Portfolio Guidelines

We look for applicants who show creativity and versatility in a variety of mediums and whose portfolios show a willingness to be challenged and an eye for detail—the hallmarks of a true designer.  

Admission to the Design Studies program is based on past academic performance and your portfolio, which is a collection of your original work. To apply for the Design Studies program, you do not need previous experience or training in design. 


1. Create your portfolio and statement of intent

Review the assessment criteria

Your portfolio will be evaluated by an assessment committee, which is responsible for determining your readiness for the Design Studies program. The committee looks for:

  • Neat, well-organized presentation of pieces, including a table of contents

  • Creativity and versatility in a variety of mediums

  • Attention to detail

Your statement of intent is considered an integral part of your portfolio. It will be assessed using these criteria:

  • Your ability to express your ideas in writing

  • Clear and thoughtful formatting/presentation

  • No spelling or grammar errors

Choose your portfolio pieces

Your portfolio is a collection of original work that shows the assessment committee your creativity and reveals your design interests. You do not need to have prior training in design. We do not expect technical or artistic proficiency. We are examining your creativity and versatility in a variety of mediums, your ability to challenge yourself and your attention to detail — the hallmarks of a designer budding with potential.

Choose 12 to 15 original pieces (created within the last two years) for your portfolio. Below are suggestions for the kind of work that can be submitted. There is no requirement for the number of pieces per category; however, we recommend that you demonstrate a range of capabilities in your portfolio by limiting the number of pieces within a category to three unique works.


  • Show your sensitivity to form and attention to detail

  • Must be from direct observation (i.e., looking at an object and drawing it)

  • Any medium, such as charcoal, ink, pencil, pastel or combined media

  • Subject might be simple objects, figures, portraits or self-portraits, room interiors, architecture, nature

  • Use a variety of tools and techniques (line, texture, composition, light, perspective)

  • Consider using different surfaces and papers


  • In any medium, such as acrylic, oil, encaustic, watercolours, canvas or gouache

  • Subjects might be still life, landscapes, figures, portraits or self-portraits, abstracts


  • Show your sense of composition

  • Black and white or colour

  • Concentrate on framing, angle and light

  • Subjects might be simple objects, figures in landscape, architecture, nature

Mixed media/collage

  • Work with a range of materials and ideas (imagery, text, texture, paper, fabrics, etc.)

  • Treat the collage as a design/art piece; not as a journal or scrapbook

Three-dimensional work

  • Work with a range of materials to show your understanding of three-dimensional form and space, such as wood, clay, paper, fabric

  • Original sculptures or bulky mixed-media work will not be considered. Instead, enclose good quality photos of these pieces.

  • Photograph the piece from several angles/views

Design work

  • Previously completed design projects, such as posters, brochures, CD packages, exhibits, websites, interactive work, videos

  • Include a brief written statement with each piece explaining: What was your part in the creation of the piece? What is the piece about? What is the concept or idea? Who is the audience or user?

  • Videos, websites, or interactive work must be submitted in print form. Submit 5 to 10 screen captures.

Do not include in the portfolio:

  • Fantasy-style imagery — things that do not exist in reality, i.e., dragons, fairies, unicorns, mermaids, animé, etc.; cartoons or comic book illustrations

  • Subject matter that is not suitable for an academic environment

  • Hobbies and crafts, i.e., scrapbooking

  • All pieces using the same technique, i.e., 10 photographs

  • All pieces using the same subject, i.e., a series of drawings and paintings of the same person, still life, etc.

  • Digital work that only adds some unmanipulated digital filters to a photograph or is a tracing of a scanned picture. Digital work must adhere to the above categories and demonstrate the principles described within that category.

Work that does not follow these guidelines will be rejected and you will be asked to resubmit. 


Prepare your statement of intent

Your statement of intent is an important part of the portfolio package. It tells us about you, your aspirations and goals and your commitment to pursuing a career in design. Clear and engaging written communication is an important tool for a visual communicator.

Answer these questions in your statement of intent:

  • Why do you want to study design at MacEwan University?

  • What personal attributes and interests do you possess that make you a suitable candidate for a career in design?

  • What are your goals after graduation?

Follow these formatting guidelines:

  • Maximum of 400 words

  • Double-spaced

  • 12-point, easy-to-read font (e.g., Times, Arial, etc.)


2. Package your submission

Create a portfolio case

Your portfolio pieces need to be enclosed in a portfolio case. It doesn’t matter if the case is store bought or handmade, but it needs to be sturdy as they are handled extensively during the selection process. Please do not use staples if you are hand-making the case or use accordion-style folders.

The maximum dimensions of the portfolio case are 75 cm by 11 cm (30 inches by 40 inches).

Label, mount and organize the portfolio pieces

It is important to organize your portfolio carefully. Arrange your pieces by category and list them in a table of contents. Do not roll your work. If you are worried about charcoal or pencil lead smudging, use a tracing paper cover, but do not wrap each piece separately.

Attach a computer-printed (not handwritten) label on the back of each piece in your portfolio. The label should include:

  • Your role in creating the piece (creator, contributor, director, etc.)

  • Approximate date that the piece was created

  • Category (drawing, painting, photograph, mixed-media, three-dimensional work, design work)

  • Medium (charcoal, wood, acrylic on canvas, digital photography, etc.)

Photographs must be mounted with a suitable border on black or white card stock

A brief written explanation must accompany video, website or interactive pieces. The explanation should answer: What was your part in the creation of the piece? What is the piece about? Who is the audience or user?

Attach the information form and portfolio submission form 

The information forms need to be in the front of a presentation folder that also includes the table of contents and written statement. This presentation folder should then be placed in your portfolio in front of your artwork.

Design Studies Information Form (pdf)

Design Studies Portfolio Submission Form (pdf)

Ensure you've included all required components

The following items need to be included in the portfolio:

  • Portfolio submission form (taped to the outside)

  • Information form

  • Statement of intent

  • Table of contents

  • 12 to 15 appropriately labeled pieces of original work

  • Details and sample of work from courses to be considered for transfer credit (if applicable)

Apply for transfer credit, if eligible

If you have completed previous post-secondary work in visual arts or communications, the courses may be considered for transfer credit. If you want to seek transfer credit for studio courses (e.g., drawing, typography, etc.), you need to do so as part of the portfolio process. Transfer credit for studio courses will not be considered past the start of the intake term. The transfer credit process can take up to a month to complete.

Follow these steps if you are seeking transfer credits:

  1. Check our program of study to see if any of the courses are similar to those you've previously taken

  2. Contact us to request the course outline(s) for the course(s) in which you want to seek transfer credits

  3. Check off the appropriate box on the Portfolio Submission form

  4. Include 5 or 6 pieces of work in your portfolio that demonstrates you have completed a similar course (Note: This work is in addition to the other portfolio requirements.)

  5. Put these additional pieces, plus a transcript showing you have taken a similar course and that similar course’s outline, in a folder. For example, if you are applying for transfer credit for DESN100 Drawing for Communication, include 5 or 6 drawings, the course outline for the similar, previously taken course and your transcript in the folder.

  6. Label the folder with the course name and number for which you are seeking transfer credit. Put the folder AFTER the other required portfolio pieces.

  7. If you are applying for transfer credit for more than one course, put your transcript in the first folder


3. Arrange for delivery and pickup

Deliver your portfolio by the deadline

Submit your portfolio after you have applied to the program and during one of the portfolio submission periods. Portfolios will not be assessed unless you have officially applied through ApplyAlberta and paid the application for admission fee. Your portfolio can be mailed or delivered in person by you or someone else.

Portfolio dates and deadlines


To submit your portfolio in person, bring it to Room 11-262, Allard Hall (11110-104 Avenue) between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. during one of the portfolio submission periods. 

Portfolio submission periods


If you choose to mail in your portfolio, please ensure you allow enough time for your portfolio to reach the Design Studies office by the deadline. If you live outside of Edmonton and would like your portfolio returned by mail, please check off the appropriate box on the portfolio submission form. We will return your portfolio to you C.O.D. International applicants who want their portfolios returned to an address outside of Canada are asked to provide a cheque made out to MacEwan University for the cost of return shipping.

Mailing address:

Dianne Nicholls
Design Studies Program
MacEwan University
P.O. Box 1796
Edmonton, AB  T5J 2P2

Purchase insurance if needed

If you are concerned about damage to your portfolio, we recommend that you obtain insurance for the time that it is in MacEwan University’s possession. While we take all possible steps to ensure that your work is not lost or damaged, we cannot accept responsibility for your portfolio.

Pick up your portfolio

Pick up your portfolio between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. from Room 11-262 in Allard Hall (11110-104 Avenue) during the specified pick-up dates and dates for the portfolio submission period you’ve chosen. It is important to pick up your portfolio because a completed assessment form will be enclosed. If you are unable to pick up your portfolio during the specified times or by the specified date, please contact us to make alternative arrangements.

If someone is picking up your portfolio on your behalf, that person must bring a signed permission form.

Portfolio pick-up permission form (pdf)

Portfolios not picked up by the portfolio pick-up periods will be discarded.


Calendar Deadlines Icon Illustration

Start the application process early

You need to meet a number of important deadlines when you apply for admission.

Next steps

After discussing and assessing your portfolio and statement of intent, the program will make a recommendation. You will receive an admission decision from the Office of the University Registrar and a copy of your decision will be added to your portfolio case.

Learn more about admission decisions