Building A Portfolio
A strong resumé will get your foot in the door and a good book will get you the job. The AIGA says a portfolio is “portable proof of your design education and a document of your work.” It should be constructed in a way that lets people take a visual walk through a project, account or area of focus, and might even serve as a case study – including accomplishments and campaign results. It should not be a traveling version of your sample drawer at home. You’ll need both offline (hard copy) and online versions.
PACKAGING MATTERS. Here are some tips to help you create a portfolio that’s informative, artfully arranged and properly packaged.
Tailor it. Make sure the work you show is appropriate for the company and area of expertise they’re looking for. If they’re interested in brand design, include pieces that focus on your experience in that area.
Give it some room. To have impact, your work needs to breathe. Don’t cram it in – use white space to your advantage to help each piece pop.
Mount carefully. Black is always good, but colored or textured papers are fine if they don’t distract from the work.
Be selective. Pick 10 to 15 examples of your best work and let them stand out instead of diluting their impact by adding 10 more that are so-so. More is not more. Less is more.
Let it flow. Feng Shui is not just for your living room. Strive for a natural flow of pieces that contrast or complement each other, helping to establish a rhythm to the presentation that keeps the viewer interested and pulls them through the work.
Embrace diversity. Show that you can work across different industries, audiences and communication styles.
Stay current. If your favorite piece is ten years old, don’t show it unless it features truly timeless design and is still as outstanding or unique as it was then. In an industry that’s constantly changing, very few older pieces will meet these criteria. If you must show older work, surround it with pieces that are recent. If it stands out like a sore thumb, that’s your cue to cut it. Samples can be hard to come by, but if you get into the habit of asking for them when you’re working on a project, you’ll probably at least get an electronic version, and it’ll be much easier to keep your portfolio fresh.
Keep it real. Whenever possible, include finished, produced pieces of your work. If they can’t be mounted, organize them in oversized envelopes, clearly labeled, inside your portfolio. If you have a mix of pieces – some mounted and others not – that all represent a particular project or piece of business, stack or otherwise organize them according to how they should flow for the viewer. If this is too cumbersome, or the work is unusual in size or shape, it’s best to arrange related items against a solid background and photograph them instead.
Wrap it up. A durable, waterproof wallet-style folder or case will protect your work and lend a professional finish. Label it with your contact info just in case you want to leave it with the employer for a day or two.
MAKE IT CLICK-PROOF. It’s no surprise that online portfolios are often viewed before printed ones. But it’s also easier to lose viewers when they can connect to someone else’s portfolio with a click.
Here’s how to keep their eyes on your work:
Get on the web. Stuffing your portfolio file into an email won’t do – send a link to a website instead. Upload your samples to a portfolio sharing site or create your own using one of the many user-friendly web design applications available. If this isn’t your thing, get help from a pro – hey, you’re a creative, so swap talents with one of your tech-savvy buds.
Size matters. Make sure the samples are large enough for viewers to see detail, or allow them to zoom in. But keep the file size small. Big files = slow load. If you want to show off some animation, make a DVD or put it somewhere other than on your landing page.
Clean code. If the job you’re applying for has anything to do with HTML and CSS, make sure the site validates and the code is clean. Potential employers will always check to see if you follow the highest standards of coding and adhere to best practices.
Other information. Go ahead and include a brief description of each project, but don’t let it distract from the image.
All about you. Include your contact information and any other vital stats you want to share with the world. But remember, everything here is for public consumption, so keep your own brand in mind before you have a beer and get clever.