These are the exact artistic fundamentals that I loved in Megan Baxter's portfolio. She was the first graduate I met and I ended up chatting with her so long that I didn't have enough time to see all the students (bummer). She did a series of posters that are a true example of putting the art in art direction.
She described how she created them and I was in awe. Mostly because I wondered if any of my senior art directors (mine or anyone else's for that matter) were tearing up pieces of paper or cutting out letter shapes with an exacto all in the name of a good layout. Kinda doubt it.
Portfolios from schools like MCAD or SCAD or SVA have a different feel than others. I truly believe it's because they stress the arts first and "advertising" second. Students spend a full year in their fundamentals classes learning letterpress, silk screening, book binding, drawing, painting and so on.
These are the skills that come through in their advertising work. Like Megan's posters. She could have done these on the computer. She could have done the backgrounds in photoshop and the type in illustrator. Most people do. But she used her hands and tools other than a computer. The result: purely artistic.