Your Portfolio - Your Way 2020

Art and Design practice at NCAD runs from traditional techniques and crafts to digital art and digital design and everything in between…

…Your Place Is Here…

At NCAD, we believe that your individual creativity is a skill that should be nourished, honed and refined. No matter what medium you work with, or what way your mind resolves problems, we encourage you to embrace your talent and show us what you can do. While we can give you helpful starting points, ultimately the decisions you make are what make you, you! We believe in you and we want to be part of your creative journey. So show us what makes you happy or how you can change the world for the better or how you can work with a medium. This is your chance to put your work together in an impressive way. Be you. Your Portfolio – Your Way!


Your portfolio is the visual result of a personal journey that you take in exploring the world around you. It involves investigation, observation, research, ideas, testing, exploration of material and method and finally a developed idea. Similar to any good story, it naturally has a beginning (research/observation), a middle (development) and an end (visual conclusions). This is your visual story, and you retain the creative freedom to tell it your way. There is nothing mysterious or secretive about creating a portfolio. It involves time, creativity, dedication and lots of hard work. It is a process that takes time. If you are working on one idea and it takes you to another, then go with it! Have fun with how you create, and show us your passion for Art/Design. It should not be a chore, but it should challenge you. It should make you think about how things are made, about the materials that are used in making, about how you would do something differently and about how you interact with/see the world around you.

Take control.

Your portfolio – Your way.

NCAD – Your Place Is Here.



At NCAD, you can apply directly to the following pathways:


AD101 - First Year Common Entry                                  AD212 - Product Design  

AD102 - Graphic Design/ Moving Image Design             AD204 - Fine Art

AD103 - Textiles, Jewellery & Objects                             AD217 - Illustration

AD202 - Education & Fine Art/Design                             AD222 - Interaction Design

AD211 - Fashion Design                                


This means that you can apply directly to these areas through the CAO.


First Year Common Entry is a multi-disciplinary year that allows our First Year students to explore many different areas of Art/Design that they may not have been exposed to before. This is a wonderful opportunity to embrace new media and ways of working in Art/Design and is a perfect beginning to your creative journey through college. It will give you the solid foundation and background in Art and Design that will stand to you for your whole career, beyond college.

All students who apply to any First Year pathway, will begin their NCAD lives in First Year Common Entry. For example, if you apply to and are successful in your application to Graphic Design, you will still enter NCAD through First Year Common Entry.


If you wish to use the first year in NCAD to explore your options and your orientation to choose your pathway, then make Common Entry your first choice. If your interest is very clearly for a particular Specialist Pathway then make this Pathway your first choice. Your second preference should be for what you would want as your second option, this could be Common Entry which will allow you the widest range of possibility including a second opportunity to gain entry to your first choice pathway at the end of year one, or you can choose a definite second preferred Pathway. You can continue with further subsequent choices using this same logic.

All Common Entry portfolio applications will be reviewed by interdisciplinary staff teams and all Specialist Pathways applications will be reviewed by the relevant specialist staff teams. Your portfolio will be reviewed by all the relevant teams according to your application choices. In doing this we ensure that your portfolio will be viewed from the perspective of your choice and orientation. This is what allows for very individualised portfolio applications that reflect your particular abilities and potentials. 

All incoming first years, including Common Entry and all  Specialist Pathways will engage in a shared learning programme for the first semester this period supports interdisciplinary learning and pathway choice making. 


Your portfolio will be assessed using the following criteria.

1. Research & Observation

This is your starting point. We want to see how and what you observe around you. What in your life is of interest to you, visually? It could be anything from your sock drawer to your garden. Really take some time to investigate everyday things that some people may take for granted. Also research other artists/designers who have addressed an approach in a similar way. How do they do it, what do you like about them and what would you do differently and why? Question, observe and document everything.

Your Research and Observation may include, but not be limited to the following:

  • Simple sketches
  • Colour or texture swatches
  • Documentation of your surroundings/photographs you have taken
  • Sample work from artists/designers you admire
  • Objects/products that you would like to improve
  • Experimentation with materials/media
  • Mind Maps


2. Creative Ideas – Outcomes of your research and Observation

This is your development stage. Using your own research from your Research and Observation stage, begin to expand on some ideas that interest you. Combine some of your ideas, take some of them apart, mix it up. Address a design problem or give a new interpretation to something that you think could be done differently, and better. Take what you have observed and push it as far as you can, then push it further. Generate new creative outcomes and design solutions. Make your world better through visual development.


3. Developed Creative Work

This is your conclusion stage. While you may never feel like you have truly finished your portfolio, you should have some fully developed pieces and there will be a point where you will have to stop in order to submit your portfolio. Show us your creative solutions. You should use at least one of the creative outcomes or design solutions from your Creative Ideas stage and pursue it into more developed work. We want to see your creative development through your portfolio and how you bring something that started off from a simple idea to completion.


Don’t forget to include your notebooks!

Creative Notebook

Your notebooks/sketchbooks are a very important part of your portfolio. Try to get in the habit of bringing a notebook with you everywhere. Any ideas that come to your mind can be noted down or sketched. Ideas can come at odd times, like when you are standing at the bus stop or eating your breakfast. If you have your notebook with you, you will never forget an idea. Keeping with the analogy of your portfolio being the story, your notebooks would be all of the plot points and twists and turns in the story. Your notebooks do not need to be pristine, or even remotely neat. They are a means of getting your thoughts out on to paper and your sketches could be very basic, as long as they convey your ideas clearly. Your notebooks document your portfolio from the very first stages, right through to your conclusions. They should show evidence of your awareness and interest in artists/designers. They offer the assessment teams a chance to deepen their understanding of your work and creative processes as they can show how you might expand ideas that you don’t have time to develop fully. Your notebooks are just as important as your finished work.


Your portfolio will expand and change and may very well end up being something that you never thought of when you started this journey. It grows and expands with you and how you think and work. Enjoy the whole process.


Helpful Information

Throughout the year, NCAD runs several Portfolio Information sessions, workshops and clinics. These will be in November and January and will be clearly advertised on our website. These events are specifically designed by our expert portfolio assessment teams to help you with your portfolio. If at all possible, you should try to attend at least one of these events. These events are free but places are limited, so be sure to check back on the website regularly in order to book your free place.


For more a more detailed start to each portfolio area, please click here...


We cannot wait to see what you have been working on when you submit your portfolio to NCAD in February 2020!

Your Portfolio - Your Way

NCAD – Your Place Is Here