More Tips on Creating a Portfolio and Presenting It

Professionals whose occupation involves creative designs such as artists, photographers, graphic designers, fashion designers and interior designers, should have their personal portfolio.   A good portfolio presents quality not quantity.   As time passes, designers should also update their portfolios, and some pieces should be re-vamped as needed.   A portfolio can determine your employment or lack of, because some companies do not even schedule an interview without first looking at portfolio submissions.   Your portfolio is then, the first impression.   Therefore, as creative professionals, we must learn what makes a good portfolio.

Not only does a designer’s portfolio should speak for itself, but it should also represent the designer’s style in the design of the actual portfolio.   This is also true for the designer’s resume, letterhead, business card, and even the envelope.   If you are unable to create a successful visual identity for yourself, then how could you do so for a client?   This is also true for your entire appearance during an interview, the way you present yourself, and most importantly, the way you present your portfolio.   A prospect client or employer will begin to evaluate you from the moment you first make contact, whether it is in person, by e-mail, by phone, or with a cover letter.

Design Conventions of A Portfolio Presentation

What to consider:

Labels.   Each piece should provide sufficient information about itself.   A title, a description, and the software you used to accomplish the piece.   Reference, if necessary, of elements used in the piece that you did not create yourself.   You do not want to take credit or something you did not do.  However, as a rule, is best to have pieces that you created entirely by yourself, than pieces you created by collaborating with other designers, or pieces that use stock images or illustrations.

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Tailoring and Interchangeability.   As a designer, you will probably go to several interviews before you find your first job.   Having a portfolio that lets you easily change one piece for another is key to tailor each portfolio presentation to the job you are applying for.   For example, if you apply for a company looking for an in-house graphic designer to create all their advertising graphics, you could switch a logo design for an ad.   Or if you are applying for a company that specializes in designing logos for companies, you can add a couple more logo designs and take out some photography editing examples.   If you were applying for a photography job at a studio, more family, children and baby shots as well as headshots would be good.   If you were applying for a job as a stock photographer, photos of objects, landscapes, animals and business subjects would be best.

Various Formats.   You never know what kind of time does your prospect employer devote to looking through countless applications and portfolios.   Why not make it easier for them by providing a link to your website with your portfolio on it, or a CD/DVD presentation.   You could always bring your classic portfolio with you if you happen to get an interview, or leave behind a CD/DVD copy or a business card with a link for them to be able to view your portfolio again at their convenience.

Prepare to Present/Explain.   If you have a great portfolio, but you don’t know how to talk about each piece and explain it, then you might as well have no portfolio at all.   Be prepared and practice to talk about each piece and answer any questions that may come up.

Follow up.   Don’t just drop of your resume and portfolio and expect it to do all the work for you.   Make sure you keep in touch and even if you don’t get the job, show appreciation for the opportunity and make sure you are kept on their records for future reference.

Update.   Technology is always changing and innovations keep coming up.   Maybe 10 years ago you couldn’t add a drop-shadow to your text, but now you can.   Update your portfolio with new pieces and re-vamp the ones you created a long time ago.   Keeping your portfolio fresh can show that you are up-to-date with the newest trends and technology.
The actual design of your portfolio.   Some designers get carried away by “designing” their portfolios.   They add background, animations, bells and whistles, things you really don’t need.   Remember to keep it simple and don’t let the actual design of your portfolio overshadow each piece inside your portfolio.

Work Selection and Sequence:

Quality vs. Quantity.   It is not about how many pieces you have; it is about the quality of each piece.   A portfolio should have between 20 to 40 pieces at the most.   An employer could get lost in all the pieces, and they probably do not even have the time to view them all.   You have to select pieces that are strong.   Don’t select pieces that you are not confident about.

Strong Start/Finish.   Several websites and individuals recommend that your strongest pieces are located at the beginning and at the end of your portfolio.   This way, when a possible employer opens up your portfolio, they are immediately impressed, and when they get to the end, they will remember you.

Location, location, location.   The order in which you “locate” your pieces is crucial.   Each piece should follow the other with some kind of connection, whether it is chronological, by theme or any other connection.   This will make it easier to transition from one piece to another and make it easier for you to be able to talk about them in person and explain the relation.

Websites  to visit:

http://www.howdesign.com/article/PortfolioPresentation/

http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/portfolio-presenting

http://www.designertoday.com/Articles/3940/Portfolio.Making.Your.Best.Presentation.aspx

http://www.youthedesigner.com/2008/06/30/12-steps-to-a-super-graphic-design-portfolio/

http://veen.com/jeff/archives/000935.html

http://layersmagazine.com/the-dos-and-don%E2%80%99ts-of-portfolio-presentation.html

http://biznik.com/articles/ten-or-11-tips-for-presenting-your-portfolio

Tips on Creating an Online Portfolio

A graphic designer or photographer fresh out of college will probably have to attend several interviews before landing a first job.  Interviewing and presenting a portfolio face-to-face can be nerve wrecking and stressful because it is difficult to talk about one’s own work, but if you attend an interview and take your portfolio with you, you can make sure that your portfolio is reviewed by the potential employer.  Having an e-portfolio, on the other hand, does not ensure that potential clients and employers will magically come across your portfolio and hire you.  Advertising and marketing your e-portfolio is a very important task that should not be left aside.  If you want your e-portfolio to land you a great job or a few freelance jobs, then you must advertise and market your e-portfolio. Lets look at some ideas to successfully advertise and market e-portfolios.

Fresh Site

In order to create and keep a site fresh, the design must remain simple, and easy to read and to navigate.  According to Steve Krug (I recommend his book), the first law of web usability, or the ease of using and navigating a website is to not make your audience think (2006).  This means that a well designed website should be obvious, self-evident, and self-explanatory.  This way the readers and viewers of the website don’t have to feel like they are solving a riddle just to check out your portfolio.  Chances are that if the viewer of a website has to make more than three clicks to get where they want to get, they will not continue to view the website and most likely they will move on.  Clogging website with a lot of text, animations and images will make a site look busy instead of fresh.  Therefore instead of adding something to keep the site fresh, the key is to keep it simple, neat and organized.

Interactivity

When visitors enter a website there are several different ways they could interact with the website.  In a good e-portfolio website there should be a good amount of interactivity with the reader.  The e-portfolio should be designed in a way in which the viewer may chose to play a slideshow of all the pieces in the portfolio, and also skip images and go back and re-visit images that caught their attention.  Therefore, a good interactive portfolio would have play buttons, pause buttons, stop buttons, forward and backward buttons, as well as a thumbnail for each piece in the portfolio.  This way the user may navigate the portfolio in any order he or she wishes making the experience of viewing the portfolio almost the same as viewing a traditional printed portfolio.

Standing Out

Usually, people tend to think that in order to stand out one should include as much text, animation and images as possible.  However, this would most likely make a website very difficult to read and navigate through.  A great way to stand out would be to think about three characteristics that describe you as a designer, for example: Straightforward, Reliable, and Inspired.  Then, your e-portfolio and website should attempt to express those characteristics and remain within the same theme of your resume, logo and promotional piece.  For example, since one of the characteristics is straightforward, then the website should not have mystery passageways to get to the point, but all the main points and information should be clearly and legibly displayed.

Attracting Visitors

Once the fresh, interactive and attention-grabbing website is in place, the next step would be to attract traffic to the website.  The first step would be to include your domain name, like http://www.johndoe.com on your e-mail signature, your letterhead, business cards and even your resume. You should also include it both as text and as a link in your promotional materials, like a web banner.  Nowadays, there are a wide variety of free ways to promote your web on the Internet.  You can create a newsletter and advertise your newly launched web to all your contacts and ask for them to forward the information to their contacts.   Just be sure not to spam your friends’ inboxes.   You can create a professional account for your business on many social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google Plus, and MySpace.  You may even create ads that circulate on those social networking sites promoting your business.  When you design websites for other companies you can place your name and website as the web designer of that page at the very bottom, with their permission of course.  In conclusion, there are plenty of ways to advertise one’s website on the web.

Good Examples

Search for other designers or photographers’ portfolios online and see what they are doing.   Lissete Rodriguez’ portfolio retrieved from Dexigner.com (http://www.zetdesigns.com/) stood out from the rest because it was fresh and simple.  She included interactivity on her web portfolio by adding rollover animations and a slideshow of her pieces.  However, even though her web included slideshows and animations, it did not distract the viewer from her work.

Lissete Rodriguez's Online Portfolio

Lissete Rodriguez's Online Portfolio

Joe Nyaggah’s portfolio retrieved from Graphicdesignblog.com (http://danjoedesign.com/) was also very minimalistic and simple in its design, which kept the site fresh. He included some rollover effects for interactivity, however, it was lacking on that function.  Perhaps his portfolio should have been presented in a slideshow manner with buttons for easier navigation.

Joe Nyaggah’s Online Portfolio

Joe Nyaggah’s Online Portfolio

Free Online Web Portfolios

There are some relatively new websites out there that have a designer network and free (for the most part) online portfolios.   These are a great way to start if you don’t really know anything about web design and development, because mostly all you have to do is upload your images and input your information.   So if you use Facebook, you can use these:

http://prosite.com/

http://www.pixpa.com/

http://carbonmade.com/

http://www.behance.net/

http://cargocollective.com/

http://www.squarespace.com/

http://www.thecreativefinder.com/

References

Krug, S. (2006). Don’t make me think! A common sense approach to web usability (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

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