Digital design program hosts portfolio review
By Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau
Nearly 40 local designers, including several from the Grand Canyon University digital design program, met in the College of Arts and Sciences building Wednesday evening for a Behance portfolio review event.
Behance, an online community for designers to promote their work, hosts multiple design-focused events worldwide each year in association with the American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA). The portfolio reviews are the most popular Behance social gatherings and take months to plan.
Wednesday’s event, the second this year and first held at GCU, brought together Arizona students and professional designers to have their work evaluated by leading creative professionals. Most portfolios were digital, with work presented on laptops and iPads. Others brought posters, photographs, clay sculptures, and completed books and magazines for review.
Most of the material presented by GCU students was work from classroom assignments. Those in attendance had the opportunity to socialize with Behance’s crop of reviewers, such as the Heard Museum’s creative director, Caesar Chaves, before convening in small groups led by one of 13 reviewers.
Sophomore design student Deanna Forte had her 15-page portfolio of photos and web illustrations reviewed by Chaves. She said the networking aspect of the event was invaluable to students working to make a name in the industry.
“The reviews were different for every person, but for me it was a way to learn what I need to do to work in those fields,” said Forte, 20, whose work was praised for its crisp, vivid colors. “It was a great opportunity for students to take advantage of a networking opportunity.”
Scott Biersack, a junior design major at Arizona State University who works with lettering, served as the event’s spotlight speaker. He gave a short yet colorful presentation, encouraging those in attendance to accept criticism and suggesting ways to apply it to their work.
The event was a significant milestone for a revitalized GCU design program that is expected to have nearly 200 students in the fall.
The digital design program closed in 2006 when the University discontinued its arts program for financial reasons. Other GCU arts programs — film, dance, theatre and music — were reinstated in the fall of 2010. Design returned the next year.
Sheila Schumacher, GCU’s director of digital design, worked as an adjunct professor from 1997 until 2006. Schumacher was a longtime marketing creative director at the Arizona Republic and also worked as a designer in Los Angeles. She returned to GCU in 2012 and has nearly quadrupled the number of students in the program, which will add an advertising emphasis, including an internal, student-run ad company, in 2014-15.
“At GCU, (professors) are held accountable for providing students the skills and opportunities to be employed (after graduation),” Schumacher said. “There is a buzz about our program because we’re new, and hosting an event like this is a way for people in the industry to know our students and see the work they’re doing.”
As an AIGA member, Schumacher has strong ties with the design industry and plans to bring more events to campus. The program will work with AIGA and may host events during Phoenix Design Week in October.
Behance’s Arizona program director, Patricia Tompkins, said the local design scene has taken notice of the growth of GCU’s program.
“When Sheila reached out to us, we knew GCU would be a great place for this (event),” said Tompkins, who also serves as senior art director at the Tempe marketing agency Sitewire.
“(Students) are the audience we’re here to serve, and because of the growth here, we knew we needed to get involved with GCU.”
Reach Cooper Nelson at 602.639.7511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.