Paying it Forward

Alumni critique student work

Nick Curcio '09 and Seth Prelovsky '07 still remember the portfolio reviews they went through as graphic design students at Northampton Community College.  Twice in their college careers they were required to present their work for review by professional designers.  Some students might have found this nerve-wracking, but Curcio didn't.  "It was exciting.  I got a lot of good feedback," he said.  It helped me to improve."

On December 16 Curcio, Prelovsky and other graduates of NCC's graphic design program returned to campus to critique projects completed by students in Traci Anfuso-Young and Gayle Hendricks' typography classes.  Now working as professional designers, they joined other industry representatives like Tom Doerfler of SWB&R ad agency and Susan Williams of Susan Williams & Associates, in commenting on the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly in students' calendar, menu, ad, and poster designs.

Next semester students will meet face-to-face with the professionals during a portfolio review, learning to sell themselves and their work.  This semester the students were not present while the evaluators assessed their projects.  Not having students in the room encourages the professionals to be completely candid, and not to go easy on the students, Anfuso-Young says.  Later, as students read the written evaluations, "they can see where their strengths and weaknesses are."

Evaluators did not hold back.  They chastised students for misspellings, lack of variety in subject matter, and sloppy kerning (spacing between letters).  They praised them for strong type skills, use of space and craftsmanship.

Some of the students presented their work in handsome wooden boxes.  "When we took this class, we didn't have the opportunity of doing that," Prevlosky said.  "The wooden portfolios really stand out."

Anfuso-Young believes that allowing students to be creative in presenting their work -rather than using store bought portfolios - gives them a chance to be unique.  "There are pros and cons to the wooden portfolios," she says.  "It's not always practical to carry one to an interview.  Form follows function.  That's part of the learning process."