Image scanned from some really old reference material I inherited from my grandfather. Source unknown. Circa the 1930s or 40s.

Image scanned from some really old reference material I inherited from my grandfather. Source unknown. Circa the 1930s or 40s.


This is part two of a multi-part post. Part one can be found here.


So now you’ve graduated, now what to do about your portfolio?

Unless you were fortunate enough to do a great deal of freelancing during your education, your portfolio will be full of mostly student work, and it will show. There is just no substitute for real work for real clients. But not all is lost.

Hopefully, your class had a course on portfolio development. I know mine did. But as someone who has been in the industry for a while, there are a few things you should be doing.

A Little Rough Around the Edges

One thing that helps out a student’s portfolio is concept roughs and thumbnails. Showing your thumbnails and early sketches for projects can help show prospective Creative Directors and Art Directors how you work and think.

The Cold Hard Facts

Online portfolios are great. They can be updated quickly and people from all over the world can see your work when they want. And I think there’s a lot of untapped potential for tablets in portfolio presentation, but you should still be investing some money and time into a physical, hardcopy portfolio. It may be harder to keep up to date, but the batteries will never run out right before an important meeting.

It also seems that quite a few publications still like to get work from hopeful illustrators via physical copies. Though depending on the type of publication work you might be interested in, your mileage may vary.

And never underestimate the computer impaired. They are still around and pop up in the most unexpected places.

Your Work Does Not Speak for Itself

This has to be the biggest mistake I’ve seen on online portfolios: no context.

Lots of pretty pictures of logos, signs, packaging, websites and apps. But nothing about why and how the design came about. It would be nice to know details about the project. Stuff in your portfolio should be projects you are passionate about. So write about it. Even just some basic statements about the goals and objectives for each project and how your designs meet those goals and objective will go a long way to flesh out a portfolio and gain the attention of prospects.

The same goes for old-school physical portfolios. Some brief, written text that goes with each image can help a lot. Especially if you aren’t there to give a presentation of your work.


Next week: Some thoughts on mid-career portfolios.

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