Portfolio FAQs — Local
Applicants living within 300km distance of York University
Do all applicants receive a portfolio interview?
All domestic and international applicants living within 300km who submit the Supplementary Evaluation and pay the evaluation fee will be invited to book a portfolio interview.
What should I show?
Your portfolio should contain samples of your original work that demonstrate a wide range of ideas and competency with different media and tools. In addition to the types of work listed below, a sketchbook or concept/idea book is required. At least one piece in your portfolio should include an example of word(s) and image(s) that communicate a message. Knowledge of computer software is an asset but not required. Typically, an applicant’s portfolio contains their best work from at least 3 of the following areas: Areas 1 to 5 are highly recommended for inclusion in the portfolio.
- Two-dimensional design work e.g. designs for posters, logos, letterheads, book/magazine covers and interior page spreads, CD/DVD inserts.
- Typography e.g. poetry or words using an expressive font or page layout, typeface designs, expressive lettering, projects with text settings designed for clear communication. Drawings and experiments with typographic form.
- Interactive media e.g. web site design and/or other interactive work.
- Motion graphics e.g. video or animation using images and typography. Short pieces with a strong message are preferred.
- Sketchbook or concept/idea book e.g. studies and examples of your media/tools experiments, process explorations. Your sketchbook or idea/concept book should contain “notational drawings,” i.e. quick line drawings done to explore layouts and visual concepts.
- Drawing & Illustration e.g. direct observational drawings are preferred (not drawn from photographs). Imaginative drawing is also welcome. It is good to demonstrate the use of a wide variety of media (pen & ink, charcoal, pastel, coloured pencil, marker pen, collage, digital drawings).
- Photography e.g. B&W prints, colour prints, hand-tinted prints, digitally manipulated.
- Painting e.g. representative and/or non-representative in oil, acrylic, watercolour, gouache.
- 3D Design/Sculpture e.g. scale models from plan drawings, craft and fibre experiments.
What is the purpose of a sketchbook or concept/idea book?
The sketchbook or concept/idea book is a very important component in your portfolio. It should contain a variety of studies and examples of your media/tools experiments and demonstrate an exploration of visual and annotated ideas, comments and critiques. It should represent the ongoing variety of the things that interest you and the development of your thoughts and ideas.
How many pieces should I show?
Generally a maximum of 10-12 pieces that show your best strengths. Two of these pieces should be supported by your design process documentation, e.g. sketchbook work that displays research, sketches and alternative ideas that you developed and/or modified to get to the final solution.
Where do these 10-12 pieces come from?
Typically, the applicant selects their pieces to show in their portfolio from school assigned projects, personal interest projects (e.g. a book cover you designed on your own for your favourite novel), ideas (sketchbook, concept/idea book, etc.), development/variations of ideas (design process documentation), extra curricular art/design classes and professional work where appropriate.
What is the York BDes looking for in a portfolio?
During your portfolio review, the faculty will be looking for the following:
- The breadth and quality of investigation in your work (as demonstrated in the selected pieces shown, your idea/concept books, and your design process documentation),
- Evidence of the various creative thinking processes employed in your work,
- Demonstrated visual abilities in your work (typography, colour, composition, perspective, drawing),
- Technical skill in a diverse range of media and tools used,
- Communication skills as demonstrated by your ability to discuss your work and thought processes at the interview, and
- Care in the selection and presentation of your work.
How should I present my work?
Typically, pieces are brought in a multi-page portfolio binder not to exceed 16″ x 20″. Large or cumbersome pieces should be photographed and shown as a print with an indication of size/scale. Interactive, web, video and animation work should ideally be presented on the applicant’s own laptop computer. You can include selected web pages/frames in a print storyboard format in your portfolio to help explain the structure and concept but the best option is to bring a laptop to the interview if you wish to show digital work. Have everything cued up and ready to run so that technology glitches don’t prevent us from seeing your work.
How will my portfolio and interview be evaluated?
Your portfolio score is based upon a 100 point system as follows:
- Quality and range of the work: 50 points,
- Ability to embrace and demonstrate process (research and exploration): 20 points,
- Ability to articulate and discuss the work in the interview: 20 points,
- Care taken in the visual presentation of your work: 10 points.
Any advice for a successful portfolio?
Show only work which reflects your strength—both creative and technical. Resolve all issues of technology and ease of presentation before coming to the interview. Fumbling with the presentation of your work can easily distract you from focusing on answering questions during the interview.
Any other tips?
- Do not include framed pieces in your portfolio—photograph the work.
- Do not bring 3D design work to the interview—photograph the work from several different points of view if it is to be included in your portfolio.
- Do not bring oversized work to the interview—photograph the work.
- Do not include work older than 2 or 3 years—current work best demonstrates your creative and skill level.
- Present work flat rather than rolled, mounted or matted.
- Arrange the work in your portfolio to demonstrate development.
- Select work that demonstrates your ability to handle a wide range of techniques, media, materials and subject matter with skill.