Saturday, March 27, 2010

sketchatoy podcast (portfolio discussion)

sketchatoy podcast one (1/2) from sketchatoy on Vimeo.

sketchatoy podcast one (2/2) from sketchatoy on Vimeo.

Greatest Business card EVER!
American Psycho
NDA agreement

Also I stand corrected. In the do's section I say that you cannot create a multi-page PDF presentation from Photoshop. Allow me to apologize to you all because you can. Here is a link showing how to do it.

That being said I still endorse InDesing since A. the program is for multi-page documents; and B. exporting a multi-page PDF is much easier, you simple click export, then PDF.

Now for the list you can print!

I have spent the last few days hitting the internet hard as well as asking coworkers of mine what they look for in a portfolio when hiring or things they learned in past job hunts. From this I've compiled a list of do's and don't's for you all that should be extremely helpful. If any of you have some input please leave comments, we need some discussion on this topic.

Portfolio Don'ts

1. Ambiguity with how you present your work
Try too keep your portfolio clear and concise. A confusing layout or misleading flow of information only frustrates the viewer and more often than not they will skip right over that piece of work, or in extreme cases your entire portfolio.

2. Over-cramming your pages
Yes there's lots of information to show for each project but spread it out. If you look at a portfolio spread and you think the page looks heavy, it probably is. Break up the information into smaller bits so that it is easier to digest.

3.Less is more
If you think a project doesn't stand up against the rest, or that you could do better, you're probably right. It's best to show a few great pieces than show mediocre filler projects to have a hearty portfolio. You don't want the interviewer to remember the wrong projects.

4. Random clutterPick up a graphic design book and learn the principles of page layout. Improper use of hierarchy can ruin a portfolio. Keep boarders and vignettes to a minimum and make sure they are secondary to the important stuff, i.e. your work. If you have access to a graphic designer, utilize them! Have them critique your portfolio, it's their job and they will make it so much better.

5. Lack of contact information
Make it easy for the potential employer to get in contact with you. Always answer your phone and make sure your voice mail message is appropriate in case you don't answer. Check your e-mail consistently. Don't have a professional sounding e-mail? Create one. A portfolio should be a branding exercise so "infuse your personality into your design". Try to be more creative than John Smith Design e-mail Here are some examples of clever, successful, and creative, self branding.

Fool Proof Art
N. Design Studio

6. Don't lie!
Everyone is going to stretch the truth in their resume and only show the best of their best work in their portfolio, especially after several failed interview attempts. You'll reach that point where you may say anything to land the job. Bad idea! It's always better to not get a job than to be fired from the job you just received because you lied on your resume or there was plagiarism in your portfolio. Lying will set up unrealistic expectations for the employer and burn bridges.

7.The jack of all trades
Make sure to know your strengths and weaknesses and don't underplay your strengths to show how well rounded you are, this will only expose your weaknesses. Yes, it is important to have a wide variety of skills but a company simply wants to know you are capable of a variety of tasks not a master. Make a portfolio that suites your skills, you want to find the company that is the right fit for you and vice-versa so let them know what you favor.

8. Artsy fartsy fluff
A photograph, self portrait, still life, piece of pottery, etc., you did in high school or college, as amazing as it might be, doesn't necessarily support your design skills. If you do have this work and you want your potential employer to see it create a blog or put it on a website then they can choose to view it if they want. If you are actually a talented illustrator/painter then include your work but make sure it is related and reinforces your design skills.

9.Narcissus branding
This means no business cards or no websites with a giant photo of yourself, no using yourself as the main model or test subject for your own products. Some will choose to create an illustration or representation of themselves, this is fine if done right and it's subtle.

10.Research overload.
For most designers research will be secondary for your job. On that note, make sure the level of research in your portfolio is appropriate to the company you are interviewing with. This is connected closely to #1 and # 5 in the portfolio do's section. I would say that a well rounded portfolio in it's entirety for a non research oriented job would be 10% or less research based.

Portfolio Do's

1. Identify your viewer
You must understand who you are interviewing with. Research the company before you show up and familiarize yourself with their product line; if possible learn the names of the people you will be interviewing with and cater your portfolio towards the company. You may be able to sketch, render, and perform all the tasks listed under their job requirements but that doesn't mean you can design for their field and they probably wont hire you on faith.

2.Start and end on a high note
Push your best work to the front to grab the attention of the viewer from the start and end with a bang. If you have a piece that is not particularly strong either remove it or stick it smack in the center. Your first and last piece have the best chance of being remembered so they should always be the strongest.

3. Copy lengthKeep each paragraph as short as possible. When interviewing they are there to hear you explain the project to them, not to read a novel. "It's well-founded, empirical proof that short copy is more likely to be read in its entirety."

4. Share your work
Give your portfolio to as many people as possible and force them to be brutally honest with you. Better to look bad in front of colleagues than during an interview.

5. Multiple portfolios
This ties back into #1 identifying your viewer. You want multiple portfolios that can be reorganized to conform to a companies needs. You can also bring all the portfolios to each interview so if it goes well and they want to see more work, you can let them know you have another portfolio to show but the work is unrelated. This way it's up to the interviewer whether or not they want to see more work and shows you respect their time.

6. Be professional
You want to be taken seriously so take yourself seriously.

7. Adapt
When interviewing, try to remember all the criticism they may have given you. Remember what they loved about your book and what they forgot/hated and update accordingly.

8. Networking.
Opportunities and jobs are gained through simple networking. Find local IDSA chapters and participate. You'll learn something and possibly make a new network. This isn't limited to industrial design events, go to all design related events; illustration, graphic design, animation, you never know who you'll meet so always have contact information with you. (i.e. business card)

A few online communities to network with other creatives.

Behance Network
Deviant Art

9. Memorable teaser.
This is the most important part of your portfolio because this is what gets the company interested in you from the start. The teaser needs to give a taste of who you are and what you are capable of while not giving away your best work; that should be saved for the interview. Be creative, go online and find some cool examples of teasers to use as inspiration. Remember, your portfolio, letter head, mailer, business card and anything else you create for your job hunt is related so it must all work together. This may be your only chance to grab the attention of a potential employer.

10. Process, process, process.
Show how you got from initial inspiration to final product, present your skills to the viewer, but don't overwhelm or bore them. Create a portfolio with a wonderful layout and process that guides the viewer. Process isn't a cover for quality and quality is not a cover for lack of process, you need to balance the two. A project structure in a portfolio should look something like this.

1. Research: Including competitor analysis, ergonomics, inspiration, etc.
2. Ideation; Thumbnails, sketches, refined sketches, etc.
3. Renderings: Photoshop, Illustrator, marker, something to refine the concept.
4. Sketch models: A physical model to test scale, ergonomics, etc.
5. CAD: 3-D model.
6. Prototype: Final stage before production. Show how the product was refined from the sketch models and how you've taken manufacturing considerations to mind
7 Production model: For students this probably won't exist, but if you're a professional, show the final product that went to market.

CitationsSmashing Magazine
Digital Web
Design Sojourn
Nonlinear Creations


  1. Love this guys are hilarious. Thanks for the great insight.

  2. Right on man. Great to see you over the weekend at the IDSA and thanks for stopping by. Hey let me ask you, was our advice in tune with some of the other professionals you met at the event?