graphic design portfolio

i chose graphic design and autoshop as my electives senior year of high school, and it was a freaking fantastic decision. while classes like honors biomed or honors physiology or a free period may have boosted my GPA or given me more time to do homework and hang out with “friends” during longer lunch periods, it would not have done much for my personal growth as a creative person. i was challenged in many ways, thrust myself into new spaces around campus (the shop and the art room), and met some really interesting people. as with all new things, the first few weeks in these classes were quite uncomfortable, but it was also thrilling to rebel in my own way against the “always on the grind” “anything to boost my resumé” culture i’ve been surrounded by throughout my years in high school.

so, future me, or whoever stumbles upon this post, follow your interests. in school, this means taking classes that excite and scare you a little (ex. going under a car) instead of the dull, predictable classes everyone else takes. in life, this means prioritizing your passions even if it means taking risks instead of taking a safer, more dependable route. though in reality, this is much harder than that cliché sentence makes it seem and much less linear. but i just wanted to put it out there, because sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the small details of life and forget the bigger picture that really matters, the long term.

well, that was getting kind of deep! switching focus, here are some of my favourite pieces that i made during my graphic design class this year. our final was to create an instagram portfolio and mine was @artbymikl. i only added a short caption on instagram, so i’m going to write more about each project here:


the assignment was to use a still-life in the classroom as inspiration for a “graphic design” cookbook cover. because my illustration skills are not the best, i chose to only draw a pear from the still-life, figuring it couldn’t be that complicated to replicate. with the wonderful tools on procreate, this was done to much success (in my opinion). i played around with the colour scheme, eventually deciding on complementary blue and orange for a bright, eye-catching cover. i mixed hand-lettering with text to create an organic, but still professional appeal to the design.


as a kid, i loved going to jamba juice. i have so many fond memories of getting smoothies and a pizza twist at jamba juice in between soccer games at a hot tournament hours away from home… ah good times. i learned that jamba juice was going through it’s own rebranding to just jamba, and when i saw what the new design looked like, it was hate at first sight. this particular assignment was to redesign a popular logo and explain the reasons behind the redesign, eventually making a poster pitch of the final design. i created many sketches, and i like the look of this page, this work in progress. to be honest, i don’t like the sketch i decided to use for my final poster much, so i’m choosing to remember (at least on the internet) this page of possibilities instead.


i made a logo for myself and then carved a stamp out of it. the hand symbolizes my love for making things, and the little scene inside demonstrates my love and influence by nature. my initials weave the design together, as if i am weaving a piece of myself into my art. there is a further connection with my name: my last name means forest in mandarin chinese, hence the two trees that represent the character 林. while this logo is a little more intricate than my teacher had wanted, i love it. there is so much personal symbolism that can be derived from these lines and i feel wholly represented, which is what a personal logo should do, eh?


this was a fun warm-up assignment, a collage, but reversed. instead of gluing pages on top of each other, we were to cut away pieces from the top layer instead, revealing pages glued underneath. kind of trippy to think about, really. i like the idea of it more than i like my finished piece at the moment. vintage national geographic magazines and celebrity magazines don’t quite inspire me as much as travel magazines do…


this was made during a lesson about the lingo of typography. ascender, base height, x height, descender, serif, sans-serif, italics. i consider myself a pro at brush lettering and calligraphy style letters, so i did the opposite on this project. uniform, sans serif font and italics. i love it. also featuring a dire but true phrase copied from a national geographic magazine title.


KF started a feed the frontlines chapter where we live, and she approached me to design a label to staple on the food packages they were distributing to healthcare workers. this is what i came up with, and it is quite different from my original sketches. this was the type of project where i wasn’t the only person calling the shots – KF’s boss, the person making deals with the restaurants, kept wanting to add bits to the design, and i had to adjust accordingly. i had originally written out the names of the restaurants at the bottom, but per request, ended up brushing up my skills on photoshop and adding logos colored in the same shade of blue instead. the final design is simple, but pretty to look at, and i’m proud of my ability to design on a deadline and for a cause. this one felt really good!


this poster was designed at the start of shelter-in-place back in march, back when no one had any idea how long this pandemic would last and what its effects would be. we were so naïve, thinking that school would be cancelled for two weeks and then the world would go back to normal. hence when i still had the energy to putting lots of effort into my schoolwork. senioritis + online school can bring down even those who swore freshman year to never succumb, aka me. this poster is an oversimplification of the problem, and that’s what makes it striking. it is almost comical, saying coronavirus is a bright green monster invading our bodies. when making this design, i was thinking of my mom explaining the immune system to me as a child: white blood cells are soldiers protecting your body from viruses… and i envisioned hanging this poster on the walls of an elementary school or daycare. the pastel colours create a calming effect on the viewer and are bright enough to draw the eye. i tried a new style of lettering and i’m really digging it!


this was my favourite assignment of the entire year, and the one i am most proud of. it was also the most fun to make – i convinced my teacher to let my friend MG (who’s an amazing artist) and i work together on this assignment and the success of the end design really reflects our partnership. she’s strong in drawing and i’m strong in coming up with designs and choosing type, so we really complemented each other with our strengths. this assignment had a reward at the end as well – every art class would vote on their favourite design, and the winning poster would actually be printed and hung up around school. i was super proud that both of our designs (we had to make two so that we each could “submit” one for a grade) were among the top choices, and the blue comic-strip style poster actually won! if you ask me though, i don’t have a favourite; i think both designs are unique in their own respective ways and i’m equally pleased with the result.

funny story though: when we were mocking up the design on illustrator, my other friend RP gave us some random dates and times to use as a placeholder. before my teacher took our design to the printer, she didn’t think to confirm that the dates were correct, and she was also somehow under the impression that only i made the poster, so 50 something posters were printed with the wrong dates and times and credit. oops! she was able to reprint the posters with the correct dates, and the upside to this goof is that MG and i each got to take home a few professionally printed copies of the posters for ourselves. mine hangs proudly on my wall in my room. it’s not just the fact that our poster won, but also because i really do think it is a damn good design.


one last design that i didn’t include in my instagram portfolio because it didn’t fit the aesthetic and was technically not an official assignment was this “congrats class of 2020 banner.” this was an extra project, a chance to design something to hang up around the town and work on a deadline, so i took it, because for me, this is what graphic design is really about: creating the best designs for a purpose and adding some personality to text. the banner design was supposed to be another contest, but only three other people in my class submitted a design, so they ended up printing a copy of all three and hanging them in various places. here’s mine hanging up downtown! i challenged myself to try a different style of writing – more loopy and block-like than my usual lettering – and i really liked the result. the most difficult part of this project was working in such a weird shape; the banner is extremely long and not very tall, so the procreate proportions were very strange. i made it work though, and while i may not always show the most school spirit or enthusiasm about drive-thru graduation, i did contribute this lovely banner and this is the one time i will brag about something. it’s pretty dang cool to see my creations out in the real world!

that’s it for now, the most notable of my graphic design projects this year. there were lots of fails that i am not including because i quite dislike looking at them but i’ll mention them here lest anyone gets the idea that i only create nice art. maybe that’s a little cocky, my art could be sh*t, though i really hope not. super glad i took graphic design this year, not just for the chance to challenge my design skills and try new styles, but also for the good conversations and time with friends. i’ll miss those early mornings in 5°, eating breakfast while finishing an assignment, giving out design advice, if necessary finishing up homework from another class, ranting, laughing, and creating. it almost didn’t feel like school.

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