and he gave me an A.

I can’t imagine being at a proper University, this was at an art school.

in most of studies there is need to be spend one year or less than one year for improving the portfolio. And in some cases it is compulsory. And i think it is good for students.

What a story. Seriously, it blew me away - more than any Hollywood blockbuster :smiley:

I can’t do that, unfortunately. I’m in a national university, and I have no power to tell my instructors what I can do. I have to complete a set curriculum, which consists of several subjects. For each subject, you get a certain number of credits. To get your degree, you have to pass the course, and to get a pass, you have to get a certain number of credits. The system is designed so that you have to do all the subjects to get enough credits, there’s no way you can compensate for a failed subject with another one.

In another university in Ireland, UCD (https://myucd.ucd.ie/aboutucd/horizons.ezc;jsessionid=95879686986F279CE5C900898314B5D8?pageID=1370 introduced a system where you can take courses from outside your specialist area. There’s no industrial design course there, but one can take a BA in computer science, combine it with history of art and several electives from architecture, and come out as a kickass interactive designer, etc.

I actually wanted to go to that college, but there is no way I could afford the tuition there.

I don’t think that the course I’m doing is bad, I just found that it’s not organised well enough to let students produce high quality work for their portfolios.

I think it was a bold and smart move that Yo did to focus all his energy on the major design projects at school, but I also think it’s important to do it within the system… I know grades don’t matter for ID jobs, and you might still be alright blowing off classes to focus on ID, but he was upfront with the people involved and had the grades covered

School is school, but when you get out you have to work within management systems that sometimes don’t make sense but have rules and ways of doing things that you have to respect. It can be career limiting to bend the rules too far without any support, especially when your starting out