Inspiring and Being Inspired at the AIGA Portfolio Review

By April 3, 2017Design

AIGA Indy – the professional association for design – annually holds a Student Portfolio Review for college students across the state. For nearly a dozen years, Section 127 Art Director Chris McCormick has volunteered his time to evaluate projects, share his expertise and offer constructive feedback. He did so again this past weekend and sat down with me to share a few reflections.

Chris, thank you for giving your time and energy to the design community, especially on a Saturday during your busiest season at Section 127.

My pleasure. I remember what it was like when I was at that point in my career. I truly enjoy being able to help young designers when and how I can.

You’ve been taking part in the AIGA portfolio review as a professional for several years. How’d you get started and what keeps you coming back year after year?

AIGA was a good resource for me as I began my career as a designer and has continued to be as I’ve advanced in my career. I began participating on the professional side of the event as a way to give back to the design community. It is also a means for me to offer the type of advice and insights I wasn’t privy to as I started out.

The world of design is continually changing. Events like this give me the chance to see new projects that are coming out of some of our schools’ best programs. They also challenge me to take a new perspective or explore new ideas.

Thinking back over your time critiquing, what stands out?

Each school handles design curriculum and project assignments differently. It’s interesting for me to see the variety. I’ve noticed lately that student designers are given more opportunities to collaborate with not only other designers, but students from other majors. They get to experience scenarios where the designer is part of a robust team. This will likely be their experience after graduation, too.

Students and design professionals collaborate at Indy’s DeveloperTown.

Can you share a critique or two that you offered?

“KISS: Keep it simple, stupid” was something I was taught and is something I remind myself of regularly. Students (ok, professionals, too) can fall into a trap of overusing typography and imagery, or adding in too many elements which ultimately causes confusion or chaos in their work. I encourage designers to create a visual hierarchy where the eye can separate information before the brain reads it. This will keep the viewer from becoming overwhelmed by information and cues.

Specific to brand development, students often create beautiful logo marks, but fail to think about scalability. Thin, detailed lines can become illegible or muddled when applied to a small space, for example. Thinking through as many potential applications as possible can help alleviate this issue when creating a mark.

Did you participate in a program like this when you were at Ball State? What did you take away from it?

I participated in a portfolio review as a senior. The format was different. Rather than the fast-paced 15-minute sessions that allows interaction with several professionals, a pair of practitioners reviewed our portfolios in advance and the session was treated more like a mock-interview. Unfortunately, one professional seemed to forget that I was a student seeking to learn rather than a peer with years of experience under my belt. I walked out feeling demoralized. I carry that experience into sessions with students and even with peers, remembering that we’re all continually learning and honing our craft.

Jasmine Shiree with Chris McCormick

Section 127 presented the Environmental and Experiential Design Award to one talented student. Would you care to share a little about her?

Jasmine Shiree will be graduating from Ball State this year with a BFA in Visual Communications. She’s already been recognized for her work at the BSU Immersive Showcase and 83rd Annual Art Show, as well as being named to the Dean’s List. Her work stood out among her very talented peers and I was proud to present her with the award for Environmental and Experiential Design from Section 127. Samples of her work can be seen at JasmineShiree.com.

For her achievement, Section 127 awarded her a 1-year subscription to Dwell magazine and the book “Helvetica and the New York City Subway System”, by Paul Shaw.

Why’d you choose that book?

Two reasons. The New York Subway System is an amazing example of a wayfinding brand, one of the areas of design I get to work with on a regular basis. Shaw’s book was also a big inspiration for our team as we developed the look for the 2018 B1G Ten Men’s Basketball Championship in New York City.

I can’t wait to see that theme come to life in the Big Apple next spring. Thank you again, Chris, for sharing your talent and time!


Explore some of the projects Chris and the Section 127 team have worked on at Section127.com/portfolio