Each year, the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) St. Louis Chapter hosts a design week in the fall. This is a week of events such as tours of many local studios, keynote speeches, and portfolio reviews. Many events are free and others require an inexpensive $5-10 ticket. Either way, design week is highly recommended for anyone interested in a career in design. This year’s keynote featured Zipeng Zhu, a NYC based graphic designer who founded the firm “Dazzle”.
Entering the welcoming reception at the venue. The room was a mix of high contrast modern white painted bricks featuring black lettering. Motivational canvases spanned the walls with sayings such as “the best intelligence test is what we do with our leisure.” The delicious appetizers set out for the taking were partnered with an entertaining designer-inspired drink menu with concoctions such as the “Comic Sans”.
Zipeng Zhu’s keynote was an engaging, funny, and informative. There was so much to be inspired and humored by as he showed us his work and sense of humor things from his alter egos, to his product designs, to his mother, to his childhood, to his first work experience, and so much more. It was a perfect way for budding designers to hear how fluid a journey to the design world can be and that exploration is a valid method of discovery. His works are colorful, dynamic, and loud, featuring flashing text and animated geometric shapes.
If the keynote sparked further interest, Zipeng was leading a portfolio review for students the next day. The portfolio review took place a short drive away from WashU. There was a panel of inspiring designers and illustrators who were based in St. Louis. The first part was a Q&A. AIGA started with a prepared list of general questions about design careers. There was a reassuring consistency to the responses. Such as when asked what portfolios should look like the answers ranged from “keep the design simple” to “leave a lot of white space.” There was a sincerity to each answer but no answer was left without a touch of light-hearted humor. Once this portion was over, next was the actual review. Each student had their laptop and portfolio open. The students were divided into two teams and met individually with three reviewers each.
The reviewers with whom I spoke were professional designers with a variety of graphic design, marketing and free-lance illustration experience. They were informative, friendly, and helpful. I walked them through the pieces I worked on this semester. They advised what to keep and what to edit within each of my pieces to make the portfolio stronger for a job interview. They asked the kinds of questions I should be thinking about in regards to my own work.
To round out the portfolio review, AIGA hosted a pizza and mingle event with all the reviewers. In this more relaxed event, they opened up about the workplaces they experienced, the design environments they intend to foster, and advised on how to find the right work environment. I left the day feeling good about my work and thoughts about opportunities to pursue beyond WashU and how to leverage my Sam Fox experience. (And, also with a full box of leftover pizza.)