Portare brings 99designs into the classroom

We recently boosted moondust, an extremely talented logo designer, to the Platinum level. When we did, she informed us that her local design instructor was largely to thank, and that we could thank him right on 99designs.

Edi Jakabhazi teaches design at West University of Timisoara in Romania, and also competes in 99designs contests using the handle Portare, which he shares with his brother Dan. Eventually he realized that he could combine the two aspects of his life, using 99designs to introduce his students to real world aspects of the design profession that are not easily taught in the classroom. Turns out, moondust is only one of many students to benefit from his curriculum.

We reached out to Edi to get the full story about his method, thinking that there are probably many other design instructors and students out there who might be curious about 99designs as a teaching tool. Read on for the full interview.

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Name: Edi Jakabhazi
99designs handle: Portare
Location: Romania

You’re a teacher as well as a practicing designer. What role does each of these things play in your career?

I started teaching right after I finished the university and I got my Doctor of Arts degree in graphic design, at West University of Timisoara, Romania. I teach there now because I love it. I was never in it for the money, nor could I have been. I like to teach, I like to discover fresh talents, I like to share my experience with them. At the same time, I find it great to be able to share new ideas with them, to learn from them, to continuously stay current with the latest trends, by the latest generation of designers.

Our studio work is where we service a number of important, local clients. We have long lasting relationships with them and they keep coming back to us for all their marketing needs. Obviously, every once in a while I feel the need of a real challenge and that’s when I turn to 99designs. The level is very high, the contest holders are always very interesting people and nothing beats the feeling of being awarded the winner of a platinum contest.

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What are the most difficult aspects of teaching graphic design nowadays?

I find it increasingly difficult to explain to students why they need to start projects from scratch in this stage of their careers. I understand the appeal of mockups, stock images, refurbishing ideas, but in this stage of their development nothing is more important than 100% original and creative work. This is how personal style is built.

The other major issue is where 99designs helps. A lot of students finish school and find themselves thrown into the real world with no understanding of how it works. A few 99designs contests help introduce the young designers to concepts such as deadlines, competition, understanding feedback, client peculiarities. This is something that’s often missing in the life of a Romanian student, if not of any student. Creating their 99designs accounts and submitting to their first contests, getting the first ratings is an amazing experience and opportunity to learn about the world and about themselves.

I also encourage students to take part in as many local projects as possible. We have an “opportunity wall” in school where we list all the local and national design competitions we can find. The reason is the same: preparing young talents for the real world. University is where you should learn if know if you made the right decisions when you chose your career path. I try to talk to them as much as possible, to gain their friendship and confidence. I often end up giving them advice over Skype, Facebook or over coffee, years after they get their degrees.

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How do your students generally respond to this method? Is it always a success?

Obviously each one is as involved as they choose to. I tried to explain to students not to look at the prize at stake, but to choose their contests by how well they understand the briefs. The rest is up to them and their good fortunes. You can obviously get eliminated with a solid design, but that doesn’t always say something about you. Persistence is key here. I am happy every time one of my students lets me know he’s won a contest. I am even happier to see many of them earn a living as designers after starting here, on 99designs. The ones that enjoy the 99designs contests experience usually succeed.

What tips would you give to other design instructors in the world, who might be interested in using 99designs as a teaching tool?

I encourage every teacher to use this amazing opportunity to introduce their students, future designers, to the profession. It’s a really fair, friendly environment, with lots of people you can learn from, with clear rules and a wide range of contests to choose from. You can’t get this experience in school, because often in school there is nothing at the end of a project.

It’s also critical for students to have teachers that can channel their abilities to the right specialty. KreaTank was an example of a student that was amazing with vectors right from the start and obviously you have to tell a guy like that he needs to focus on logos. And he is very successful.

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What are your plans or aspirations for the coming years, professional or otherwise?

I will continue to share my efforts between my teaching career and my studio because I need both in my life. I hope to be able to expand our team and increase our business, but I will not give up teaching because if I’m lucky enough to earn my living doing what I am passionate about, I feel I have a duty to guide others who dream of doing the same.

Timisoara has a huge talent pool and I’m looking forward to introducing quite a few more amazing designers to the wonderful world of 99designs.

Questions for Edi? Ask him in the comments!

The author

Alex Bigman
Alex Bigman

Alex contributes from New York City on topics ranging from branding and typography to the history of design.

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