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From graduation to New York City

LAU Graphic Design student Aya Ibrahim wins Lebanon’s Portfolio Night and a prestigious chance to represent her country in New York City.

Aya Ibrahim was taken by surprise by what happened when she won Lebanon’s Portfolio Night. “The day after I won, creative directors started calling me with job opportunities while regional supervisors of other big agencies sent me messages via LinkedIn. It was a big deal – they only pick one winner per country,” she says. 

The competition that got Ibrahim into the spotlight, Portfolio Night, is international and brings creative young talent to the attention of top advertising agencies. On the same night each year, and in cities as far as apart as Shanghai, Tokyo, San Francisco and Johannesburg, aspiring young designers and creatives bring in their portfolio for a chance to show their country’s top advertising brass their work. 

From a professional perspective such competitions not only define the student’s level of creativity, but also the professionalism of their work. ‘Winning a competition like this means that the student is ready to hit the market with a very strong passport in hand: their portfolio,” explains Maria Bahous, an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Design, adding, “Such a portfolio means that the student knows how to think as a designer and how to be convincing about their work.

Designing a portfolio is a tricky and demanding task. “It requires a good balance of creativity and simplicity, which is why it shows that the student is ready to face challenges in the design field,” she continues.

For Ibrahim, the prize will be to join the winners from the 24 participating cities in New York later this summer. They will be placed on teams that simulate actual agency work, with a designer, copywriter and art director. Each team will be assigned a brief from a confidential client to work on. 

Representing Lebanon will be a huge opportunity and also a big responsibility, but Ibrahim, who has just graduated, says she feels ready. “LAU prepares us from A to Z. We are very well trained and exposed to hands-on experience through our internships, so I feel extremely confident. LAU even gave us a portfolio class; the portfolio I prepared for that class was the one that won me the Portfolio Night competition,” she adds. 

The School of Architecture and Design is very supportive of such competitions and has a one-credit course that prepares students to face the market. “Our job is not only to guide them in their creativity but also to help them face the competition out there,” Bahous stresses.

“It is very rewarding to know that the work students achieve under your guidance is being recognized and awarded,” she says, adding, “We teach them to think outside the box so they can shine and winning is the icing on the cake.”


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