PDA

View Full Version : Building a successful portfolio.




klymr
Mar 16, 2008, 12:58 AM
First off, yes, I do know there is a similar thread on this topic. I didn't feel right hijacking the thing.

So, what does a typical portfolio include? Drawings, photographs, etc. or just designed pieces from design programs? How many pages is typical, etc? Do you have them in a book format, or loose in a portfolio case thing and all mounted. I found an opening here in town as a graphic designer and the place is flexible around students schedules, which would be great! They want to see a résumé and portfolio, both of which need plenty of work on my part if they want to see anything presentable. I hope to be able to put something together from the few classes I've had so far and get an interview at least. I just don't know what to include, etc. Thanks for the help everyone.



digitalnicotine
Mar 16, 2008, 03:57 AM
Congrats on this opportunity, I hope you get it! I personally tend to think less is more. For example, single page resume. I'm an animator, and therefore my portfolio is on DVD, but here is what I'd do. I don't know how much you have to present, but I would focus on showcasing your best works. Think a bit about what you would look for in a prospective designers portfolio if you were the one hiring.

Would you prefer a portfolio that had fewer items, but all of them were excellent, and well presented? Or someone with a huge portfolio that took a lot of time and effort to wade through, and included some not so great stuff along with the great?

I would create a print portfolio, and a DVD or web portfolio, so they can check out your works after you've gone. For the print portfolio, I would use a nice black case, and organize your best stuff into it. Show off your strengths with the software you'll be working with on the potential job, but keep in mind what they are hopefully hiring you for, and focus on your best of those. Use a case that you can update, too. Good luck to you!

shecky
Mar 16, 2008, 10:56 AM
there is a lot of theory on portfolios. some people think it should be one way, some people think it should be done another way, etc... so no matter who answers this thread you will get a lot of opinions, none of which are right and none of which are wrong, either.

having taught a portfolio class, my opinions are as follows:

i think that a portfolio is/should be 2 things: first, it is a selection of your work you have done into a cohesive, navigable collection to show to someone who does not know you. second, it is a narrative story about you told through what you make. therefore, there can be a few kinds of portfolios: a bunch of your work gathered together neatly, and a bunch of your work gathered together neatly and placed inside of some kind of considered, designed "thing" that tells more about you than just your work itself does.

so what does that mean? it means you tend to see a couple of archetypal portfolios out there: the boring and the overdone. the boring portfolios are just some kind of black binder thing with even sized pages of your work in it. neat, orderly, and not particularly unique as a portfolio. you also see ridiculous, over-designed things where designers try to "brand" themselves with weird colors, odd page sizes, logos all over the place, cheeky typography, gimmicky packaging (if i see one more portfolio bound in metal i will kill someone) and a lot of stuff that just takes away from the work itself, which, in an overdone portfolio, is usually somewhat mediocre.

so. what to do.

you should think of a portfolio as a book about you and your work. a monograph. go to the nearest bookstore or library and look at designer's monographs. look at what they do. look at what works. what does not. think about how the books talk about the work inside them.

if you had a client who came to you one day and said "i design pottery. i want to have a monograph made about my pottery collection. i want it to be clear and readable, but memorable. i want it to be reflective of me and why i do the kind of pottery i do." you would then spend a lot of time looking at the person's work, talking to the person, getting a feel for why they do what they do, how they do it, what interests them, what influences them, etc... BEFORE you designed the book.

now imagine YOU are the client. get to work :) note that nothing needs to be overly designed, but nor should it be just a pile of stuff bound together.

so having said all that, at the end of the day if you have an interview next week and just need to get your work viewable, then do so. get a black portfolio binder, print your work out on neatly laid out pages, drop it in and call it a day. but when you get time you should consider the above.

some general things i have noticed:

-the worse the work in the portfolio, the worse a highly-designed portfolio will be.

- only show great to excellent work. DO NOT SHOW BAD WORK even if it means you only have 5 projects in your portfolio.

- show around 8-12 projects for an initial portfolio. if you get a 2nd or 3rd interview, you can show more work.

- do not show a lot of "process" or sketchy things on interview 1. wait for followup interviews for that.

- people always, always, always prefer the real thing to a photograph of the thing. if you did a brochure, bring it in. if you did a poster, bring it in.

- if you do not have the time to really spend designing a portfolio well, do not design it at all.

- engaging, not gimmicky

- descriptive, not mysterious

- clear, not muddled

- fine, top quality hazelnut gelato, not generic vanilla.

- with things like indexhibit (http://www.indexhibit.org) you have no excuse not to have a selection of work online.

Blue Velvet
Mar 16, 2008, 11:21 AM
it is a narrative story about you told through what you make.


True. However, many potential employers, particularly through employment agencies, want a preview first whether online or by PDF. So it's a potential problem for those whose work needs a presentation of some sort to describe the work, its process and circumstances. Depending on the position you're applying for, the context of the work can be as important as the end result itself, whether they're financial or time constraints.

When I see a beautiful illustration or piece of work, my first thought is: How long did that take and under what circumstances was it produced?



people always, always, always prefer the real thing to a photograph of the thing. if you did a brochure, bring it in. if you did a poster, bring it in.


Books, display and POS work; all exceptions to this rule in my opinion. Personally, if I was to bring in all my portfolio pieces into an interview, it would weigh the best part of 100lbs and I'd need a shopping trolley. ;)

shecky
Mar 16, 2008, 11:29 AM
Books, display and POS work; all exceptions to this rule in my opinion.

obviously not large signage, etc.. but books? absolutely. if you design books you should have them with you on an interview. i know a number of book designers who go to and from interviews with a rolling briefcase/bag thing stuffed with books they have done.

klymr
Mar 16, 2008, 11:35 AM
Well, I don't have a lot of stuff to put into a portfolio. I'm only in my second class for graphic design right now, and the teacher has all my projects. I can obviously reprint them.

This is what the ad says for this place that is hiring:

• Looking for honest, self motivated creative designer with great work ethic. Experience with photoshop,corelDRAW, and/or Adobe Illustrator. Design t-shirts, advertisements, and flyers. Some office work included.

I would certainly say I am honest, self motivated, etc. Afterall, I sit in a corner by myself at work and design jewelry in a CAD program all day. The pay is terrible, and it's not something I want to continue doing. I don't like how confined it is. I don't think I have enough "great to excellent" pieces to put together a decent portfolio. I would really like this job, but don't know if I have enough samples of what I can do to show these guys. I just don't know what to do here.

Blue Velvet
Mar 16, 2008, 11:38 AM
if you design books you should have them with you on an interview. i know a number of book designers who go to and from interviews with a rolling briefcase/bag thing stuffed with books they have done.


I know a number who don't. The volumes are just too large to get around London with, especially as a woman, but that's more to do with the nature of this city and transportation. Anyway, wasn't picking holes, just giving some reasons for not bringing samples of work; I thought your post was very good. :)

2Sticky
Mar 17, 2008, 09:44 AM
Theres really no point in taking every little thing you have produced, if your going to take samples then you take you best work.

Same applies to your portfolio, display your best work, if you not happy with it, redo it, or take it out. I tend to go with my most impressive work at the start and end of my portfolio.

Z.Beeblebrox
Mar 17, 2008, 01:41 PM
Here's what I used to land jobs in NYC:

1. Don't go big and mounted. My college professor said it was crucial and it was totally foolish in NYC. Mounted is so old school. You need light and ultra portable. 8-12 pieces is perfect.

2. Make three versions. One as a website, one on a CD and one printed. Employers will generally ask for all three, in this order, so they can screen you before giving interviews.

3. Customize the portfolio around the job you're seeking. I have many different types of media in my portfolio but I swap them out depending on who I'm showing it to. Combine as many different projects as you can to give them a real range of what you're capable of. Put in one project that doesn't necessarily fit into their needs, cuz you never know when they might grow into needing something like that down the road.

4. Don't brand yourself. Unless you are running a successful freelance studio under an existing name, don't do it. Every designer fresh out of college wants to "brand" their name as if it were a company. It's not and it looks silly. Save it for the real work.

5. Make a print portfolio if you plan to work in print. Employers will want to see that you are capable of successfully producing your design, from concept all the way through production. This doesn't mean you have to show the steps, you should avoid putting mock-ups or mechanicals in, if possible. But you need to prove you can actually take your designs from computer to real printed product.

6. Package it cleanly, simply and professionally. I use an aluminum clamshell case with a handle. It fits all my work, it lays flat (very important), closes completely so I can slip in books and loose pieces, is super light weight, is small enough to not encumber me on the subway or crowded streets and looks sexy without being over the top. It was a bit pricey, but it also doubles as excellent archival-quality storage for my work.

http://www.pinazangaro.com/portfoliobooks_camden_bp.html

Hankster
Mar 17, 2008, 02:48 PM
http://www.pinazangaro.com/portfoliobooks_camden_bp.html

Pinazangaro = Some of the best cases around.

Sweetfeld28
Mar 17, 2008, 09:22 PM
I don't know about that...

Lost Luggage dot com (http://www.lost-luggage.com/store/welcome.php)

walterm79
Mar 17, 2008, 10:43 PM
Here's what I used to land jobs in NYC:

1. Don't go big and mounted. My college professor said it was crucial and it was totally foolish in NYC. Mounted is so old school. You need light and ultra portable. 8-12 pieces is perfect.

2. Make three versions. One as a website, one on a CD and one printed. Employers will generally ask for all three, in this order, so they can screen you before giving interviews.



I'll agree with all but the top two. Although I'll concede, the furniture market in West Michigan is probably extremely different than the market in NYC. Here, mounted boards are still the expected norm. It's been two years though, so maybe it's changed. Either way, I'd certainly welcome it. Herman Miller / Steelcase are rooted in the past for sure.

I've never been asked for a website, or CD, but I do have both. Go figure. Again, I'm probably in the minority at this point. Michigan's economy isn't fairing well at all, especially for design / marketing - they always seem to be the first to get cut.

grimmace
Mar 18, 2008, 08:49 AM
Since I have a lot of print, I end up pulling everything out from my book itself anyway. I let the client look at the material itself rather than the book as a whole. Just make sure that what you have in your book, reflects a lot for the industry that your applying for. Be prepared to discuss each item in full and what your responsibility was for the project. I also have a laptop to show my web stuff and animations etc. I just make sure its straight forward and to the point. Allow them to look at the actual material with no extra design spent on presentation. It is what it is and most of the time, they are only interested in the materials that reflect the type of projects their company does anyway. It is after all, a job to make money for them, rather than you. Just show you can do it.

Z.Beeblebrox
Mar 18, 2008, 12:29 PM
I don't know about that...
Lost Luggage (http://www.lost-luggage.com/store/welcome.php)

My husband has one for his photography portfolio. Also very sexy.

ktbubster
Mar 21, 2008, 04:36 AM
side note : z. beeblebrox, you have the best forum name ever. DNA was the greatest author ever :)