Five ways to pimp your portfolio

Want to know what we’re looking for in a portfolio, or prospective designer? Leisha Muraki from Sex Druges & Helvetica pretty much sums up some the main points, & shares with us some great comments on presenting your mad skills as a designer.

Setting up your portfolio can be an incredibly daunting task, and it seems that everything rides on your folio being what it should be. 10 pages or 20, most recent work or older work? How do you choose? The team players below offer some unique and insightful info on what managers and design firms are looking for in your folio, and will hopefully give you a bit of a helping hand when it comes to prioritising items for your folio development.

“Show me how you think” – Leisha Muraki, Sex, Drugs & Helvetica
I’ve seen many portfolios and, to be honest, most of the work is impeccable. This makes it difficult to narrow it down, but I always earmark the ones that show process. With so many talented young graduates, it’s not enough to show a pretty picture. You need to show me how you think. Of the projects shown in your portfolio, my suggestion is to choose one and show its process from start to finish. Show me your research, drafts and conceptual development. Bonus points if there’s a competitor analysis or competitive audit. Show me how a brand works within the world of competitors and how your solution creates more awareness. If you’ve made it to an interview, chances are they’ve liked the look of your work – now it’s time to show them the choices and strategies you made to create it.

“Lie to me” – Simon Hipgrave, The Hungry Workshop
If you have your design work etched into a shop front window, it tells a potential employer that you not only create work that looks good on paper, but work that looks great in execution. It communicates that you’ve seen a project across the line and have dealt with all of the things that the professional design practice entails: drafts, revisions, production methods and wrangling a client. Work that is presented ‘flat’ still has a long way to go. It really doesn’t compare. However, if you’re a recent graduate you’ll be lucky if you’ve got one or two projects that have been produced in the real world – so you’ll need to lie. Make mockups, get out your camera, tune your Photoshop skills and show how your work would look if you had your way with it.

“Make yourself relevant” – Drew Coughlan, SouthSouthWest
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all folio. Your folio should be able to be packaged and re-packed to reflect the studio you are applying to. Research the studio(s) and ask yourself: “Do they specialise in a particular field of design?”, “Is there a guiding methodology which underpins their work?”, or even something as simple as, “Who do I address my folio to?”. Questions like these (and many more) need to be asked so you can adapt your folio and make it as relevant as possible. It will not only inform you about what to show in your folio, it may also help you to stand out from the crowd that little bit more.

“Don’t forget the interview” – Carlo Mussett, Studio Brave
One of the hardest things to do as designer is to be your own client, critique your own work and, ultimately, produce your folio. Although this may seem like a mammoth task, it is not the only thing you need to land you that dream job. While a stunning folio is paramount, there is one thing that is often overlooked – the interview. The folio gets you the interview but the interview gets you the job. A studio knows your work is great – that’s why they asked you in for an interview. They want to know more about you, your work, your motivation and who you are as a person. A design studio is a team, so personality plays a key role when employing a suitable new designer. Don’t be nervous – they are just like you and have applied for jobs too. Just be yourself, be polite, calm, respectful and, above all, be someone they wouldn’t mind sitting next to everyday.

“Show me the ‘Why’ of it” – Luis Coderque, Cato Brand Partners
One day I was looking through a cookbook trying to find a recipe when I saw one called Tarte Tatin. Seduced by the name, I checked the picture. It didn’t look very mouthwatering. I asked myself about the relationship between that name and the image. You would never guess why it looks the way it looks. Even the name won’t give you any clues. So there was something missing for me – something that would tie the name to the product. Why did a cake that doesn’t look as appealing as the rest have a double-spread? Well, you only close that circle once you know that, in 1889, Stéphanie Tatin baked a caramelised apple tart upside-down by mistake, and it then became the signature dish for her hotel in France. Once I knew that little piece of information, it all made sense to me. I was able to create that bridge between the elements. The aesthetic was not relevant anymore. Suddenly I was paying more attention to the composition, the process, looking in detail at each of the ingredients. I was looking forward to baking it. Thanks to the “why”, my point of view changed completely and the ugly tart was not ugly anymore. Remember to get your “whys” in your folios. That way your tarts will look more special.

image courtesy of Magdalena Ksiezak

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