How to give yours that extra sparkle

Spring clean your portfolio

Here at The Creative Movement we spend a lot of time reviewing fabulous portfolios – after all, as specialist recruiters to the design, digital and creative communications industries, it’s part and parcel of our daily routine. As you can imagine we see plenty of them but one of the main questions we’re asked is “is there anything I can do to improve it?”  So we’ve had a big think about the things we like/don’t like and also compiled feedback from our clients to share with you.

So, with that said – here are a few ideas that could help enhance your work and give your portfolio that bit of extra sparkle should you feel you need it.

First impressions
One thing to remember is that first impressions do count so walking in to your interview with a tatty old folio case that’s bursting at the seams and work spilling everywhere – might not be the slickest entrance you’ve made.

I’m not a big fan of the standard, black zip-up cases either. You know the ones –horrible, smelly plastic sleeves that crinkle up and never stay put? And if I’m honest – they’re just not very original!

One may argue that the work inside is more important than what’s on the outside (and I agree) but by making an extra effort to think about the way you put your work together and present it, can only help demonstrate your great attention to detail and consideration.

Be unique
If sticking to the printed option, designing and making your own book means you will have something totally unique. It also gives the opportunity to show off your design skills on the outside of your portfolio as well as the inside. Just make sure the finish is spot on and the design doesn’t dominate your work inside.

Once a candidate presented me with a beautiful book that she’d made from two pieces of card, which she’d carefully covered in a stunning oriental print and tied together with a black ribbon. The pages were held in place with rivets (which also gave her the option to update them when she needed to). It might not be to everyone’s taste – after all – we know how subjective design can be – but what impressed me most was the beautiful finish and attention to detail. I almost felt as if I needed to wear a pair of white cotton gloves to handle it – but what’s important is that it made me feel that she cared about the finished product.

Tell us a story
I sometimes feel a bit let down if I’m launched straight in to the design work without knowing what makes the person tick first. Your portfolio should tell a story so by including an intro page gives you an opportunity to tell the interviewer a little more about you – why you love what you do and what inspires you.

Some people can feel a little embarrassed at interview about be openly passionate about their work so this is the perfect opportunity for you to make a statement.

An intro page is especially useful if you’re going down the digital route, as the can effectively becomes your unique cover before you launch in to your designs.

Using annotations throughout your portfolio are a great way to help you if you suddenly have a memory block or run out of things to say as you can use them as a prompt. You don’t need to put loads of information – but you could include design objectives, challenges, outcomes and also your involvement if you worked as a team or in collaboration with other designers.

Get branded
We’ve seen a lot of designers who create a brand or identity for themselves, usually in the form of a simple graphic or by typesetting their name or initials in a really cool font.  If you decide to go use this approach, consider how you use it so that it doesn’t fight with your work.

Keep it fresh
It’s essential to update your portfolio on a regular basis and not just keep adding to it.  Anything older than 3-years shouldn’t really be included as it can start to look very dated.

Candidates often ask how many pieces they should include and there’s no set rule but around 15-20 pieces for printed and 20-25 for digital should be sufficient – too little and you might find you are though it in a blink, too much and you’ll be rushing to the finish line and won’t have time to present your work properly.

Be selective on what you include: The client will want to see the breadth of your skills but they need to be relevant to the job you are applying for. Designers who have very broad skills can fall in to the trap of including work covering every design discipline, which can sometimes be to their detriment. On several occasions clients have said that a candidate wasn’t successful, as their work was consideredtoo broad.

Work in progress
Working drawings or sketches – we love ‘em and more importantly – so do our clients. Even if you’re not the best at freehand drawing, it’s important to see the thought process, your ideas and development sketches behind the final piece of design.

Love it  – Share it!
If you don’t love it – don’t include it. There’s nothing worse than trying to present a piece of work that you aren’t passionate about, or at least enjoyed working on. It’ll stick out like a sore thumb! We call it the this is just syndrome – which is what we tend to say if they aren’t keen on something we did – almost as if offering an apology.

There’s nothing better than hearing the passion and energy in someone’s voice when they present – what ever it may be, it’s evident they love it and are proud of it.

Last but not least – if you do love it then make sure you share it on you social media, BehanceFlickrDribble et al.

We’d love to hear your opinions – what you think works for you, and what doesn’t so please leave us your comments.

  • David Hunter

    Can you recommend any books or websites that will give guidance about organising albums of work and incorporating into a website. I’ve made a collection of photographs on various themes, some more successful than others to be honest, but what is the easiest way way (technically) to sort these into themed portfolios using WordPress? This may sound a naive question but I am not very savvy technically.