Portfolio instruction includes self branding with collateral, assessment of strengths and weaknesses through a critique analysis, and either revision of existing work or development of new projects. Course content also covers facets of the bridge to the profession – production, vendors, budgeting, freelance, contracts, interviewing, goals assessment, and organization of work in print and digital format.

At the culmination of the semester, the students participate in a showcase with friends, family, and area professionals reviewing the work. I developed this course and taught it for 6 years at Belmont. At RWU, my first opportunity because of departmental scheduling needs was not until 2014. I had an excellent crew in this class who had taken numerous courses with me. These few portfolios exemplify that class and projects from other courses in a comprehensive manner.

You can also find their work on with links to their websites (which may or may not reflect their school projects). Randi Ochab

Jessica Searl's work shows her sketch process for her personal brand and several of her portfolio pages.

Caitlin Reisbeck's portfolio contrasts her illustrations with clean type and image solutions.

Please note that two of the projects shown in Randi's portfolio are community based clients. Naturals was the result of a mentorship relationship for the graphic design club working with/for a nearby woman owned alpaca farm and the Literacy Volunteers was a client vetted thru a program at RWU – Community Partnership Center.

above Randi Ochab
below Jessica Searl
Caitlin Reisbeck


Several assignments that are shown here introduce students to visual rhetoric at either the freshman or sophomore level. For the book covers, they are supposed to read the book and write a book review before brainstorming and conceptualizing. The design process requires students to develop their own imagery and narrow down concepts, sometimes combining them in the process. The book cover assignment evolved to require a film/movie poster weeks after the book cover was submitted. Preferring not to allow students get stuck on preconceived notion for the book cover by what it will be in the film, they are able to modify their visual solution quickly into a printed piece that supports rather than mimics the cover.



Examples are available for fundamental exercises and assignments that start the semester. The emotion play assignment requires students to choose from a word list and invent their own play. After writing the synopsis, character list, style, mood, etc they have enough information to start the design process. The goal is to consider the expression of the word, the meaning, denotation and connotations. (please note that the first two images were created in a summer course that emphasized hand processes including old press type experimentation and alternative tools such as the photocopier). In the second and third row the students are tasked with submitting two distinct versions. Kitchen of Meaning (3rd row) a different assignment requiring students to consider the meaning of words.

Later in the semester students are challenged by a more straightforward less expressive assignment with the Malcolm Gladwell series. They should investigate what the books are about and are tasked with redesigning them as a set, a collector's edition, a special package republication so the books can stand alone yet work as a system. In this assignment they are not asked to design the back of the book, but are looking at how the 5 spines would relate to each other in a box.

The final example was conducted during a semester where I had several sections of the course, enough to assign each student an exclusive topic within an overarching theme of James Bond. The design process required a thorough typographic analysis to learn the type classifications and develop a unique logomark for the specific James Bond film based on the research into the characteristics of the specific title not a redesign of the classic James Bond logo prior to designing the film poster which went through several iterative phases.



I constantly impress upon my students the importance of the design process and to be able to show their process as evidence of their creative individual innovative problem-solving. This is also exemplified in how grades are allocated, that the final product receives the least credit. Most importantly I reiterate that potential employers want to see how they think and if only had one piece to show it should be a process book. These are from a brand identity class.


Whether it be an assignment to explore type and image, a research based investigation for example typographic history, or senior level exploration of corporate identity and transforming traditional print to digital formats including but not limited to IPad using the features in InDesign, these are a few more examples of various solutions in the recent past.

Rather than having students be limited by the tools at their disposal or the narrow course titles of motion or web design later in their curriculum plan of study, I attempt to integrate elements of motion, social media, narrative and stories when possible. Whether it be asking students to formalize a typographic experiment into a short video (using Imovie or advanced tools) or adding motion to a static layout for more interest in a digital format such as an Ipad using InDesign features, I've included a few examples.

Randi chose MoMA as her topic for this assignment. In her research she found many images uploaded to social media by museum visitors. A theme developed in the frames and examples of people looking at the art. This assignment did not require an entire document but several key pages to show how the visual design concept would flow through the entire document formatted as an Ipad layout.
Thisis a typography  research assignment with several variables as design limitations. The first aspect of this assignment is a double sided poster with the front being conceptual and the back being informational. The students are randomly assigned an historical typeface or typographer. Limited to two colors, aspects of this project also integrate lessons in using the various tools like photoshop and final completion in InDesign. What is shown here is the second component of the assignment which adds an element of risk, failure, happy accidents in forcing students to divide the final posters into sections and transofrm into a magazine layout. Again challenging their preconceived notions of layout or poster and creating interesting layouts with unusual crops that they may not be able to create intentionally.



Research a randomly assigned place, often times as an analysis of and discussion of relocation, design in different regions, etc. Must find aspects of the city and culture to integrate into a document that is not a tour guide. The conceptual solution must be integral to all design decisions from size and structure of the artifact, the grid or lack thereof, the typographic choices, color, image and text integration.

Assignment reinforces technological skills in print production including but not limited to paper and materials, InDesign tools, and creating proper files.




Designer as Author projects responding to experience in place. First assignment in place (for orientation and practice in exploration and observation) is an experiment in senses and randomness – pairs departed from a central location for a 10 minute walk in different directions. The resulting  experience in senses and emotions translated into triptychs. Final documents in book layout format.

© 2017, 2018 by Valerie Sloan. ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT VALERIE SLOAN, please inquire for purchase use options.

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