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Applying to a Degree Program

Portfolio Specifications

The College of Design requires a portfolio at the completion of our Core foundation for admission into many of its majors. The portfolio should what was learned in DSN S 102: Design Studio I and in DSN S 131: Design Representation. The portfolio also shows the quality of your work as well as the thought and care with which it is presented.

All work included in the portfolio must be your own, produced individually or as part of a team project. In team projects, it may be helpful to identify work of the team versus individual work. Any form of plagiarism will disqualify you from the admission review.

The College of Design will take reasonable precautions to provide security for all portfolios. However, we do not assume any responsibility for damaged or lost portfolios. We highly recommend that you document all of your work before submitting it for review.


The portfolio will consist of:

  • a minimum of 19 pages and a maximum of 24 pages
  • work completed in DSN S 102 and DSN S 131 composed and mounted on first 21 pages with brief explanatory captions
  • set of pages submitted in a “U”-shaped cover

The University Bookstore sells pre-made portfolio building kits of materials that include 26 sheets for the interior pages and 2 sheets for the cover for $19.99. The interior sheets are .022 chipboard 19″x25″ in size. The cover sheets are triple-thick chipboard 20″x27″ in size. The two cover sheets should be joined on one of the long edges with sturdy tape, like duct tape, forming a 1″ hinge so that the cross-section of the portfolio has a “U” shape. This hinge will allow the portfolio to lie flat once filled with its contents. If you would like to start working on your portfolio before the kits are available, the bookstore does sell each of these materials individually and can cut them down to the appropriate size for a fee.

The emphasis of the review will be on the work you include in the portfolio and the way in which that work is presented on each page. Portfolio reviewers pay close attention to composition and craft and find brief explanatory captions helpful in understanding your work. Any captions you use along with drawings, photographs, diagrams, etc., must be composed carefully and thoughtfully so that each board is easily understood and visually interesting.

Submit only flat work. Submit as much original work as possible (actual drawings, collages, montages, etc., as opposed to reproductions). Represent three-dimensional work with photographs. Digital cameras and a black backdrop with stand are available for student checkout in the Design Output Center on the fourth floor of the College of Design.

Remove your name from the work you include. Using a pencil, write your student ID on the back of each sheet and on your portfolio cover. Please do not use your Social Security number; we cannot identify you with that number. Use your ISU ID number.

Required Contents from DSN S 131: Design Representation

8-12 pages required. The portfolio must include a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 12 pages of drawings from DSN S 131, which should be organized in a chronological sequence as completed in class. Process work and preliminary sketches made in this course are as important as more developed drawings, so at least one third of your portfolio should include preliminary work. These are best presented on the same page as the final drawing when space allows. Attached cover sheets are acceptable to protect work.

Required Contents from DSN S 102: Design Studio I

11-12 pages are required. All of the projects from DSN S 102 must be represented. Process work must be included. The process work should describe the design process involved in each project through images of models, sketches and notes, etc. Use short paragraphs to describe your work and labels (when necessary) to help reviewers understand your concept. Please appropriately label pages and pertinent images. See the guidelines below.

30-20-10 (3 pages)

  • A short paragraph describing your concepts and intentions (100 words max.)
  • Photographs of the pattern-making exercise (process and final work)
  • Your 1″x1.5″ drawings that were inspired by these photographs (process and final work)
  • Your 3″x3″ drawings (process and final work)
  • Your 12″x12″
  • Your 3″x3″ black-and-white collages
    • Label each with 2 design principles used during the exercise
    • Label which ones inspired your constructions
  • Process work for construction
  • Photograph of the final construction
  • Detail photographs of the final construction

Place (3 pages)

  • A short paragraph describing your concepts and intentions (100 words max.)
  • Description of place (writings while you were there)
  • Images of place
  • Plans, sections, text and other sketches relating to this place, relating to your description of place
  • Photographs of place and the process of your intervention
  • Photographs of the process of removal of the intervention
  • Photographs/scans of visual diagramming and site-mapping exercises
  • Descriptive text, typography, font usage and compositional strategy
  • Final sections (these can also be incorporated into your visual diagrams)
  • Photographs of your embodiment and/or interaction with your embodiment

Color Composition (2 pages)

  • A short paragraph describing your concepts and intentions (100 words max.)
  • Joseph Albers exercises done with color aid paper — refer to the website in your project handout
  • Other collages inspired by Joseph Albers exercises
  • Drawing compositions or excellent photographs/scans of them
  • You may include process work as well
  • High-quality photograph of the final triptych art composition

Mobile (3-4 pages)

  • A short paragraph describing your concepts and intentions (100 words max.)
  • Information about the musical piece
  • Your musical analysis
  • Process work for the entire project
  • Images highlighting movement, patterns of light and shadows
  • Other process work regarding movement
  • Representation of the completed mobile:
    • Installed in multiple sites
    • Seen from multiple perspectives
    • Seen in different scales
    • With human interaction


Please contact your academic adviser or one of the Core instructors who teach DSN S 102 or DSN S 131.

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