Considering leveling up with Offsite cohort 02 this summer?
After completing Advanced Design’s Offsite program, I asked the instructors what they look for while reviewing portfolios so you can take your best shot.
Tyler Anderson (Product Visualization)
Tyler's naturally biased towards his class. Because he focuses on Keyshot rendering, Tyler wants to make sure that people can model in CAD. If you don't know CAD you'll likely struggle in his class, so make sure you're demonstrating some CAD modeling in your portfolio.
Beyond that, Tyler looks for thoughtful storytelling and tangibility.
- Show process work to prove you're not just a visual designer
- Show consideration of product construction beyond basic form development - What are the components of this and how do they come together?
- Tyler doesn't read. "Pictures only please."
Kelly Custer (Real World Sketching)
"With my class being Real World Sketching, I focus on sketching hard skills. I look to see if the applicant has a basic understanding of how to sketch. My class will be quite difficult for someone who was never taught HOW to sketch. What I don’t judge on is the WHY behind the sketch or how effectively the sketch communicates because that’s what we’ll learn in my 12 weeks of class"! - Kelly
How can you prove to Kelly that you know how to sketch? Show sketches!
- Your portfolio should contain enough sketches for her to form an opinion (at least 3).
- Your sketches should demonstrate an understanding of linework, linear perspective, value, and form.
Michael DiTullo (Design & Business)
Michael takes a systematic approach to reviewing portfolios. The first time through he doesn't read a thing. If Michael can't remember what he just looked at, he moves on. If he can, he reads through again and looks for the weakest element in the portfolio. That weakest link is what he assumes is the individual's average quality of work.
What can you take away from this? Only show your best work. Michael is looking for quality over quantity. That being said, we don't produce our best work all the time. Michael searches for weak links in a portfolio to understand where your average is. This average is what he measures against the Offsite curriculum to determine whether you'll benefit. Consider not only the best work in your portfolio but the worst and what it says about you.
Things that Michael looks for:
- A variety of solutions/aesthetics - You should be able to adapt your style to different contexts/brands/environments.
- Complex surface understanding - "Boxes are easy. Not everything is as simple as a Nest Thermostat."
- Front end-heavy ideation - Show that you can think, not just execute.
- Emphasis on visuals - Most text will not be read.
Dominic Montante (Design for Manufacturing)
Dom wants to see applicants who are genuinely invested in joining Offsite. To do this, he looks beyond portfolios and evaluates the entire application. So how can you impress Dom?
- Strong communication - Well-written statements show that you're engaged and invested in leveling up.
- Your ability to follow basic instructions - "If you don't follow directions like write 6 sentences when we ask for six sentences in the application, you aren't Offsite material." - Dom
The good news is that Dom evaluates less on pure skill and more on potential and passion. If you are highly skilled and want to continue learning, or you're less skilled but highly enthusiastic, you should apply. Dom knows that diversity will help students thrive and wants to give them that opportunity.
Spencer Nugent (Design Discourse)
Like Michael, Spencer uses simple filters to quickly isolate the strongest portfolios.
The first filter is visual competency. Spencer is admittedly biased towards good presentation, i.e. one that communicates clearly.
- Can you communicate a product or solution through an image?
- A bad presentation tells him you don't care about your work, so why should he?
Once he down-selects, Spencer examines portfolios for the best ideas.
- Does this solution actually make sense?
- Is it innovative?
- Are you thinking critically about the problem at hand?
Spencer's class Design Discourse includes discussions about design relative to the industry and the world at large. Your work should relate to broader contexts and communicate solutions that can be easily understood by anyone.
Kat Reiser (Professional Self Presentation)
Kat looks for a thought process. She wants to see a strong rationale behind people's interest in design. What is their goal? "It can't just be 'because.'" Kat wants to see passion and conviction that she can build on.
Kat strongly encourages you to apply even if you don't think you're ready. She didn't come out of her undergraduate studies feeling the most talented or prepared. She wants to help elevate people who may not have the most polished portfolios up to a level where they can feel confident in communicating their ideas.
Summer Cohort 02 applications are open through 5/28. Good luck and I hope to meet you in a future cohort!