my entire undergraduate graphic design portfolio. GONE.

my entire undergraduate graphic design portfolio. GONE.

I studied graphic design at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 2001-2005. During that time I created a wealth of work that I have been dragging around with me the past 5-9 years. I had no plans for the big portfolio folders hiding in the closet–I intended to drag them with me for the rest of my life, I guess. But we're downsizing to a much smaller space, & getting rid of things has been getting me high! I decided to photograph all of my undergraduate portfolios & projects to share digitally here, so I can cast off the weight of student work forever! This is going to be a long ride, keep your hands inside the trolley! (& click the images for a larger view!)

Foundations (2001-2002)

Before one is accepted to the 3 year graphic design program, one must take a year of foundation design & drawing classes to weed out the slackers.

I drew this still life for my final project in Drawing 1. It took 31 hours!
still life

still life detail

The original polaroid of the objects:

The rest of these make me smile:




I didn't keep much from my foundations design courses... I had the curse of bad craft.



This is the only project I kept from the B&W photo class I took. I still love it! It makes me laugh. Student art at its finest.

Graphic design

I didn't keep anything from my first graphic design class, because I was such a terrible, lazy student. But I kept these from a class with Jennifer Gunji that changed my life.

7 Sins
I became an illustrator when I took an imagemaking class with John Jennings. That was the class that made me wake up & pay attention in school.

First graphic design interview portfolio: boards/loose papers in a box

After another year or so of GD classes, I got a job as a student designer at the university counseling center. I also started making decent work in class. I started loving school! I made friends with my classmates & we had out of control makeout parties. Well, one anyway. Oddly, I don't remember ever actually interviewing with this portfolio.

Although the boards-in-a-box method is heavy, it is far superior to the method you will see later in this post. Why? Because the work is easy to see with no distractions.

Calendar design!

Poster design!

Book design!
For Rick Moody's "Boys".

Counseling Center design!
A poster for eating disorder awareness week

A flyer & newsletter

A tshirt design & resource packet cover.

Graduation interview portfolio

I became a decent designer & hurriedly put together a book of work to take with me to Chicago on interviews with big, shiny design firms. I was excited for the real world! I had an open mind! The company who hired me gave me a 6 pack on my way out of my interview!

This portfolio method of glossy-pages-in-enormous-binder is a total bust. The pages are simply too reflective to see the work properly! But it did the trick, & after getting hired at my first (& only) 9-5 job, I never had to use it again.

don't mind the pizza box under the trampoline

It took me an extremely long time to get remotely decent photos of this book. I considered some abstract options.

Ultimately I photographed this beast underneath the trampoline. But first! My resume:

Folk rock concert poster:

Kronos Quartet makes another appearance:

I had lots of fun making this set of promotional materials for a faux Andy Goldsworthy visit:

A proposed invitation to our senior exhibition:

More counseling center work. A system to promote a workshop series:

The Counseling Center logo!

Poster design:

Proposed identity system for the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center:

Invitation to junior show:

Invitation to a portfolio review:

Book cover exercise:

Newspaper ad:

Typeface book covers:

Illustration time again! Panels to illustrate Edgar Allan Poe's "Eldorado."

An illustration project I worked on as a collaboration with John Jennings for his book The Hole.

A spread for Ninth Letter:

Earliest paid web work! The Japan House website.

A web piece for Ninth Letter, featuring artist Shahzia Sikander.

Another web piece for Ninth Letter, featuring work by author Richard Powers.

And thus concludes my portfolio review! What did you think? Do you keep your old schoolwork or portfolios? Do you think a photo writeup like this is enough documentation to throw the paper out once & for all?

Jessica Mullen
Living the magick life.
  • David Botevyle

    I must say you have done some marvellous work. The images for the 7 Sins are particularly graphic. It seems such a shame that it has been zipped up in your portfolio cases for so long and now they are gone for good. They prompt many questions but I will focus on just a few if I may:

    In mary_scene (and highlight1) you have an image of a key, if you can remember, what was it’s significance and/or what did it represent?

    In the same scene, what was the significance of the “do not drink” medicine container?

    In rose_petal_close (probably in keeping with other images of that time, but the blade might seem out of place given other elements in the scene) why the inclusion of razor blade?

    In 21b are the cuts to your skin the real cuts? If so did you make cuts to both your arms or have you reversed the image?

    The skull has since lost one of its horns, will it have a place in your new apartment? or has the gone?

    You appear personally in many of the photographic images, was this out of your need for self expression or because you could not find someone else suitable to model for you?

  • jessica mullen

    thanks david.
    the key is a reference to the search for meaning in life.
    the “do not drink” container was likely a prozac container.
    the razor blade was my friend.
    the cuts are fictional.
    the skull is GONE.
    i prefer to be my own model but also my own photographer, which is a difficult position. i had my boyfriend take these shots, and yes i was likely the only model available at 4a.

  • S. Nayak

    I am planning to go in for an undergrad in graphic design but am not really sure how I need to form my portfolio.
    Could you please tell me what you had submitted to get into University?

  • jessica mullen

    Work that you do for fun will always be the best work. I really enjoy doing digital photomanipulations & so I submitted some prints. Those were what showed my creativity and interest. I also submitted drawings which showed my hand skills, and a few 2d designs (pen on bristol).

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