My First Portfolio: Scott Stowell

Posted inDesigner Interviews
Thumbnail for My First Portfolio: Scott Stowell

This month, ahead of the deadline for Print’s inaugural Portfolio Review, we’re asking each of the five judges to tell us about their first portfolios. We’ve already heard from Debbie Milllman, Natasha Jen, Jessica Walsh, and Mirko Ilić. Last up: Scott Stowell, who runs the acclaimed New York design studio Open.

When did you create your first portfolio? What did it look like?

The first time I had to put a portfolio together was when I was applying to college. I had never taken studio art classes, so my portfolio was all design: logos, posters, packaging. My high school offered graphic design as an elective—I took it twice but was basically the only student. So I made up my own projects. Those, plus some work for my high school magazine, were all I had to show.

Did you show it to many people? Did they give you useful feedback?

At that time my mentor was a guy named Bob Bourke, a designer who ran the AV department of the library and taught the design class. I’m sure he approved my portfolio, but he was pretty much the only person I had to talk to about this kind of thing. Now I realize it must have been weird for a high school student to have a portfolio full of what looked like commercial work.

Did your portfolio help you land a job? If so, can you tell us a little about how that happened?

That portfolio got me into school. My next one got me a summer job as a designer at a local design firm. The one after that got me an internship at M&Co. And when I started working on my own, I would bring my work to meetings in an old leather briefcase that I had bought for $5 at a thrift store. I thought it was cool, but at a certain point I think it became just plain old.

Do you still keep a portfolio? How has it changed since your first one?

These days, most people aren’t shooting slides or putting eight to ten pieces into a briefcase. We all have the opportunity to do more work (and more kinds of work), but we also have the responsibility to explain ourselves—by curating our portfolios to make sure they tell a story. Now our website and Facebook page are my portfolio, and they’re changing all the time.