Marketing You: Designing Your Personal Portfolio
Spring has become synonymous with the end of a school year for our local design students, and soon, fresh design careers will be sprouting all around us. If you’re a student, you know that spring is a pivotal time for final projects, portfolios, and countless reviews–all in anticipation of landing your first design job. But regardless of whether you’re marketing yourself for the first time or you’d like a change in your career, we can all benefit from a fresh perspective on how to go about it. And, while there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, your portfolio is a key part of the process and a great place to start.
Solve a problem.
We are often asked for feedback on what type of portfolio is best. Is it a book or a set of boards? Does it show photos of work or the actual work itself? Should it be large or small? These are tough questions to answer, because, when it comes down to it, there’s no right or wrong answer. Your portfolio solves a problem unique to you, and you must challenge yourself to think of your portfolio as you would any design problem. Consider the client (you) and the content (your work). Consider the purpose, and your audience. Think through every piece–the structure, the voice, and the feeling you want to evoke when you present it. Overall, a portfolio is more than just a means of showing your work, and there’s no universal “right” solution.
The work that you include in your portfolio should reflect your current goals. What type of position are you looking for? Where do you want to work, and what type of design do you prefer? If you’re entering the design world for the first time, your primary goal is likely built around gaining experience, and you might not be as selective in what you’re looking for as someone who’s been in the industry for a while. Regardless, keep these questions in mind when selecting the content for your portfolio. If you’re looking for your first design job, you will likely find success if you demonstrate your skills as a well-rounded, diverse designer. Select pieces that show your ability with different types of projects, styles, and problems. By planning your ideal portfolio, you can begin to recognize and address gaps or needs before you begin scheduling meetings.
It might seem obvious, but only include work that you’re one hundred percent happy with. Excuses are unacceptable when you have complete control over the work you include in your portfolio. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome of a project, you won’t be able to sell it to your potential employer. Rather than risk making excuses in a review or meeting, take the time now to weed out or rework any pieces that aren’t up to your standards. You’re only as good as the weakest project in your portfolio, so only include your very best!
So, what’s next? Soon, you’ll have a complete and polished portfolio, and you’ll be ready to hit the pavement scheduling meetings and reviews. For tips and insights on presenting your work in front of other design professionals, keep an eye out for our next article in the Marketing You series.