Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

GDS 293 Portfolio Seminar
Project 3: Open Project

Instructor: Paul Young


To develop conceptual thinking skills. To communicate ideas visually and verbally. To become familiar with marketing principles. To explore illustration and photography styles. To apply design principles to real-world visual communication problems.

Secondary objectives

To utilize Adobe Creative Suite as layout and production tools.


Review your current portfolio samples with your instructor to determine its strengths and its weaknesses (by appointment). Address its weaknesses by designing a new project to be added to your portfolio. Your project proposal must be approved by your instructor before you begin.

Typical projects that are in a graphic design portfolio are:

  • Logos/Identity/Branding
  • Advertising/Promotion
  • Publications/Editorial layout

Some designers also include these types of samples:

  • Websites/Apps
  • Animation/Motion graphics
  • Packaging
  • Books/E-books
  • Newsletters/Email newsletters
  • Cards/Invitations
  • Environment design/Displays
  • Illustration
  • Photography

Your project must communicate a creative concept and show an understanding of design principles (unity, emphasis, balance, color theory, etc.).

Per our syllabus, you may ONLY use the standard "core" fonts installed in D019 for your assignments unless you obtain prior approval from the instructor (see Parkland's Core Fonts Specimen Sheet). Please talk to your instructor if you need to use a non-standard font from the Adobe Font Folio collection.

Note: Legal high resolution stock photos and illustrations are available from Photospin (contact your instructor for access). Students may NOT use illegally download images (see FAQ).

Optional: Repeat this project to add additional samples to your portfolio.


1. Project proposal: Write a project proposal using Google Docs or Microsoft Word. List the due date for each phase of this project. All projects are due on the final review date for this class (see Calendar), so plan accordingly! Email the proposal to

2. Research for inspiration: Find examples of creative concepts and creative use of typography, photography or illustration in the Parkland Library (see resources). Scan (instructions) and publish your research on your personal Process Page for critique (be sure to caption each image and cite the source). Be prepared to explain why these examples are successful.

3. Marketing research: Research your client (or make one up). What is the client's history? Are there any unique selling points for this business? Who is the competition? If appropriate, visit the business. Analyze your research and write a written statement of objectives in the form of a memo (see sample brief). Be sure to include descriptive adjectives in the "character" paragraph (see vocabulary wheel). Have your brief reviewed by the Writing Lab, then email your brief as an attached Word file or a shared Google Doc to (instructions).

4. Incubation: Absorb the information you have gathered and sleep on it. Allow your unconscious mind to make connections for you.

5. Develop the concept: In your sketchbook begin to conceptualize ideas for this project (see examples of sketches). Make at least 10 sketches of all possible directions you might take this project. Edit your concepts down to your best three ideas and redraw them on 8.5 x 11 white paper using a felt tip pen. Scan (scale/crop in Photoshop: no wider than 1000 pixels), increase the contrast (see tutorial) and publish your concepts on your personal Process Page for critique. Be prepared to discuss how your design fulfills the client's marketing objectives. Also print your sketches for your Process Book.

6. Proof: Based on the critique of the above, use the computer to execute at least two versions of your best idea (present at least one proof with an alternate font choice). Publish one multi-page low-res PDF (instructions) on your personal Process Page for critique. Be prepared to talk about what design principles are utilized in your design. Also print high-quality color proof(s) for your Process Book.

7. Final critique: Based on the critique of the above, fine-tune your design (if needed). Submit high-quality color proof(s) for final critique (see printing tips). Prepare a presentation to justify your design decisions. Also publish one multi-page high-res PDF (instructions) on your personal Process Page.

8. Grading: Submit two copies of your work for grading. One proof will be returned to you after grading. File the graded proof in your Process Book for individual review along with all the preliminary work you did for the project (research, brief, sketches, preliminary proofs, final proof). Review your Process Page and make sure you have an accurate record of your process. Also submit one multi-page high-res PDF (instructions) via Cobra's dropbox. You will not receive full credit for this project if any of the above elements are missing.

9. Portfolio preparation: If you are happy with the results of this project, consider including it in your portfolio. If necessary, continue to make refinements until you are 100% satisfied with the project. Be sure to save all your files for future editing.

10. Extra credit: Submit your project into the annual student show by printing an art gallery quality proof and mounting it on foam board. Also prepare an archival quality JPEG (instructions) and submit your project using the online entry form at Your project may win a cash prize and be published in a showcase of student work on Parkland's website.

Last updated: 1/3/17 ■ Webmaster: Paul Young