Thoughts On A Portfolio

Hank spoke at the high-energy HOW Design Conference in San Francisco this week to a packed house at the Moscone Center. His presentation, Thoughts on a Portfolio, explored how professionals and students alike might boost their own brilliance, creativity and rediscover inspiration. Go Hank!


San Francisco Reunion


Great turnout at San Francisco as alum get together for a West Coast reunion. Faces from 1996 - 2013: Lisa, Jess, Hasani, Dave, Shannon, Allison, Doni, Jennie, Sato, Rueben, Lauren, Jesse, Reena, Annabel, Julie, Yuki, Matt, Lisa, Tayler and Hank pictured. Everyone’s doing GREAT! Hank’s speaking at the HOW conference.


Understanding Responsive Web Design

The fastest way to understand Responsive Web Design… Click here


George & Ruby and a Mom-on-the-Go

It’s been amazing, “and I feel like it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air,” said Marissa Kraxberger, Creative Director of Oscar de la Renta and creator of the highly acclaimed blog,’George and Ruby.’


Whether she’s having a date night with her husband photographer Nate (also a Portfolio Center alum), or taking her kids to a dragon boat festival, or working energetically on behind-the-scenes footage of an Oscar de la Renta fashion show,” she gives you a peak via George & Ruby ( at how cool it is to love your family and your job. 


PS: Check out the ABC interview:


Fasten Your Seat Belts

Congratulations to alum Ricardo Gandolfi, Creative Director at Terremoto Propaganda, and his team (G-lerm Rubini, Fabian Oliveira, Cintia Suzuki Tattoo and Ernst Photography) in Brazil. Their super campaign for road safety,“Stop the Violence,” is featured on the cover of the new issue of Archive Magazine. 

This striking piece was designed as a preventive awareness campaign, reaching out to young people. Their imaginative and motivating work showcases an upsurging creative trend that finds Brazil perhaps the ‘hottest country on the planet, scorching communications within the advertising world.”



Good Design makes Life Easier

Good design makes life easier. It solves problems. It streamlines processes. Portfolio Center alum Lauren Jung knows this, and her new site,, proves it. Shelf takes care of all the chores involved with price-conscious online shopping. It helps you shop for the stuff you want for the prices you’re willing to pay. As you shop, you bookmark each item you’d like to purchase and set up a price notification that alerts you immediately when the item goes on sale. Shelf shows you the lowest price after all promotions have been factored in, gives you all promo codes, and creates a chart of an item’s past prices so that you can decide whether to hold out for a bigger drop. 

The idea for Shelf came as Lauren was painstakingly tracking the price of a Nooka watch she wanted, waiting for it to go on sale. After three weeks of constant monitoring, she bought it at 70% off the original price. Lauren says that at the same time she was “super-psyched” to get the great deal, it also occurred to her that it would be really nice if someone else could keep track of the pricing for future purchases. She knew just enough about coding and development to grasp the possibilities…And that’s where her significant other, Atul, a computer scientist, came in.

Last year, Lauren and Atul moved from North Brunswick, New Jersey, to San Francisco. He does the back-end development, while she concentrates on the design and the front end. Together, they’ve built the site with very little outside help, which is something they’re extremely proud of. The biggest challenge right now, Lauren says, is marketing, because neither of them has marketing experience. They recently began releasing on fashion blogs, offering giveaways to drive users to the site. Results have been better than expected, or as Lauren says, “It’s an experiment that’s looking pretty promising thus far.”

To learn more about Shelf, Lauren, and Atul, click here



Let there be Cowgirls!

Ali Dick and Jessica Sutton are off visiting Anna Shypalo Maida in Houston, Texas this weekend enjoying the wild west rodeo (btw, for those that haven’t seen a Texas rodeo you ain’t lived). The value of a life network is never showcased in a more wonderful way than from amongst our alumni who create a fabulous crisscross across the country by their valued friendships within life and business. 

One of those amazing friendships started and evolved amongst alumni Ali Dick, Jessica Sutton and Anna Shypalo Maida. Anna is a designer at Savage Design in Houston. Ali has her own freelance business in Atlanta and Jessica is a designer art director at Sapient in Atlanta. We are proud to say Ali and Jessica are both on the faculty at Portfolio Center.



One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!

Sometimes, what you learn in foundation classes at Portfolio Center can turn into a formidable and fun resource by the time you graduate. Just say’n…our alum Alyssa Blank is doing some amazing portrait illustrations you’ll find dotting the pages of Facebook, capturing the uncanny likenesses of former classmates, friends, and others who inspire her. 

Portraits: Alyssa Blank, Center; Tim Turnquist, Kim House, Val Alexander, Stephanie Toole, Addie Courington, Hank Richardson, Step Schultz, Mike Schwalm, David Decepida, Cameron Searcy 

These marvelous illustrations are extensions of that first creative moment, which started with a series of drawings in instructor Shawn Brasfield’s Intro to Design class. The assignment was a self-portrait inspired by an artist. For Alyssa, that was Murakami, and as well her interest in his theory of ‘Superflat.’ So what started as a fun portrayal of a time of that “delirious, sleep deprived self” amongst her peers, in an environment that can’t be replicated anywhere but Portfolio Center, has now evolved into some amazing illustrations that continue and are even more exciting today. 
Here above are some of those amazing likenesses that you’ll see vetted about the social media. In the future, as you run into Alyssa or as your fame inspires her, just be prepared that you might be next! 

Alum: Marissa Kraxberger’s Amazing Odyssey, in her own words


I left Portfolio Center in 2006 for an internship at the packaging design firm, Pearl Fisher. It was an incredible experience because it was a very small team and I felt like I was treated more as a junior designer and less like an intern. I learned so much in a quick 3 months and felt it was an incredible entry to being a designer in New York City. While I was there I heard about a position at the fashion house of Diane von Furstenberg. I had not considered a career in fashion, but it seemed like a great opportunity so I went to the interview. After 2 interviews, one with the designer herself, I was offered the job. I was blown away, nervous, excited and shocked. I started there in June of 2006 and my husband Nate, who was still studying Photography at Portfolio Center, moved up 3 months after. We started out in a small 2 bedroom apartment in the west village that we shared for the first year with another Portfolio Center alum (Erin Hall). We had a great time and still look back fondly on our roots in the city. 
Nate accepted an internship with the photographer Rodney Smith and I got my feet wet as the only in house Graphic Designer at Diane von Furstenberg. Since it was a small, family run company I was able to gain experience quickly–I worked on all aspects of the brand… branding, packaging, wholesale and retail creative needs, campaigns, e-commerce, etc. It is hard to believe I started there when email blasts hadn’t really become something fashion houses did to promote their business. I worked directly for our Marketing Director and Diane herself. I am still amazed as I look back and think of the incredible opportunity I had… fashion shows, ad campaigns, fashion events… it really was great. 

In 2008, I started to worry that I was too young to stay at one brand for too long… I needed more experience if I was to grow into a senior creative position. I accepted a job as a graphic designer at Armani Exchange. I had hoped that I would be able to learn more about fashion branding and marketing within another brand. My stay there was short as I felt I had taken a step back. Armani Exchange was a great place to work, but I didn’t feel challenged. I decided to take a brief hiatus from the fashion industry to explore agency life. I accepted a position as a Senior Designer at Electric Artists, a boutique agency specializing in digital strategy. My projects ranged from strategic conceptual initiatives to interactive games and widgets to full scale website development. This experience set the stage for the rest of my career. I developed an expertise in social and digital media early on by leveraging these new platforms to design innovative campaigns. My clients were American Express, Starwood Hotels, USA Networks and more. I was at a digital strategy agency at just the right time… innovative companies were starting to test the social waters on facebook… blogs were becoming something that every brand wanted to have… it was the beginning of the social revolution for brands and I felt like I was at the heart of it. I loved it, but I missed fashion. I never thought I was a “fashion girl,” but I was wrong. 
In November of 2008 I was at work when I received and email from Diane von Furstenberg asking if I would consider coming back to join the team as her Art Director–I almost fell out of my chair–and 2 weeks later I accepted and joined the DVF team once again to start out 2009. In my new role as Art Director, I managed all creative and brand communication including ad campaigns, collaborations, and social media. I redesigned, developed DVF’s first mobile app and solidified my love of digital design. I was thrilled to be back “home.” 

As time had passed Nate had also started to develop his career. His internship with Rodney Smith had been a good experience. He then went to work for Jay Zuckerkorn, a very talented still life photographer. He learned a lot about lighting techniques and retouching. He started to gain more and more clients and then he started to shoot for me at DVF and his career started to really take off. He began to shoot all of the still life product photography for the company and really fell in love with fashion as well. It is funny how life can take you places you never thought you would go.
In the summer of 2009 I had been promoted to Senior Art Director and was overseeing all creative for the brand. Nate and I had been married for 5 years and decided our new venture would be to start a family. In April of 2010 our daughter, Alexa Michael Kraxberger, was born. She was the best thing that had ever happened to us. We started to enjoy a new side of living in NYC–that of being parents. Balancing a hectic career and a child wasn’t easy for either of us, but we made it work. We loved being parents so much that after Alexa was just 6 months old we were pregnant again with our second. Being pregnant didn’t keep me from being very busy at work… so much so that I actually flew to China to shoot a DVF Ad Campaign when I was 6 months along. People thought I was a little crazy, but it was an amazing experience and I have a great shot that I will always treasure of me and my little baby belly on the Great Wall of China. It was an experience of a lifetime. 

As great as being a working mom can be, it did present its challenges at a small fashion house… and I wanted the ability to focus on my kids a little more. I came across an opportunity to be the Web Art Director for Kate Spade New York, overseeing all online creative and initiatives for the brand. With a heavy heart, but a confident one, I resigned from DVF (at 8 months pregnant) and took the position. I was a little worried about taking a move that was not as senior as the one I held at DVF, but I hoped that it would just give me a chance to focus my efforts more on the digital space.
I joined the Kate Spade team in June of 2011 right before I had Hayden Alexander, our son. He was born in July so I took a couple months off and joined the team again in September. It was a great move for me. The company was amazing… a very fun, quirky and playful brand doing great things in the digital space. I had a great team and the collaboration and energy at Kate was great. I was really happy, less stressed and excited about what I was doing.  I thought I could hang tight at a brand like Kate and make a bigger move in the future… the future ended up being a little closer than I thought.

In March of 2012 I resigned from Kate Spade and accepted a position at Oscar de la Renta as the VP of the Art Department–heading up all creative for the brand. I started in April and it has been a whirlwind ever since. I oversee all creative for Ready-to-wear and Accessories, E-commerce, Home, Fragrance and Childrenswear. It is an incredibly challenging position and I am a little excited and a little scared every day…. I think that is the best I could ask for. I feel like if you aren’t a little scared, then maybe its no good. You have to feel a little uncomfortable to do great things. 
One of the most exciting aspects of my new role at Oscar is that I also started a childrenswear blog for the brand called George and Ruby. At Oscar de la Renta we are known for innovation in the digital space. Our SVP of Communication, Erika Bearman aka Oscar PR Girl, was an early adopter across all social platforms. In the Spring of 2012 when Oscar launched its Childrenswear brand we knew we needed to do something to help grow the business. I took on the role of being the voice of Childrenswear (moms!) in the digital space. I blog about my kids, fashion, life in new york, etc. It is a great way for me to merge all of my passions together and really have fun and experiment. It has been amazing so far and I feel like we are just getting started.

You can follow Marissa on her blog right here.



THE 48-Hour International Organization of Packaging Professionals Southeastern Student Design Packaging Challenge for 2013 summoned round-the-clock efforts as Portfolio Center students delivered on some amazing strategies and ideas. Eight incredible teams sequestered in a charette, taking on bold risks and showcasing their incredible passions all the while trusting in their hearts to create and make some stunning packaging concepts. Viva la Creativity!


Thursday Feb 21 6:30pm - 8:30pm
I look forward to seeing you all! RSVP right here to Claire.

Thursday Feb 21 6:30pm - 8:30pm

I look forward to seeing you all! RSVP right here to Claire.


Trends, Design & Strategy

Last Friday, Portfolio Center students attended the design conference Trends, Design & Strategy. It was sponsored by the Southeastern Chapter of the Institute Of Packaging Professionals and was held at the World Headquarters of The Coca-Cola Company. Students turned out to hear Vince Voron, Head of Design for The Coca-Cola Company, as he spoke about the future of strategic brand identity and how the business/ designer relationship is evolving on the corporate level in way that presents amazing opportunities for creatives. His presentation was encouraging and inspiring, a great reminder of how design thinking empowers solutions. Product development and information design are the macroforces reshaping our consumer driven world, which means that, in the future, business will be driven by human creativity. It was great presentation which reinforced and deepened the core values of Coke: “Coke Brings Joy!”


CW student Katie Anderson Interviews Rick Parker


“You know, I haven’t always been a coffee person,” he says, as I hand him a grande medium roast – no cream, no sugar – just as he ordered. 

“Oh?” I ask, wondering how a person goes from zero to black. “What happened?”


It’s clear to anyone who’s ever been in the presence of one of Rick Parker’s flaming button downs that this Art Direction department head is far more than your everyday “ad nerd.” In fact, there’s not much that Rick is not. A self-proclaimed “oversized flower child,” he has gone from airbrushing the sides of carnival rides to playing bagpipes at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

Although his father and grandfather were both in the advertising industry, Rick never felt pressured to follow suit [Rick hates suits]. He learned the basic functions of print production from his grandfather, an accomplished printmaker, and became so proficient that he twice went to the National Vocational Industrial Clubs of America Competition. One year, he took home bronze and the other, a bad hangover, but both were great memories. Still, the industry seemed frighteningly corporate to the carny kid who just wanted to rock. 

At the age of 16, Rick started drawing caricatures and airbrushing t-shirts and vending machines at local carnivals. When he grew tired of making money for other people, he took it upon himself to start an independent airbrushing operation at Six Flags Over Georgia, the same operation that is still going strong today.

“I grew up fast but matured slowly. I’m not even sure the maturity process is over yet.”

Rick gives a signature chuckle and grabs his beard.

While his carny days may have been short-lived, the carnival served a surprisingly significant role in Rick’s journey to Portfolio Center.  One day, while Rick was drawing caricatures, a man stopped to watch and handed him a Portfolio Center brochure. Having never heard of the place, Rick stuffed the brochure in his pocket until he could find the nearest trashcan. 

After a wild period of less painting and more partying, Rick decided to go back to school to hone his skills and pursue a more sustainable career. As he was driving down West Peachtree Street, on his way to apply to a different Atlanta art school, Rick spotted the same icon that he had seen on the brochure months before, this time standing tall against the Buckhead skyline. Be it fate or coincidence, Rick was intrigued.  

He climbed the stairs to the top floor of the Center Stage building, the original Portfolio Center location, and was greeted by the admissions director, who happened to be same man who had approached him that day at the carnival. To make things more interesting, the dean at the time had been a judge at the national vocational competition the year that Rick took home bronze and had also had his eye on him for several years. 

“I’m pretty sure he actually said, ‘I’ve been watching you,’ which was totally creepy because I had never seen the dude in my life. But I knew from that moment that this was no coincidence.”

Rick signed the papers then and there and started at Portfolio Center the next quarter as an illustrator.

Since graduation, Rick has been back to PC three times as an instructor. Working with students after spending time in the professional realm has offered him a unique perspective into the direction of the industry. 

“What has stayed the same is the vibe, the chaos and the energy. The innocence of the student world creates a pure, electric environment and a creative flow that jaded professionals have lost. I’m in a more creative environment here – even doing wall hangings – than I am at any agency. I’ve just never been able to shake this place.” 

As he takes another sip of his medium roast, I get a glimpse of the Celtic tattoo peeking from underneath the sleeve of his Harley-Davidson T-shirt.

In between teaching stints, Rick has worked at more than 11 different companies in six different cities. In all his moves, he says Cincinnati was both his favorite place to live and the place he least expected to like. In fact, Rick says he would probably still be there today if it weren’t for the cold weather and distance from his family. Although his roots are now firmly planted in Atlanta soil, he admits that three years in Madrid could probably change his mind. 

Rick’s willingness to move put him on the fast track to success, advancing his career and building a book that Ogilvy himself would envy. However, he does say there are some things he would do over again if given the chance. 

“My mindset was to always follow the job. If the job was good, you took it and dealt with everything that followed. I wouldn’t recommend that today. Personal life is a very big part of your self esteem and happiness. I made great friends throughout the process, but I woke up one morning and was like, what the hell am I doing in Baltimore? I’m a Southern kid!”

If Rick has learned one thing, it’s that a good agency doesn’t always mean a good job and that, just because a company may be the flavor of the week, it doesn’t mean you should always make the purchase. 

“It’s about the people and the environment. I tell students to go into everything with their eyes wide open. If I smell a poisonous agency, I’ll warn them.”

Rick made many of his moves alongside the same copywriting partner he met as a student at Portfolio Center, demonstrating the importance of relationships in school and work.  

“Our friendship made our professional work that much stronger. We’d buy a 12 pack of cheap beer, usually Schaefer, and concept until the wee hours of the morning.” 

When it comes to office space, he prefers the grease-stained walls of a garage over any fancy, highly-designed corporate lounge. “I like dank, industrial areas. The smell of gasoline and concrete. Knowing I can spill a cup of coffee and not ruin somebody’s expensive carpet. I’m also really uncomfortable around pointy objects.”

He taps the corner of his desk and winces. 

Rick received a diploma in Education for Ministry from The University of the South School of Theology, while he pursued the Anglican priesthood, which, he makes it a point to mention, doesn’t require celibacy. He’s been fascinated with the questions of religion since the age of seven or eight and cites it as one of his three major interests, along with art and ridiculous stunts.

“I’m definitely not your ordinary religious sort, and I’m pretty sure the average religious person is convinced I’m going to Hell.”

If Rick does go to Hell, it will likely be on the back of a Harley. An officer in the Atlanta Chapter of the Harley Owners Group, Rick is a motorcycle enthusiast and last year checked off a venture on the bucket list of all hog heads – the South Dakota Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. With over 750,000 motorcyclists in one town for two weeks, Rick describes the trip as “a magical voyage into the rip-roaring raucous world of Wild West insanity.”

He takes this time to show me a blog he created to document the journey and the characters he met. Ask him about “Crazy Mike.” 

In addition to Bibles and bikes, Rick also plays the classical piano and the Great Highland bagpipes, sings baritone in his church choir, and is an accomplished archer.

Having trained under a colonel in US army, who learned his techniques during the Korean War, Rick longed for Olympic gold. When puberty hit, girls and cars, or “fumes and perfumes,” came into play and he lost focus. Now looking at the 11 bows decorating his living room walls, he kicks himself thinking about how many girls and cars he could’ve snagged as an Olympic athlete. 

“That’s kind of when you want to punch your 15-year-old hormones in the face.”

Although Rick credits music as having the most influence on the way he creates, he says that it’s not the hobbies themselves that are important, but that every creative person has a lust for life and a desire to learn. 

“Get into racing cars, horseback riding, painting… go sing, go become a fly fisherman. Develop passions. This is the only life we get. I was that kid who got fingerprints on everything. I’m still that kid. I want to touch everything in the room. I know how to rebuild my car, not because I’m a mechanic, but just because I want to be able to.”

The same applies to advertising, he says. Art directors and writers should not have to write code, for example, but they should have at least a basic knowledge of it so that they can understand what it takes for developers to bring their ideas to life.

“If you live that way, you can talk a lot more knowledgeably than if you live your life between the covers of an ad annual.” 

Rick may not dwell inside an ad annual, but he has certainly been featured in enough. With spreads in publications like Art Direction Magazine and Print Regional, he has more than 40 ADDY, TELLY and EFFIE Awards to his name, and was voted Best in Show at the Portfolio Center Alumni Awards. Needless to say, Rick’s bows and arrows are in good company on the wall. 

For Rick, the rewards are not in awards. He says that the desire to create often eclipses what is best for the client and that elevating the creative possibilities of a brand can be a tricky process. Every client is able to move at his own pace. The result may not end up exactly where the creative saw it going, but it may far surpass where the client thought it could go – and that’s gratifying. 

“At the end of the day, it’s all about that relationship. I’m not in the business of offending people for awards. You can’t be a bully. I have been brought to tears watching a client being bullied and not being able to do anything about it. It’s frustrating and it’s wrong.” 

The most rewarding experience of Rick’s career [besides teaching the remarkable students of PC, of course] came in the form of a recommendation letter written by the Tennessee Department of Transportation to another prospective client on the behalf of Rick’s agency.

“I’ve never received a greater honor. It was so much better than a box of One Show pencils. That is what the business is all about.”

So what’s left for the man who’s done it all? Rick still wants to run with the bulls in Pamplona, but says it may not be the most rational decision at his age. However, it’s become pretty clear that Rick has never been a slave to reason. He also wants to take the Trans-Siberian railroad from Russia to China and ride an elephant into the jungles of Thailand to stay with the Tanglick people. 

“If I get those done, I really will be out of ideas.”


Olympic Branding Class

This past quarter, design students Georgette Blay, Bailey Andrews, Jille Natalino, Steve Alvarez, and Melissa King explored the Olympic ideals of excellence, respect, friendship, development, peace and environment. They were guided in creating solid foundations for understanding, interpreting and evolving compelling points of view in this exciting environmental design class. Using design thinking as a structured approach, they built innovative prototypes of their concepts, which both inspire and inform. They focused on system methods that express the Olympic brand and its overall identity.The class was taught by designer and Portfolio Center alum Mimi Tin, who has worked on six different Olympic Games. 

Concept Meets Craftsmanship

Students in Portfolio Center’s celebrated Modernism, Theory, Criticism and History class, who are working on their Chair Projects this quarter, gather in a special session with Master furniture maker Michael Gilmartin at his studio in Atlanta. Appreciating both the rigors and excitement of form and aesthetics fused with the magic of storytelling is to understand where design and art cross over. Absorbing Master Gilmartin’s energy and virtuosity, as well as showing their own concepts at the event, are design students: Kate Carmack, Elizabeth Kelly, Jille Natalino, Jenny Savage, Andy Steward, Ryan Wood, Lauren Childs.