The 4 Types Of Designer’s Portfolio
Your portfolio is your calling card, your CV and your OK Cupid profile all rolled into one. It needs to show your skills, your range, your experience and, at its best, your personality. Your portfolio should show you to be brilliant, adaptable, and above all, unique. You’re a one in a million talent that any client would be lucky to hire, not some broad type that can be easily placed into a pre-selected box!
Here are some pre-selected boxes your portfolio probably falls into.
If this is your first attempt at putting together your portfolio it probably looks a bit like this, bulging at the seams and leaving a slug trial of dropped scraps of paper everywhere it’s carried. All your A-level coursework is in here, hell, all your GCSE coursework is in here. That poster your mum asked you to make for her car boot sales? That’s in here.
It’s possible that you’re a fantastic graphic designer, but nobody is having going to know that from this Aladdin’s cave of old sketches and half-finished projects. You need to think of your portfolio as less like the attic where you stick all your old things, and more like a carefully curated museum exhibit taking visitors through the life, times and career highlights of you. Carefully select a few of your best pieces, covering as wide a range as possible, and use them to tell your story.
The Déjà Vu
This is much better, only a few selected pieces covering a variety of different projects, showing your experience and what you’ve been up to. Only everywhere I look I keep getting the same weird feeling of déjà vu. For instance, if I see a movie poster design it features your main character or villain standing in front of a ruined cityscape under a grey, possibly rainy sky. You know, like Inception, the Dark Knight, Star Trek into Darkness and this production of Macbeth. Or it will feature giant floating heads and rely heavily on an orange and blue colour scheme.
What I’m saying is, your portfolio doesn’t take many creative risks. What I’m saying is it’s maybe a bit unoriginal. What I’m saying is you look like a big stealy stealing theft thief without much in the way of an actual imagination.
Try experimenting a bit more, taking a few risks, and trying out some new ideas. There are people who will hire you because you can mimic other’s well, but that’s not where you’ll find the good jobs.
Now here’s a portfolio that has its own style! It’s important for a portfolio to have a voice, for the graphic designers personality to show through in their work, and this portfolio definitely manages that!
And then I go onto the second piece in the folder and, huh, it’s a lot like the first piece. It’s good, really, it is. And this third piece that looks an awful lot like the first two is also good. Hmm. You really like the Bleeding Cowboy font, don’t you?
Yeah, having your own style is important. But your style should encompass a lot of different looks and techniques. If you just do one thing really well, then that’s great, but it kind of narrows the options for your prospective clients. You want each piece in your profile to show a different facet of your skills and ideas.
Finally, here’s a portfolio that really ticks all the boxes. A few carefully selected pieces? Check. Original ideas? Check. Shows your own style while showing you have range? Check. This is great. No, here the problem is slightly different. This is all work that was clearly done on your own time, showing you experimenting with different ideas, having fun, and generally showing off the best of your skills. Which is great, and a portfolio should always include a couple of pieces like this.
But looking through your portfolio I can’t really find anything that looks like, well, work. The client wants to hire a graphic design genius, someone with grand ideas and an epic vision. But they also want to hire somebody who is going to listen to their input and deliver work that matches the brief they were given.
If you can demonstrate your ability to give clients what they’re after while still being a creative genius, then you’re going to be fighting off the offers for work!
Sam Wright is a freelance writer who works with Brand Republic – Graphic Design Jobs in London