D&AD Portfolio Surgery — Leeds

As part of my on-going relationship with D&AD and my commitment to the D&AD North Committee, I was asked to take part in a Student portfolio surgery session at the Leeds College of Art & Design.

Up and at ’em at silly o’clock, as a few of my Leeds based twitter friends had warned that traffic could be terrible, but I did manage to get there in good time. Yes, Leeds morning traffic is crap.

Slightly nervous as to how the session was going to go, it was great to see James and Stuart from Thoughful, who’d done a session in Newcastle the day before. I admire the amount of get up and go these guys have, and a quick chat with them put me at ease.

Personally, I like to get involved with design students and help where I can, because I was one too. Me and my mates through college did some pretty hair-brained things, tried out some ridiculous ideas… and all seemed to get good jobs from it!

I’ve also been on the other side, recruiting students. Seeing their work, their attitude, from the nervous to the cock-sure and trying to help them get things in order to impress.

So doing the portfolio surgeries wasn’t a massive leap from this. In a nutshell, the students presented their work, talked me through it, I asked what they wanted to do next, graphic design? media? What was strong in their portfolio, how to put it the work in order and feel confident talking about it, how to present their work, and how to be themselves.

I think it’s massively important to let your personality shine through in an interview situation. If you’re going to work in a studio, you’re gonna spend more waking hours with your colleagues than you do with your partner! In which case, you’d better be up for having some fun, able to discuss the most random and mundane crap, pitch in and help, and be an all round superstar junior. Make yourself indispensable.

I’d rather take someone whose work was solid, with streaks of inspiration but consistent and a get-along attitude to everything, than some knock-out designer/programmer whose work was awesome but they were above their station. A bit of humbleness and a very willing attitude goes a long way…

Having said that, all the students I spoke to were excellent. Motivated, talented, eager to talk about what they’ve done and ideas of where they’re going. Some of them, I couldn’t even give pointers to how to present their work better. It was quality, it looked “finished” with that extra 5% of work (a skill a lot learn in the trade, not in education), in which case I was there to urge them to think about how to get in front of Mr. Creative Director, deflect negativity and make it hard to turn them down.

Good luck to you all!