Print Portfolio and Professional Reflection

Reflection on My Professional Journey So Far

By Kelly Hulse

This assignment is my final assignment in my program.  I’m kind of emotional, I will not lie.  When going through the classes and keeping up with daily life I didn’t always have the time to pause and really appreciate what I was learning, this capstone allowed me to do that.  I think one of the most important things I learned is how to be more aware of why I make the design choices that I do and how to discuss that with others.  Often, at first, I come up with an idea that I want to use but not always with conscious understanding of why, that was often true in choosing pieces for my portfolio.  The textile prints designs I’ve done I started with just making them because I wanted to, but with their inclusion in my portfolio I had to think about why they were relevant examples of my work.  Some of those designs I did years before I started taking classes with SNHU, so it was an interesting experience to revisit them and think about what they had to say about me as a designer.  That is much the same as my experience with SNHU as a whole, I went into it only expecting to learn new techniques for design and I did but more importantly I learned how to better understand and appreciate what I was already capable of.

In putting together my portfolio I initially approached with the idea of more pieces to show diversity would be better but as I worked my way through this capstone project, I found myself rethinking this reasoning.  I couldn’t just include something because I was particularly excited about it, I needed to have a reason it was included.  It all had to say something about me as a designer so I narrowed the included works.  I used feedback from classmates to refine a couple of pieces that I wasn’t happy with, such as details on my logo for Upper Crust Bakery, it now has a more delicate appearance to it just because I reduced the scale of the black line detailing of the piece. 

As I wrote about the pieces, I found I was more comfortable with this process if I kept things in my own words.  I think as students in the effort to get the best grades possible on our assignments it is too easy to forget that ultimately, we must have our own voice in the work we do.  If we want to stand out from the mob of designers, we must be brave enough to share what we really think and allow people to disagree with us.  

SNHU curriculum is the best I’ve run across when it comes to challenging students to understand how all of the general education classes are relevant to their field of study.  As a graphic designer the more I know of the world the more my imagination has to draw on in coming up with ideas for designs.  If I’m designing a magazine layout for an article on the history of the Women’s Rights movement then it is helpful for me to learn more about that history to better come up with meaningful visual cues that support the stance of the article and better engage the reader.  Learning more about the world also better enables me to make good design choices so that my work is ethical and respectful.

It was in a class on Wellness that I learned that in all honesty, graphic designers have a lot of power to do some pretty awful things.  I recall in a class discussion pointing out that if anyone ever saw an ad in a magazine or on a website that made them want something, made them feel even for a moment that there was something lacking in their life because they didn’t have say, a new car, there is a graphic designer that came up with that layout that grabbed your attention and made you feel that sense of lack, maybe even feel bad about yourself.  Sometimes the message that a graphic designer is communicating isn’t a nice one.  Sometimes a graphic designer is out to tap into your insecurities and then use them to get you spend money on something you likely don’t need.  There has been so much discussion in my design classes about ethical principles and social responsibility in design but it was a class in Wellness, seemingly an unrelated topic, that got me to the realization that graphic designers be manipulative assholes and then I was asking myself do I want to be a part of that, no, so what do I want to do?

As I progressed through my classes I realized I want to be selective in the work that I do as a graphic designer.  I don’t want to just send out resumes for any and every graphic design position open in my area.  What I want is to take on work that interests me.  In May of 2022 I attended an artists’ conference where I sat in a lecture on finding my why; figuring out why I create, particularly why I create what I do.  Through chance I found myself partnered with Mary Virginia Swanson who has made an impressive career of “helping artists find the strengths in their work and identify appreciative audiences” (Artist Advisor | Mary Virginia Swanson, n.d.).  At the time I didn’t know who this woman was, but she clearly knew what she was doing in engaging me in discussion about my design work.  I went into that conversation not feeling all that confident about doing what interests me most, fabric prints and, more recently, anime merchandise.  In truth the anime merchandise idea was something I only thought of us a lark, something that I would do for fun and make available with a print on demand company.  I didn’t take it seriously and I never intended to say much about it as far as my creative ambitions were concerned but as I talked with Ms. Swanson, I found myself sharing with her my ideas and observations of the anime merchandise market.  She pointed out to me that I light up when I talk about it, she believes that I had correctly identified a gap in the market and that I was obviously passionate about it.  The guest lecturer came over to see how we were doing and Ms. Swanson said, “tell her what you told me” which I did, then she turned to the lecturer and said “see how she lights up!”  The two of them then pointed out to me that I had found something profound, an area where women were underrepresented both as creators and consumers. 

Moving forward with my career I’m following through with what Ms. Swanson pointed out, I’m working freelance and I’m designing anime merchandise and fabric prints inspired by what I want but I can’t find.  I want to create for other people who don’t follow trends.  I want to create anime merch for women and girls (presently it seems to be mostly designed by and for guys).  I want to start trends not follow them. 


Artist Advisor | Mary Virginia Swanson. (n.d.). MV Swanson. Retrieved August 13, 2022, from