SPU’s art department gets a reality check

Julia Suddarth

Senior visual communication student Jamison Franzen believes that putting yourself and your work in front of an art director for a major agency especially in person can be scary. At the same time, however, this is exactly what he feels he is doing when applying for jobs.


The difference, he said, is “being able to skip the emails, the inbox, the resume sending and go straight to the art director and have them look at my work, which is an opportunity that is totally worth any sort of anxiety or extra work that has to go into it.”


SPU’s Art Center was bustling with creative minds this past Saturday, May 5. Dozens of local professionals came to critique student portfolios as a part of the annual Reality Check event hosted by the SPU chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).


Known as the professional association for design, AIGA is an organization with over 25,000 members nationwide and 71 chapters.


Not to be mistaken for a job fair, Reality Check was designed for students and newcomers to present their work in front of experienced design professionals, and to receive constructive feedback on their portfolios.


The event was not just limited to SPU students; student groups from as far away as Spokane made the journey to the SPU campus just for the one-day event.


The Art Center was transformed into what some would call a networking haven: three rooms were turned into portfolio review rooms, ready for one-on-ones with students and designers. Much like speed dating, a bell rang every seven minutes for the designers to move on to the next student.


Franzen said that his portfolio was geared more towards print design, branding and more traditional graphic design projects.

“I have a package design for a tea company, which was a really fun project I did, and some pretty traditional print layout stuff for like brochures and posters a lot of more traditional stuff like that,” Franzen said. “I got some really, really good feedback. People were happy to take a look at my work.”


It can be nerve racking to share your work in front of professionals, he noted, but once he did it, all that fear started to fade away.


“It just became a conversation about design, which I could talk about all day long,” Franzen said.


As for the preparation, he said it involved revisiting a lot of old projects.


“There was a lot of diving back into files and kind of reanalyzing some of the stuff I had done,” he explained.


The work the students showed varied from person to person. Some showed short films, others showed their layout designs.


As for senior Jessica Clark, she showcased her video work and photography.


“I’m really interested in moving into the film industry,” she said. “I want to be a colorist, so I want to color films in post production.”


Meeting people who were experienced in the field she hopes to work in, Clark thought that the day had been helpful in her career pursuits.


“It’s been fantastic because I’m able to ask for advice, and get exposure to what’s out there after graduation,” she added.


Overall, Amanda Dixon, another visual communications student, was enthusiastic about the outcome.


“There were a lot of business cards exchanged,” Dixon said. “It’s pretty cool to at least find a mentor and get to talk with them about your work, and keep up that constant critique because you always need that as a designer.”


It is worth the time to have someone who is seasoned in their craft to help, she noted.


“I hope that people will get some really great feedback, great critiques, and get prepared for the future, cause we’ve all gotta do that,” Dixon added.