Design
Crafting Professional Identity Using Adobe Portfolio
Charlie Ranscombe
Department of Interior Architecture & Industrial Design​​​​​​​
The goal of this project is to stimulate design students to reflect and craft their professional identity while creating their graduate portfolios.
A graduate portfolio demonstrating design projects and skills is essential for design students to secure their first job. The process of creating a portfolio can be daunting. Not only is the creation of the portfolio challenging, so too is curating projects to present a coherent professional identity to a prospective employer.
This project addresses the later challenge using Adobe Portfolio as a platform for reflection and peer review.
Resources
Shareable teaching and learning resources for this project coming soon!


Problem
A portfolio demonstrating various skills and capabilities is essential for any design graduate when seeking employment. Moreover, the portfolio also outlines a graduate’s professional identity, the kind of designer the aspire to be and industries in which they aspire to work. A design portfolio typically takes the form of a .pdf document or website where skills are presented via the projects that students have worked on during their studies and/or work. 
The process of creating a portfolio can be daunting. Not only is the creation of the portfolio challenging, so too is curating projects in a manner that present a coherent professional identity to a prospective employer. Often student become wrapped up in designing the portfolio document and lose sight of the identity they are trying to communicate. They find it challenging to ‘look ahead’ and reflect on the identity their work/portfolio communicates without a finalised portfolio. This can be seen as a “chicken and egg” situation for students. They feel they need a finished portfolio to reflect on identity, but they struggle to create the portfolio without a clear identity (goal) to work towards. 

Project Overview
The goal of this project is to stimulate design students to reflect and craft their professional identity while creating their graduate portfolios. As mentioned above, students often get fixated on minor details of their portfolio and projects within, rather than the bigger picture identity they seek to communicate. 
Our approach to this issue is to create a means for students to ‘prototype’ their identity. The concept is to facilitate a way in which students can collect and present examples of their work prior to needing to create the portfolio document. In doing so they can reflect on the work collected. Moreover, they are able to share the prototype portfolio with peers and educators to get a breadth of feedback. The benefit in doing so is they can understand how the work they are presenting will communicate their professional identity. This can be considered as a kind of audit. Be seeing an overview of their work and skills demonstrated they can understand where there might be gaps i.e. where they are missing essential skills that form their identity. 
In this project we trialled the use of Adobe Portfolio as a platform to create the prototype portfolio. We capitalise on Adobe portfolio’s capacity to automatically generate a simple portfolio website based on a collection of images. This allows students to focus on collecting examples of work rather than the design of the portfolio document/website. The result is that each student can create a preliminary “prototype” website which can be used during peer review activities in class time. 

Emergent Outcomes (outcomes of the project)
Outcomes from the project two/threefold. 
The first outcome from the project was the creation of a reflective class activity occurring relatively early in the semester. Through this project it was possible to run an activity “who am I? Who will I be?” centred around the prototype portfolios created by students in the first 2 weeks of the semester. This is a major innovation in the way students create portfolios in that they can go through a cycle of feedback on their portfolio much earlier in the semester, moreover the iteration become focused on identity rather than minutiae of design elements like colours, fonts, layouts. 
The second outcome was around the efficiency students experience in creating their portfolios. Following the initial reflective exercise via the “prototype” portfolio students had a much clearer vision for their portfolio and a plan. As such the process of creating the final portfolio was relatively straight forward. This outcome embodies the design motto of “fail fast”, whereby quickly finding weaknesses, can catapult learning and optimize solutions to more efficiently reach a goal. 

Digital Literacy outcomes (student / staff engagement with  Digital Literacies pillars
The context of this project is final year (honours level) Industrial design and product design engineering. At that level students have become proficient in a wide range of software used to support their creative design process. As such all students have a relatively high level of technology literacy. We define this as a high level of confidence in their ability to select and use digital design tools to create and communicate project outcomes. Nevertheless by using a digital platform, we argue the project has further strengthened digital literacies. 

The major contribution of this project is not in adding technology literacy, rather stimulating student’s critical literacy. When students engage with, and reflect on one another’s portfolio, they are in effect reflecting on the meaning of digital artefacts (portfolio and content within), and how that will be interpreted by employers who will ‘consume’ the portfolio. As such we believe the project primarily expands digital fluency within the critical literacy pillar.  

Key Learnings (personal shifts in teaching, approaches etc) 
Key learnings from this initiative: 
Fail first with a quick start 
Locating this project at the start of the unit was effective in getting students to “hit the ground running”. In other words it created a mechanism for students to get over the hurdle/fear of starting a big project. With a clearer plan, they found it easier to make progress on their portfolios throughout the semester. 

Technology to work smart, not work hard 
Related to the point above, the project as demonstrated how technology/digital tools can be good way to achieve the fast start. By using Adobe Portfolio students could get straight to the point of the project/exercise. In other words, the level of effort is relatively low which facilitates the short, low stakes project happening easily at the start of the unit. 

Technology to create AND technology to reflect 
Findings showed how technologies and digital tools needn’t only be used to create outcomes. They can also be used effectively as the basis to learn and reflect, and in turn guide students on how they can use other technologies most effectively towards final outcomes. 

Impact (data from  student surveys, student feedback, reflections) 
Impact of the project is evidenced as follows: 
Increase in students self assessing medium digital literacy confidence to high digital literacy. 30% of students upped their self assessment from medium confidence in digital literacy) to high. Furthermore, we see a unification in views. At the start of semester there was a range of confidence while at the end, views were almost universally high. 

We also saw an increase in the students’ understanding of the importance of digital literacy as a success factor post-graduation. 25% of students shifted views from very important to extremely important. We contend this stems from the focus of the project on portfolios as the mechanism to seek employment. 

Data demonstrates the role of Adobe Creative suite in achieving these gains. 85% respondents agree they are much more confident as a result of using Adobe Creative Suite. 

Finally, 75% agree that Adobe portfolio was helpful in reflecting on portfolio. A positive response to this pilot project 
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