0 Advanced portfolio tips

These are tips from as creative professional who's worked in London for 10 years and t have interviewed over 100 candidates. Here are some thoughts on what makes a portfolio presentation stand out.

Structure your folio into two parts

Prioritize three projects that you feel are especially relevant to the interview – your newest piece of work, something similar to the project you’re being considered for, or a project you’re really proud of.

The point being - you should be able to convey your passion and expertise from just a few examples. It shows you’ve thought seriously about the opportunity and demonstrates a professional courtesy to the people you’re meeting – expect them to have a clear idea of what they’re after, but also understand they’re likely to be short on time.

Structure the second part of your folio to include further examples of your work in a bulleted format that’s easy to browse. Up front explain how you’ve structured your folio and invite you’re interviewer to flick through the second part as they wish.

Categorize and summarize consistently
Have clear breaks between each of your projects. Include title, date, employer etc. Write a brief synopsis for each project following this universally understood template:

Brief: Summarise the brief

Response: What’s the idea behind your work? What did you do and why?

Results: What was the outcome of the project? Was it a success? What’s the current status?

Real masters of this can do each section in 25 words or less. Yes I know it’s hard, but it’s important you try and are able to express yourself in eloquent terms. If you’re finding it hard to write something short, write it out long hand then reread and refine again and again until it all fits on less than one side of A4.

Always include example of work in progress 

Talk through the process you followed and the decisions you made. Show by example how you refined and developed your work to the final piece. This is critical for two reasons: Firstly it demonstrates your intellectual capacity as much as your craft skills. Do not underestimate how attractive this blend is to employers. Secondly it brings a structure to the conversation that everyone benefits from – it makes the meeting easier, and this makes you look good.

Always include examples of your work in its final format
If your work is designed to be seen onscreen then bring a laptop. If you’ve designed a book bring a bound copy etc. This approach adds real authenticity to your presentation.

Don't be afraid to show versions other than the final ‘client approved’ work
It’s a sad truth that your work may sometimes be compromised. Trust your instincts and keep a copy of your preferred version as well as the final client approved result. Creative people are by nature innovators. Sometimes the rest of the world can’t see what we see as quickly as we do. As your career progresses it’s important to be able to look back and include the very best of what you’ve done.

Never forget your future employers are buying into you, not the decisions of others. There is only one caveat to this: If you find yourself in this situation never bullshit. Explain, in a non-bitchy way, why your preferred version was not finally approved by the client.

Do not reinvent the wheel
There are conventions for describing almost all creative activities. Use them or be considered amateurish. For example, if it’s a script format it properly. If it's a storyboard annotate stage directions like a Hollywood pro. If you’ve designed a font show the character-set in full, at different sizes and select a memorable piece of text and set it beautifully. You get the idea. Present your work like a professional. If you don’t know what I’m talking about get on google and do some research.

Leave something good behind

This doesn’t need to be super flashy or mega high budget, but it must capture your identity (if you’re fresh out of college it can actually raise suspicion if your leave behind is gold-plated and laser die cut). A good leave behind will always get passed around the studio. A positive response from the group will play in your favor.

And remember
For an interviewer, meeting a great candidate can be the highlight of the day. Aim to be that high point – you’ll get the job.
About The Author

This blog was created by ELO DESIGNER to share his wealth of knowledge and researches with other designers and design lovers, to give them guidance and inspiration. Comments and suggestions are always appreciated. Thank you. Follow my daily design links on Twitter or Add me on your social network.

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