Category Archives: Prof Ward

Design Education

Portfolio Commentary :: Inspiration through design heroes

I enjoy helping students build their portfolios and helping them as they finish their assignments to completion. But many times the student isn’t sure how to take their project to completion. When they don’t have any reference of ‘great’ or ‘inspirational’ design this is not a surprise. When you don’t know where you’re going or what your destination looks like, it’s hard to get there. So the instructor or reviewer tries to steer them down a path, but in many cases, one they themselves would take.

My projects tend to start with research on inspiration for that particular assignment. Finding what they feel are great examples for that project category. The next week the students present what they’ve found and this begins a dialogue on why those examples are great. Not everyone has the same opinion but through sharing these examples we have an idea of where the assignment is heading, what the finished product might look like and my expectations for the assignment.

If I’m the only one sharing examples then the tendency is for the student to follow what I like. In early classes when students are still forming opinions this is an OK beginning, but at the senior level students should really be directing me as to what they’re trying to accomplish rather than me being the guide so late in their design education.

And think about when it really counts… at your first job. If your agency is working on an assignment for a new client, you might not have good examples to go by. How are you going to let your boss know what you think the completed project should look like? Will you spend many hours coming up with ideas that may not be in the ballpark? Or will you show examples of where you think the project might go so that you can have a dialogue about where the project could go?

When we look to inspiration we’re not looking to copy but to help use that as a guide to the level of concept and execution as to how our own project may look.