Tips for a successful portfolio
The portfolio review section of a job interview is when most hiring decisions or confirmations are made. Interviewers seek people that can help their firm make money: innovative minds and well executed work that represents creative solutions and clear communication. Your portfolio should tell a story, convey a positive image about you and your talent, and allow you to control the presentation.
It is important that you present a clean professional appearance, communicate clearly, and show the
best and most impressive samples of your work in a consistent and impressive format. Your presentation should show that you can work in a variety of media solving a variety of design and illustration problems in a variety of styles and solutions.
Select a portfolio case that will complement your work and present it professionally and effectively. There are three styles: open book, bound acetate pages, and created binding. Be prepared to spend $50-100. Review your work and fine tune each piece: redo, color the edges, mount or remat, etc.
Number of pieces in a portfolio
No two sources will ever agree on the number of pieces that one should have in a portfolio. Many references cite between 8 and 12 or 15. Here's the deal - you should have enough to impress an interviewer that you are talented and capable. You need to show some variety in your work (see list below) so that means probably 6-9 pieces. You also need enough to show that you haven't been slacking in school. More than 12 or 15 may likely bore the interviewer and if you are not able to impress them with 14, another piece won't help.
The bottom line: every piece you show should be impressive. That's the main criteria (more criteria below). If you only have 7 impressive pieces, don't add the 8th piece just so you have 8 pieces. That 8th piece, if not impressive, may speak poorly of your work.
A suggested list of possibilities:
___5-8 logos/identities, corporate identities, brands
___Stationery package: letterhead, envelope, business card
___Multi-page piece: newsletter, brochure, magazine spread
___Package design: label, object, case, box
___Website home page, format
___Advertisement: newspaper, magazine, outdoor
___Campaign: multi-media, variety of pieces
• Select your 2 best pieces - show one first and the other last. Its true that its important to make a good first impression and a good last impression. The rest of the pieces should bridge those two with a smooth transition and segue.
• Group like pieces together. Example: if you start with a logo identity, continue with branding, then transition to multi-page print pieces, then to advertising.
• The contents of your book should be well-rounded - print & web, logos and multi-page pieces,Mac precise and hand-rendered (illustration or drawing), 2D & 3D (packaging).
• Consistent presentation: all the boards or pages should be the same size. If you use labels, captions, or explanations - those should be consistent and located in the same relative position on each board.
• Well crafted: edges taped (if not black board)
• Flawless printouts: no bent corners, trimmed straight and neat.
• Include at least one Process Book of notes, research, thumbnails, roughs, and output.
Types of portfolios
• Book with acetate-covered black pages. These you flip through page by page.
• Carrying case. These hold a stack of boards that you remove and place in front of the interviewer (put the case aside during the interview).
• Custom portfolio. These can be boxes of wood or metal, with unique hinges, handles, etc.
Use this list of portfolio evaluation criteria and personal qualities and skills to conduct your own career potential evaluation.
Individual pieces of work
Originality, cleverness, and innovation. Strength and quality of unique theme, strategy, or idea.
Appropriate selection of media and use of typography, color, value, illustration, and photography. Order and flow of layout composition.
Quality of inked lines and curves. Neatness of mounting and gluing. Solid reproduction of color and type. Skill of rendering, illustration, and photograph development. Intelligent use of the Mac.
Conservation of materials, paper selections, inks, and effects.
Neat and appropriate appearance, mannerisms, and dress.
Talking about the work
Articulate and correct use of design vernacular. Rehearsed smooth delivery. Brief but thorough explanations. Well thought-out rationale. Positive attitude of confidence and enthusiasm.
Neat arrangement. Sequential order. Clean case. Efficient delivery.
Presenting your portfolio
By Steff Geissbuhler, Principal, Chermayeff & Geismar
Send a letter and a well-designed resume in advance. Your resume is a typographic design problem, displaying vital information about who you are, where you've been and what you've done, in an organized and structured fashion. Follow up with a phone call and make an appointment. Call the day before to confirm that you still have an interview, who to see and when.
Brush up on the firm's work. It helps to know something about the studio and what they do and have done before you can expect them to be interested in your work.
What is a portfolio?
A portable proof of your design education and a document of your work. A display of exercises, talent, thinking and solutions to visual communication problems. The physical form of the portfolio is completely up to you. It should, however, not be too precious or complicated. Nor should it require delivery by freight elevator. It is a communication tool, not a self-centered reflection of your personality.
A portfolio is a design problem. It contains an assortment of given visual and verbal material. As with all publications, what you put next to one element either plays up that individual piece or fights it for attention. An interesting layout of spreads and pages, color, form and/or thematic relationships, dramatic scale changes, humor, elements of surprise, details and whole pieces, sequencing and rhythm, are all tools to entertain the eye. It is a show piece in the best sense, and I haven't even talked about the individual work itself.
A well-structured portfolio has a beginning, a middle and an end. It should be a well-designed book that shows off your work in the best possible light. Samples should be clean and removable. The sequence doesn't have to be chronological, but I wouldn't put early school work at the end. Don't forget that the final image leaves a more lasting impression than the first.
Show your sketches separately. This will assist those of us who think of your sketching process as one of the most important and telling parts of your presentation.
It helps to label your work with very short descriptions, in case you have to drop off your portfolio and don't have a chance to narrate in person. Keep in mind that a first portfolio review gives me only a first impression of you and your work. If I'm interested, you will be called back and you and your work will be scrutinized in more detail.
Please forgive me for not reading your books, thesis project, poetry or research papers. I'm getting an overall impression and can usually judge from what I'm looking at. If it doesn't communicate visually, you probably chose the wrong profession.
CDs and web sites
Your digital portfolio should be designed just like the regular portfolio with the same attributes described above. It should be easy to open, navigate and review. I have quite a collection of portfolio CDs which are now coasters, because they couldn't be opened. Whatever you do, don't make us work at it. Make it easy to get to your information.
Don't think for a minute that I pay more attention to your e-mail than to a letter or phone call. It is much easier to ignore or delete your e-mail than it is to print it out and keep it on record.
Present in person
I prefer, whenever possible, to see you in person, because it's not the work I'm buying - its you. I want to hear and see you present your work. Your intelligence, enthusiasm, energy, and passion are more important to me than your portfolio. Besides, I'm always a little suspicious of the involvement and influence in your work by faculty and fellow students.
If I'm criticizing your work, it is always meant to be constructive. It also shows me whether you can take criticism. This is an important factor in evaluating your potential to learn. Actually, my criticism is often directed at the faculty who taught you.
Dress presentably. Speak up and narrate your work. Don't just sit there and wait for questions or comments. Be self critical. It is one of the most useful traits to be able to evaluate your own work in as an objective way as humanly possible. Tell me what you think is good and what is not so good. I want to know whether you know the difference.
Most of all I want to see and hear that you love and live this profession with a passion.