this may be a stupid question but please understand I am a 1st year student who just got on a track to be a UI/UX designer. I am trying to work on my first prototyping project to be featured on my portfolio and I have a question. Do I have to create all of the graphical elements on my own, or can I use a pre-made elements from a UI toolkit/icons someone published for free? Will companies only look at the rationale behind arrangement and composition of these elements, or will they think I am an incompetent designer for using a toolkit?thanks in advance.
Using premade assets is fine. You don't always make the fonts/photos/etcetera you use for every design either. Icon creation is a valueable skill, and you would be smart to include at least a few in your entire portfolio, but you don't have to make everything from scratch. It's not efficient, and very rare in real-life projects.
What I can suggest, though, is to not merely use premade sets, but also create some sets (i.e. finding several icons that look good together) and to extend them with your own icons. This demonstrates that you can work flexibly and find the most efficient way to customize your icon set to your project.
HOWEVER! Make sure you are allowed to use all premade assets. So check the licences, see if you are allowed to use them, modify them, redistribute them, and how to appropriately credit the original person if necessary.
I would suggest using free toolkits/Icons, and I feel it's the best practice.
Learning to create those assets and icons is essential but in the fast lane of project creation trying to create each and every icons and asset by yourself is a time-consuming process.