Graduate School Portfolio

Hello all,

My name is Matthew. I graduated from CSU Northridge in Urban Planning May 2011. As of now, I am applying to graduate schools: UCLA, Cal Poly Pomona, SCI-ARC. I have been working on my portfolio for about 2 months now, and am looking for some guidance. My portfolio link below displays my work in progress:

Any critiques, comments or questions would be amazing. Thank you!

Oct 18, 12 7:17 pm

Your portfolio has potential but needs a lot of editing.  Make it denser. Show more conceptual diagrams. Show more process work (sketches or study models) for each project.  Overall you need to do a LOT more showing instead of telling - Right now you have a lot of repetitive documentation of how your buildings look, and not enough documentation of what they mean. For example for the i-shift project on p. 6/7 you would only need to show one elevation to get that part of your idea across, but you have four. For the same project, you write about some interesting ideas about integrating plants into the design, and having the individual apartments move. You should remove that text, which the admissions committee probably isn't going to read on the crucial first pass through your portfolio, and instead show those things happening visually in diagrams. (with concise captions and/or catchy headlines where appropriate)

Something similar happens on pg. 13 where you have four very similar images of the same study model for the black square project - reduce that to one, and remove the background of the cutting mat.

For the river improvement project, look at how prominent contemporary architects (or even infographic designers) visualize data in compelling ways. Right now your analysis looks like some generic report produced by an accountant. The cheesy drop shadows only make matters worse.

The Bush & 9/11 thing is creepy, tacky, and doesn't seem to mean anything - I would cut it out. From my perspective as someone who lived in New York, having the image of the WTC burning could rub some people the wrong way for no good reason. The yellow Bush "war as peace" image on its own might be includable since it looks more like a piece of your own original graphic design, if you have other graphic design works that you could also include and show with it.

Also cut out the figure drawings that are obviously inaccurate, ie the one where the guy's head is too small. (A bunch of my figure drawing attempts were like that too, and as a result I didn't include them in my portfolio.) The figure drawings on the far left seem the most interesting and critical. 

And of course add some context/descriptive text to your garden project, which seems like an unfinished page without it.

Show your portfolio to some of your former professors, too - that really helped me.

Oct 18, 12 10:44 pm

Thanks for sharing.

First I would change the typeface to something more common. Eccentric fonts do not equal creativity.  I do not understand why pages 4-5, 10-11, 14-15 are washed out.  I would either put content in them or cut them out all together.  Pages 24-25 have potential but there is too much text and the graph graphics are inconsistent and look unprofessional.  Page 27 makes no sense. Maybe it is some personal graphic work you did but I am not sure how it relates to getting into grad school.  Did you use a novel technique with software?  Let the reader know, other than an obscure KORN quote. I agree with @snail in regard to the 9/11 bit. Showing this is nothing new, irrelevant to your work, and detracts from the portfolio.  I also agree with @snail in regard to the inaccurate figure drawings.

In summary, change the typeface, cut the vanity out, and focus on your work. 

Oct 19, 12 1:32 am

Thanks so much for your replies, it means so much to me. I have a revised portfolio for you guys. As far as the 9/11 boards (i know creepy right!), my professor told me to leave those, and explain why i have them. Take a look!


Thanks again!

Dec 9, 12 5:35 pm

I'm surprised you've decided to leave the 9/11-Bush pieces in the portfolio. To be quite honest, as artwork, it comes off as very sensationalistic, overly forced and mildly offensive - in the sense that you've put it in the portfolio as a an "artwork", it doesn't actually say much of anything. Because it doesn't really make any commentary, the piece comes across as simply the use of a shock-photograph for the sake of using a shock-photograph. I get that this was probably a graphic design exercise of some sort in undergrad, and you may have learned a lot from it, etc, but that doesn't excuse it for being included in this portfolio. I would strongly urge you to take out that part.

Dec 9, 12 5:51 pm

I understand where you're coming from @BenC.

it is something i personally hold strong feelings about since i was 13 (when 9/11 occurred)  The controversial feelings and disbelief i felt at that time is portrayed on those boards. I feel that this is a part of my history, and is an expression of my artistic freedom. Don't get me wrong, i understand it can be offensive and create some unfamiliar feelings. That is my intention of these boards is to spark those feelings. It may break or even make my portfolio. It is a risk i am willing to take, and something i stand strong by. Dumb decision? Maybe, but i stand by it. 


Thanks for your input, i really do appreciate the feedback. Its great to hear back from the archinect community. Aside from those boards do you by any chance have other critiques pertaining to the rest of my portfolio?

Thanks again!

Dec 9, 12 6:09 pm

1. you probably shouldn't hijack two other threads and then also start your own...especially when you copy/paste the same comment into both of those threads claiming you're trying not to hijack them.

2. the 9/11 work is weak..because it means alot to you does not make it meaningful to others (although obviously the event is to many people)..or particularly good.  especially since you don't spell terrorism correctly.  even if you leave it in (which i don't think you should obviously) you should compact it two two pages at the very most...or at least show enough to make me understand how it works as a the moment it takes away from your work not enhances it.  you really need to ask yourself why you're leaving it in a portfolio for MArch.  Does it show anything about you that adds to your work?  Creative process? Talents?  Is it digital collage? why should I spend time (as someone reviewing your portfolio) on that piece?

3. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of architecture in there.. 17 pages or so?  and most of those are fairly blank.  i like the projects you have documented thusfar, but did you do only three projects in school?  What you have documented so far has been done well.

4. get rid of the 'thank you' on the back page... unless you want people to not take you seriously... that's literally the first portfolio with a 'thank you' i've ever seen.

I think you have some decent work, but right now it's not really getting enough love from you imo.

Dec 9, 12 9:40 pm

Thank you so much @larslarson for your response. Can you blame me for being persistent. Maybe so! I have been selfish though, and for that I sincerely apologize to those I have been rude too. Honestly, I do. At these last days of the application process I have become selfish and wanting. Wanting, of archinectors who can guide me. For that, I thank all of those who helped me through this strenuous process.

2. I like that you feel something of my 9/11 work. Though negative, that's my intent. I wouldn't be true to myself if I hadn't kept that project in. I definitely like your advice on condensing making it two pages. I think graphically it would make more sense!

3. My background is in Urban Studies and Planning. I would love to have more architectural pieces! However, my short work experience has only provided me with a small amount of works I can portray in my portfolio. I have been taking Architecture courses at LA harbor college (Wilmington, CA) to help develop a couple more works (I.e. 9/11, skrillex) just not cutting it. I love the professors and what they have to offer. However, I would like to make more in depth analysis that requires some reconosence and research of human interactivity in cognition to the structure (I.e. implementation of some urbaning planning principles and guidelines like my [I-shift] project)

4. Okay, I will definitely think twice about the 'thank you' page. Considering I am printing tomorrow what should I put instead or should I put anything really?

Thanks again for your help! With most sincerity, it's comments like yours that help me progress!

Dec 10, 12 4:36 am

It may be a little late for this now, but if you feel the need to express something regarding 9/11, then maybe it would make sense to think about it in a more artistically developed way - there are other (probably more abstract) ways to represent such a situation that wouldn't come off as sensational or potentially offensive. There's obviously a fine line to tread when trying to artistically explore a sensitive event like that while still remaining respectful. I think that the New Yorker cover that came out right after the attacks is one example of something which succeeds in doing it. You may eventually make a legitimate artistic project out of finding a way to express those feelings, but being able to look past personal attachments to your work and evaluate it with a critical eye is a crucial skill which you will always need to have. 

Dec 10, 12 9:20 am

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