Seeking Feedback and Advice

5 years ago from

I'm a design student. I'm specifically going for an A.S. Degree in Graphic Design specializing in Interactive Design. I've been at it for 3 years now at a Community College in central FL. I'm 37 years old.

I just failed my first class. A Portfolio "Prep" class. The reason I failed was because I failed a final practical exam where I had to design and markup a 4-page website. My confidence and motivation to keep going is in the dumps right now. I feel that all this time the feedback I have received for my work and my design abilities has been positive fluff from teachers and students who are just trying to be polite.

I'm posting this here because I would like to receive some feedback and some honest and unmerciful advice. Below are links to my school work.

School and Personal Projects



  • Alan Tippins, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    First of all, don't give up.

    It takes a while (a long while) to get comfortable with the work you're producing. Even then you'll probably always re-evaluate what you're creating. That's a good thing, it'll drive you to keep getting better and better.

    First if you haven't already, watch this video from Ira Glass: The Gap

    Then, I'd focus and hone your skill with typography first and go from there.

    Some books that helped me quite a bit along the way (In no particular order):

    Good luck!

    4 points
  • Mat Sanders, almost 5 years ago

    First of all, I think that it's great that you've gone back to study as an adult. A lot of people would be too scared to make that jump. And also that you're asking for feedback, that's something we all need to do more.

    I'm not a graphic/visual designer, but I'm going to give some feedback anyway.

    Looking at something like Captain Quinn Tour website I start thinking questions like who is Captain Quinn? What do people say about these tours? Can I afford this? (is this a budget tour or luxury tour) How do I get there?

    Remember that design on the web isn't just about how you're arranging (or rearranging) things on a page, but you're also telling a story, and often trying to persuade or influence a decision.

    When I look at your comps mostly all I see is the big hero image, which is fine, except... what if your client doesn't have that imagery? Captain Quinn might not have amazing photos to use as a hero shot, and unless you're also going to do photoshoot as part of the engagement you have to work with what's available to you.

    Maybe something you could try is think about your design with some 'what ifs'. Like What if this website was just one page? What if you didn't use any photos? What if you only used one color? Think about these as dials that you can turn up and down and see where that leads you (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Q_mY54hjM0 covers some tools like this if you're interested).

    It's probably worthwhile critiquing yourself and asking what you like and dislike about your own work.

    I hope that helps, but also sorry if it's not the concrete feedback you're looking for.

    3 points
  • Adam Wilson, almost 5 years ago

    Hey Jay, Keep your chin up and keep grinding man, trust me when I say this is only one in a lifetime of kicks to the nuts the industry will deal out to you. We just gotta take em, learn our lessons, and keep moving forward.

    I took a good look at your Dribbble portfolio and think you could get a lot of value from one insight: Think of a composition like a house. If you want to build one you need to know a shit load about a lot of different things (framing, electrical, dry wall etc) or else your house will look shitty. The walls will be there, the roof and windows too, but something will be "off". That's where you're at. All the pieces are there but you just don't know enough about the specific jobs to have the house come out beautifully. That all the pieces are there is all you can ask for as a student, the years that follow will be spent refining the craft of your building process and technique. So you failed test, in a professional setting, no one home builder will ever do ALL the jobs, that doesn't make sense, and when you get out into the world, you won't do all the jobs either. But this is a time of experimentation and learning, so don't be hard on yourself if you suck at electrical (markup) but excel at drywall. Maybe you're just a dry waller at heart. The key thing in school is that you get a good understanding of ALL the jobs and identify the ones that you enjoy the most and want to pursue. Then start learning from other builders out there. Go on Pinterest and look at all the beautiful homes on there and then put your house up next to the examples you find. What makes the good examples good? What did they do that you aren't doing? Compare, consume, and breakdown example work relentlessly. Read articles related to process. And above all else, have a COMMAND of the basics: Grid, Typography, Rhythm, Line, Space, Shape, Color. Be honest with yourself now, if you don't ACTUALLY know very much about one of those topics, its time to start reading. Start staying up all night, start working weekends, start living this shit. A few years down the road you'll be happy you did and you'll be building beautiful homes.

    Now it the time to level up, not give up. You got this.

    3 points
  • Michal CsanakyMichal Csanaky, almost 5 years ago

    Dear Jay, I started writing a comment here but it got too long so I posted my reply on Medium


    1 point
  • Viacheslav Trofymov, 5 years ago

    Hi Jay! I'd like to give you some practical advices.

    Let's take one of your last works. WEBSTOCK

    Main screen. First content block. (hero unit) Hero Unit must contain a main point of the website. Webstock is a cool event, isn't it? So lets make it cool. There is a tiny text in the right bottom part of the hero unit: "An annual celebration of the magic....". Man, this tiny text is the key idea of your website. Make it bigger. Make it visible. Also include information about where and when this event is happening.

    The second thing: include some call to action to the hero unit. Like "Subscribe" or "Book tickets" and "Learn more".

    Main screen. Second content block (text about webstock and subscribe form) Left side. That text looks boring. Also world "webstock" has the same style as a headline. Right side - to much boring text. Try something like "subscribe to our newsletter and get info about jobs and events in your mailbox". Use primary red colour for the "subscribe" button. Attract attention to this block using whitespace and, maybe, background colour.

    Main screen. Third content block. Speakers Who are all of this people? Is that their lifestory under the photo? Just use the information people must really know about speakers. Bob Dylan, co-founder and CEO at Country Music inc.

    Main screen. Suggestions If webflow existing since 2005 year, maybe you should include videos from past year to the main screen?

    Web design is about content. As a designer, you should decide where and what information show to your visitors. You should create a clear vision about what your website is. You should make website easy to use.

    Also the second content block breaks your grid.

    Hope this small review help you in the future. Don't give up. We all came through this.

    1 point
  • James MejiaJames Mejia, 5 years ago

    Don't feel bad at all. At least you know what you need to keep working on.

    As far as the site design I think most here will tell you that you need to design for goals. Ask yourself what you're trying to accomplish with a design.

    For example, Christner's Prime Steak & Lobster. It looks pretty basic right now. In the real world you'd be hired and tasked to find out the business goals of the client. As well as what users are looking for. You'll also have to research the competition to analyze what they're doing right and wrong.

    The big hero image looks nice, but there's no text with it. If a user sees this they're going to want context. How do I order this at a restaurant? What's it called? How much does it cost? Depending on the audience, how many calories?

    I would make a special call to the Heritage part and give the time/location more priority. Remember, designers fix problems. Don't just make it pretty. Be more thoughtful about what you're putting on the page and why. You need to show why investing in design is worth it from a business perspective.

    I think your other designs are more focused. I just picked the steak house one because it seems like you got lazy with it (or you got stuck). This happens to all of us, but next time just keep pushing through. Don't settle on mediocre.

    1 point
    • Mat Sanders, almost 5 years ago

      Yes, the heritage comment is especially interesting. What's unique about the topic that you're designing for? And what narrative can you make around that unique aspect?

      When I read that and thought about the lagoon tour site I wonder about the boats name, and how it got that name, what a tour looks like from its perspective.

      Maybe those ideas are dead ends, but going through that process you have to think about how the page would be different if it took that route.

      @Jay I'd be curious to hear about the first steps you make when approaching a new design. Are you sketching loose ideas or jumping right into the detail?

      1 point
      • Jay Cruz, almost 5 years ago

        I definitely go through a process before jumping on a design. Most of the design classes I have taken actually require that you turn in a process book. For the Captain Quinn website(and this is an actual real business with a horrible website), I first went through a bit of research and looked at cruise line websites and similar sites. Then I go through some wire-framing and layout sketching. Maybe some logo sketching if I get a good idea, but if not I just go with a Typographic logo that works. Once I'm happy with a layout I start mocking it up. Finally I start with the coding. Keep in mind, these are school projects with short weekly deadlines.

        0 points
  • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, 5 years ago

    A different approach would be to stop stressing about it. Sure, you need technical skills and knowledge, but more than that you need the freedom to explore and be creative. Find your own way.

    0 points
  • Bryan Maniotakis, 5 years ago

    Just have to keep pushing through. You're at a great start, so just soak up as much information you can, and just keep designing.

    These words from Ira Glass might be what you're looking for - https://vimeo.com/85040589

    0 points
  • Nathan CooperNathan Cooper, almost 5 years ago (edited almost 5 years ago )

    About your website designs, I think it will be useful to show your website designs on various displays, orientations. To show what the experiences might look like on small displays like phones and tablets as well.

    About the Design Conference (Webstock) mockup, my first thought was that the pages look very information dense. That is likely due to viewing the site pages as a screenshot vs in a browser. Do you have interactive demos of your site designs hosted somewhere? My apologies if I missed the links.

    I think I found a bug in your navigation. The portfolio link doesn't work for me on your homepage (blog) using OS X Yosemite and Chrome , i.e., clicking it on that page doesn't reveal the Designs and Images links; it works for me in Firefox and Safari.

    The portfolio link works for me, even in Chrome, on any page except the blog (homepage).

    0 points
    • Jay Cruz, almost 5 years ago

      That's strange about the navigation.

      As for having demos that's something I'm working on. My markup definitely needs some fixing.

      0 points
      • Nathan CooperNathan Cooper, almost 5 years ago (edited almost 5 years ago )

        I took a screenshot of the dev console in Chrome. There are lots of JS errors on the Blog page; they seem to point to the same plugin. Maybe one of those is preventing the Portfolio link from working.

        EDIT: After about a minute or so the page finished loading and the Portfolio link worked. It is probably a delay while Chrome logs the JS errors.

        chrome dev console

        0 points