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Admissions portfolio requirements

Students applying to the art and design program are encouraged to submit a portfolio containing 8 to 10 pieces. The portfolio should represent the variety of skills you have developed thus far. It also should showcase your imagination and conceptual abilities. It is important to demonstrate that you have experience drawing from direct observation, so your portfolio should include drawings of objects or places in front of you rather than copied from photographs or the work of other artists. More information about admissions portfolios can be found in the portfolio preparation section.

Your admissions portfolio is only evaluated for scholarship consideration during the admission process. Portfolios are considered for the Talent Award scholarship.

The art and design faculty reviews portfolios in a number of ways.

On campus: Students can schedule a campus visit or a special appointment by contacting the department of A&D ( or 419.772.2160). The portfolio review committee can meet with students to evaluate portfolios Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–4 p.m. and most Saturdays, 8 a.m.–noon.

By mail: Students can submit work in digital or slide format. Students should include an inventory sheet with their files/slides noting the size, medium or media, and completion date of each piece of work. Work in a digital format must not require installation of software on a department computer. Portfolios should be sent to the Department of Art & Design, Ohio Northern University, 525 S. Main Street, Ada, Ohio 45810.

By web site: Another option allows students to submit portfolios by emailing the url for their Web site to

For additional questions, please contact the department of art & design or the ONU admissions office (419.772.2260).

If you are concerned about not having enough work to present, or if you do not have a portfolio, we recommend that you complete a few assignments and projects. The goal is to help you assess your potential and give you time to complete a few projects on your own. Some assignments take more time than others. This varies from person to person, but the entire process should not take an enormous amount of time. Below are a few ideas to get you started:

1) Create three to four observational line drawings (no gray tones/values) of an actual handheld object that you choose. You may use any fine-line drawing medium such as a graphite pencil, pen, etc.

2) Create two or three observational drawings of an object in two-dimensional using a pencil to create gray tones/values.

3) Create one observational drawing of a still life of objects of your choice using any media.

4) Photo documentation and expression: Using a camera, create a series of images that expresses one of the following themes: reflection, transportation, identity.

5) Design project: Design a two-dimensional face of an analog (non digital) clock. Any drawing medium may be used.


Portfolio Presentation
Applicants often ask, “What are you looking for in a portfolio?” Although there is no single easy answer to this question, here are some frequently asked questions that you may find helpful as you prepare your own portfolio.

What kind of work do I need in my portfolio?
Drawing is the most important aspect of a freshman applicant's portfolio. We encourage you to include work done from actual observation (life drawing). Although accepted, we discourage work copied from two-dimensional sources such as photographs. We also discourage applicants from focusing their portfolios on a single field of study, such as graphic design, sculpture or painting.

What is more important: technical skill or creativity?
Do not overlook the creative aspect of your work. Some students mistakenly include value scales/color wheels in their portfolios. Such pieces only indicate that an instructor or textbook has provided students with the basic information about value/color. It is more important to be able to show that you can apply such information in a personal and purposeful way.

How many different media should I show in my portfolio?
Pick three or four media with which you are comfortable. Make sure at least one is a color medium. Only present work that stands on its own merit. Work should show that you had enough control over your materials to begin dealing with creative issues, rather than showing successful technical methods.

What kind of subjects should I draw?
Find a subject that excites you. Interpret the same subject matter more than once. Imagine: How do you draw a sound? How do you draw a smell? Your drawings will become more interesting as you explore your subject from different perspectives above and beyond the first, immediate choices. Become comfortable with manipulating color, composition, texture, value and line to convey your ideas.

Can I show work in progress? Can I include my sketchbooks for consideration?
Your work need not be mounted, matted, framed or even finished. We encourage you to show us your sketchbooks because these documents allow us to gain a better understanding of the process in which you work. In most cases, sketchbooks are an outlet for experimentation, and we are very interested in seeing that side of you.

How old can the work in my portfolio be?
We recommend that you limit your portfolio to work that you have created within the past two years. This is the best indicator as to where you've come from and where you're headed.

Department of Art & Design

Ann Hood

Wilson Art Building
525 South Main Street
Ada, Ohio 45810
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.