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A brief introduction to Portfolio & Process online

This fall, I’ll be teaching Portfolio & Process as an online course. I know online classes are off-putting for some students, but I think in this case it’s a good fit. Whether it’s via email, PDF, or the web, personal promotion primarily takes place on the internet — so when it comes to your portfolio, it’s appropriate to consider how your work looks on the screen.

It may seem like this does little justice to the physical portfolio book, the actual object, but in this class we focus less on how your portfolio looks and more on what your portfolio is made up of: the work itself. What should you show? What should you edit out? Should you bring the actual objects to an interview, or just pictures? What do other people’s portfolios look like, anyway?

There’s also studio assignments, of course; this is an opportunity to fill the holes in your portfolio. Students are expected to define the exact parameters of the assignments to address their strengths (or weaknesses, why not?). You want to focus on book covers? This class is for you. Interested in identity systems? This class is for you. Looking to do nothing but refined type work? Again, this class is for you!

To demonstrate what I mean, here’s a brief run-down of the main assignments, along with some past work:

You will select something which does not work, and you will redesign it so that it does. What do I mean by this? I mean something which does not achieve its stated aim — identities that don’t properly reflect the organization, book cover systems which fail to do justice to the work, cookbooks which are impossible to actually use. How will you rethink the design anew?

Visualization of the electromagnetic spectrum, by Marcela Gonzalez


A design system is a group of related components which make up a larger design structure. In order to build a strong design system, you need to have a firm grasp on the system’s defining elements. In this case, you’ll developing a design system that addresses one of the following challenges:
— A cover system for a new series of essays on a related topic (eg: architecture, cooking, photography)
— A poster series (which can be distributed via mail) for forthcoming concerts
— A new identity system for a restaurant
— Or propose your own

JM Coetzee cover system, by Miriam Hiersteiner —

In the two or three semesters you’ve been at Parsons, there have been times when your ideas have outpaced your skills. Given that the single most important thing that a designer brings to the table is her ideas, it’s a shame to have to strip something out of your portfolio just because you hadn’t yet learned how to pick a typeface. For this assignment, you’ll remake an earlier project — something you weren’t planning on including in your portfolio, but which you felt had potential.

Posters and invitation for "And Then I Woke Up," by Colleen Sweeney —

If this sounds like the work you’d like to do, I look forward to having you. If you have any questions, email me at

All the best,
Andy Pressman