Skip to main content

Fresh: Spring 2019 Portfolio Show

Meet four of PSU's brightest design grads.

Portland State’s graphic design program trains and unleashes a new wave of talent on the regular. Students tap their creative wells to solve problems through design thinking and learn the skills to tackle future client assignments and personal pursuits. To celebrate the end of their time in the classroom, PSU hosts FRESH—a portfolio showcase for the newest graphic design grads. There, the students bravely share their work with attendees and take a well-earned, deep breath for finally making it to the end.

We spoke with four of the upcoming graduates—Bingbing Zhang, Ben Child, DJ McKnight, and Yebin Ha—about how their design expectations evolved with their formal education and what they hope to do with all of those fresh skills.

June 11, 2019 5:00pm9:00pm Community Event

Bingbing Zhang

What’s something you learned from PSU’s design program that resonated with you the most, and why?

Connection, connection, connection, baby! Also, remember to be a nice person—it’s so important! I know people are supposed to know that in kindergarten, but sometimes, we forget. I think the design program’s tight community really resonated and helped shape me in some ways. I was extremely shy and couldn’t speak up for my work. But since everyone is so friendly, I was encouraged to speak up and just be myself. It helped me find out who I am as a designer and what I really want be doing.

What kind of contributions do you want to make through design?

I think design is so powerful, and it’s really made a huge impact on my life. I want to use my design to connect with people, to share my energy, give positive messages, and break boundaries. When I first chose design as my major as a freshman, I wasn’t really sure what to do. I always loved the creative industry, but I had no idea what design actually was. I thought design was the same thing as art and that being a designer meant being an artist.

As I started my design practice, I realized that art and design are totally different from each other; design is more for other people. Designers are always solving problems, looking for connections, and seeking engagement. I want be a designer to make people’s lives easier, to promote social justice, and to use my voice as a tool to share positive messages.

Website: // Instagram: Thankyou___bye

Ben Child

How did your education impact your vision or expectations for design as a practice?

I was very fortunate to have a taste of two design education extremes with my experience at Portland Community College's design program and PSU’s design program. PCC is technically structured; we were practically put into a boot camp dedicated to learning the tools of the trade—good habits, shortcuts, and methods—and were expected to follow guidelines to a T. My early design vision was industrial because of it. I felt there had to be a perfect rhyme or reason to my design—that there was a specific way it had to work.

So, after graduating from PCC, continuing at PSU was a complete and total culture shock. Things were more conceptual and idea-driven at PSU; particular methodology was acknowledged but not enforced, so it felt alien to me. Coming from this almost factory-like mindset and being thrust into this high-concept, self-driven environment allowed me to open up and experiment with my work, and it got rid of what I realized was a fear of breaking the rules. There was a difficult transition period, but once I adapted, I realized what I learned from both schools could be applied into some sort of bizarre design harmony.

What kind of contributions do you want to make through design?

I've never been one to seek out a greater purpose in my work, other than creating something that resonates with someone else. Eliciting some sort of response with my work is incredibly gratifying, so I consider a personal design successful if I've made someone feel an emotion—like discomfort or confusion—but for a reason. I just want to be able to explore emotion in whatever I do.

Website: // Instagram: ben0child

Deidra J. (DJ) McKnight

How did your education impact your vision or expectations for design as a practice?

My education at PSU allowed me to view design as something more than just making logos and coding websites. Design can be used to tell a story, solve problems, or even bring a community of people together. I see design now as a gateway to many different creative opportunities, and I'm more excited than ever to jump into this world and work more professionally. I remember when I didn't know what graphic design was or what it meant to “design” something. I am blessed to have learned and grown through this program, especially as a black female. This field is the one I’m meant to work in, and I can't wait to meet new people and make a ton of dope shit!

What kind of contributions do you want to make through design?

For a group of people who work on computers a lot, I love the human connection/interaction that happens. A few things that have impacted me as a designer are Kamp Grizzly’s Netflix ad, “A Great Day in Hollywood: Strong Black Lead,” as well as Red & Co.’s Netflix ad, “Make Room.” These two projects made me so happy and confirmed that who we see in mainstream media is changing. I hope to become someone who gets to create things that cause similar reactions in others—to have some sort of impact that makes people smile or think.

I also have a goal to broaden the design community in Portland to make it more inclusive, or at least, more representational. Something I regret while studying at PSU is that I didn’t meet more fellow black students or talk to more non-white professionals. I love meeting everyone, but meeting those who look similar to you in this field, for me at least, helps confirm I belong in it.

Website: (Live June 11) // Instagram: djalways

Yebin Ha

What’s something you learned from PSU’s design program that resonated with you the most, and why?

The willingness to contribute and the power of presence—to simply show up—is something I am learning slowly. A community thrives based on interdependence, trust, and communication, and I definitely have observed closely that this is how PSU's graphic design community functions. Of course, I wasn't particularly the most active or vocal member—because I didn't care (sounds harsh, but it was true). This is why joining the art direction team for FRESH was one of the best decisions I made. It challenged me to get out of my comfort zone, but also to practice being present and contributing 120% of my effort and my heart. It’s hard to acknowledge that my voice is important and impactful (it is still an ongoing process). I admit that, in order to create and sustain the kind of community I want to be in, I do need to vocalize and commit.

What kind of contributions do you want to make through design?

I am passionate about building authenticity and cultivating healthy culture. The things we say, our actions, and our work are reflections of our hearts, and if I want to demonstrate that I value authenticity and reflect that in my design, then I first have to be authentic with myself and others around me. Of course, it won't be easy—and it will never be complete—but I see the beauty in that.

Website: // Instagram: nibeyaaaas