Top Tips for Your Art & Design Portfolio Interview

With interview season well and truly underway, we thought it might be helpful to give you our top five tips for preparing for your portfolio interview.

1. Do your research

Before your interview, make sure you look up the course you are being interviewed for on the University website. Is there anything that you would like to know more about? Remember, the interview is as much about you making sure you choose the right course in the right location as it is about us choosing the right applicants. Asking specific questions about an aspect of the course will show that you have done your homework. You are more likely to be a top prospect if you can show you have knowledge of the course and the institution you are being interviewed for. Be prepared with questions for the interviewer, this is another great way to show you are interested in your subject, the course and the university. Do not be afraid to write your questions down and pull out your list to make sure you have asked everything you want to.

2. Customise your portfolio

You may well be invited for five interviews at five different institutions and it may be necessary for you to update your portfolio based on the requirements of each individual institution. If you have not been sent guidelines on what to take to an interview or there is not any information about the course online, do not be afraid to contact the course leader directly to ask for advice. Once you have the guidelines follow them carefully - this shows the interviewer that you are serious about the course. When considering what to put into your portfolio do not be afraid to include work that is not directly related to the subject you want to study. For example, if you have applied to study Graphic Design, we would be interested in seeing more than just graphic design; any drawing, textiles, photography, fashion, product design, painting and moving image work would also be interesting to see. For all of our Art & Design courses, what we are most interested in seeing is any work that shows visual creativity, in any medium from any subject. Also consider carefully how you present your work - this demonstrates that you are really interested in your subject and are proud to show it in an interview.

3. Bring supporting material

Most universities will want to see more than just finished pieces of art or design work, so bring along your sketchbooks, or any files or journals that show that you have done some research, rough sketches, idea generation, idea development and artist research. We are just as interested in your creative process as we are in your finished pieces.

4. Practice, practice, practice

Take time to practice talking through your portfolio with friends or family. You should be able to talk confidently about the pieces in your portfolio and your supporting work. It may have been some time since you produced some of the work in your portfolio, but you should still be able to tell the story of where your ideas came from and what were the key turning points in the development process. Whoever you are practicing with will be able to advise you if you are not projecting at your best. Even if you cannot find anyone to practice with, you should still practice on your own; running it through out loud will help you hear how you come across to someone else.

5. Be confident and do not panic

Interviews can feel like you are in a spotlight being judged and this can sometimes feel very unsettling. As mentioned before, the interview is as much about you deciding if the course is the right course for you, as it is the university deciding if you are the right person for their course. Try to think about the interview as just a conversation between two like-minded people. You are talking about your work, work that you know everything about and should be proud of and you are talking to someone who loves being creative and who loves to talk to other creative people. Consider that you are interviewing the University and that the other person in the room is going to be interviewed by you also. The interviewer is not trying to catch you out; they are genuinely interested in you and your work. However, if you cannot stop the nerves do not worry, the interviewer will do everything they can to put you at ease and will not judge you on your nerves. Nearly every person gets nervous before and during an interview. If your nerves do get the better of you and you forget to ask all those questions you had prepared, do not worry. You can always email the course leader at any point after the interview with any questions that might help you in your decision process.

So, to recap:

  1. Do your research
  2. Customise your portfolio
  3. Bring supporting material
  4. Practice, practice, practice
  5. Be confident and do not panic

Good luck with your interviews and if you have any questions feel free to contact us at art&design@chester.ac.uk.

The Art & Design Team at University of Chester