Fast Five is an AIGA Chicago interview series that gives readers an inside look at the work, lives, and personalities of members in our local chapters and at the national level. These quick, meaningful discussions cover topics large and small, helping to paint a picture of the Chicago design community and its incredible diversity. If you’re interested in joining the conversation, please email email@example.com.
Nick Rissmeyer is a student at Columbia College Chicago, transferring from Community College of Virginia to pursue a degree in graphic design. Graduating this May, Nick claims the rebrand of AIGA Columbia as one of his favorite projects to date, starting with a simple ask for a poster design and evolving into a full-blown new look and feel for the chapter.
We briefly spoke with him about his experience with AIGA Chicago’s Test Flight Portfolio Review. In preparation for this year’s review on Saturday, April 13, he gave us the lay of the land plus shared some advice for students gearing up for the review. Read on to learn more.
AIGA Chicago: Let’s start high-level. Describe your experiences at Test Flight for us.
Nick Rissmeyer: I actually went to Test Flight the past two years. After the last one I went to [in 2018], I left feeling reinvigorated and ready to do whatever I needed to do. Getting to talk to industry professionals, in a really low-stress, low-risk setting — or at least much lower stress than like a job interview — is something that everyone should do.
Overall I had a really positive experience. It was helpful for me to [find out] what things resonate with people, what I could say about my work that they actually picked up on in the way I wanted them to, and what things fell short of that. And generally, how to adjust and elevate the way to talk about the things I had made.
AIGA Chicago: After a few times at Test Flight, what questions would you recommend students come prepared with to get actionable feedback on their work?
Nick Rissmeyer: The whole point [of the event] is to get your work reviewed, but it’s also about the way you experience other people. You should come prepared to talk to interviewers about themselves and their work — even where they work. Being prepared to talk to people who are working professionally — asking them questions and listening to their answers — allows you to form a dialogue and not just be like, “Here’s my stuff. Thank you.” You get more out of it that way.
AIGA Chicago: Definitely. What advice would you give participating students when it comes to prepping their portfolios for review, how to present yourself, and how to facilitate those conversations?
Nick Rissmeyer: Being really, really, really prepared is the best thing. If you go into a review with work that’s not something that you’re not 100% interested in, then there’s little point of even showing it. You’re not going to speak well about it unless you’re really into it. If you’re thinking of showing a project you were assigned in class, take that out of the class setting and make it something bigger and better — something that you’re more interested in, and something you can talk about passionately. Having the whole reasoning, asking yourself before you show something, “Why did I do that?” and being able to communicate those answers is essential. People will 100% ask you, “Why did you choose to put that line right there?” Or, “Why did you use a circle instead of a square?”
AIGA Chicago: Are there any harsh truths about the review you wish you would have been told?
Nick Rissmeyer: Going off my experience from the first time to the second time, the success of your time at Test Flight has a lot to do with what you make of who you sit with. You could sit with somebody that maybe isn’t 100% on board with what you’re doing. You have to realize not take everything too super personal, and you have to try to soak in — make note of — every piece of feedback.
AIGA Chicago: If you could tell reviewees one last thing, what would it be?
Nick Rissmeyer: Test Flight is just that. It’s a human-to-human interaction about work and about things that you’re trying to do. No matter the feedback you get, you’re still doing something, you know? Feel secure in knowing that you’re still doing the thing you’re supposed to be doing.