circehouse's picture

So, after years of personal/volunteer design work for all sorts of different projects, i've decided to become a full-time designer. I've spent the past 2 months juggling different ideas for portfolios, but can't seem to find my preferred medium. Website, is the obvious first idea, currently that version of the portfolio is almost complete. But I can't help but feel like online portfolios are "selling" people short. There are so many limitations: no one wants to scroll through pages of .pdfs, no matter how crisp or elegant. alternatively, a few snapshots won't do most print projects justice, especially to the prospective client. I also don't want to bother someone with a bulky physical porftolio, especially because I'd only have a certain amount of them (maybe only one for awhile!) and i'd have to keep track of who had it and who gets it next and ugh, what a headache.

So, i've been toying with the idea of making a cd or dvd of my work with two folders: a complete works folder and a summarized works folder both covering the same projects, but the summarized one would be highlight material of course. photo's of the final product, some pdf excerpts, and so on.

anyone have any creative alternatives to the online portfolio they'd like to share? the business aspect of design work hasn't been present in any of my experience, and as i'm slowly signing up on projects i'm trying to use my intial resources wisely.

also: what kind of experience do people have with computer-illiteracy? I live in a very small town, and most active projects are managed by people who don't know the first thing about how to use a computer, let alone design something using it—for these people, i need to make special considerations when planning my portfolio schematic.

henry_fool's picture

Don't over egg your pudding, nobody wants to look at extensive images of somebody else's project, 3 or 4 case studies is fine, just sell the services you are providing. A small simple brochure will be looked at by most people, DVD's take time and if they don't appeal to prospective clients in the first 30 seconds they're in the bin.

Those hicks that can't use a computer are hopefully going to be providing your livelihood, so make sure you speak their language, you need them, they don't need you.

Bon chance mon ami!

elliot100's picture

For ultimate portability I suggest having a handful of individual single page PDFs with one project or type of work on each -- you can then email a tailored selection to the client and they can print or view as they wish. Keep the file size down to avoid email problems.

circehouse's picture

i meant data dvds of course. and i can't imagine constantly emailing people bulky pdf samples. it makes more sense to have the data on a server somewhere, right?

elliot100's picture

Sorry, I think I skimmed your post too quickly and came up with the notion you wanted to avoid having files online...

Chris Keegan's picture

I can't give advice from personal experience (my excuse is that I've been too swamped to do my own portfolio and/or website) but I think you will need a website and a physical "portfolio." Whether it is an actual portfolio, or a brochure, or single pages in a folder. Keep it easy to update and cost-effective. I have taken photos of work against a white background, and also just used the actual digital files. Personally I don't think people will want to bother with a dvd or cd portfolio. That was big 10 years ago. I have also done a .pdf brochure that I can easily e-mail. That seems to work well too. I would also recommend this book: Design Portfolios

aluminum's picture

"So, i’ve been toying with the idea of making a cd or dvd"

IMHO, that's a waste of time. If you're going to make a CD or DVD, just put the stuff up on your web site in the first place.

Sending a CD or DVD requires that the person looking at the mail (Art Director/Senior Designer/HR/etc) will want to go back to their computer, insert the CD, and know what to do. It sounds silly, but for a lot of people, that's just too much to bother with and they'll just go on to the next candidate.

"anyone have any creative alternatives to the online portfolio they’d like to"

More practical than creative: paper. ;o)

Granted, I'm not one to talk, as I haven't updated my portfolio (online or on paper) in years...though I am in the process of doing just that.

In the end, I'm going to have my portfolio online, and then an 8.5 x 11 paper portfolio bound using medical binder clips. Easy to customize and cheap to produce on a color laser printer. Easy to leave behind. Yet still substantial enough that someone might pick it up when they see it on their desk.

umlautthoni's picture

What exactly is a medical binder clip? I did a quick search and came up empty. The reason I ask, I, too am getting my portfolio together and always on the look out for easy, yet clean ways to fasten a portfolio together.

mili's picture

I dunno how it works elsewhere, but I don't have a printed portfolio, rather a folder of actual printed matter I take with me when going to a first meeting with a prospective client. The contents of the folder is adjusted according to the clients needs (i.e. magazines for magazine publishers, logos for people looking for a new logo etc + a few extras). I only leave a calling card (with a newish website mentioned in it) behind. It seems to work just fine here in the nothern parts of Europe. Nobody ever wants to see my CV. I might get asked about agencies and clients I've worked for, but no written recommendations or referencies are needed as such. Mind you, I often get a call from somebody who had me recommended by a former colleague or a client.

If I understand correctly, in the USA one has to build a potfolio to be left behind? How is it in other countries?

Linda Cunningham's picture

What's worked for me in Canada is pretty similar as yours, Mili: depending on the prospective client, I pull things out of the Box of Fame to show my track record doing (what they're looking for), plus some of the things I've won awards or are most recent, or have a nice colour palette.

It appears that "portfolio" is often used to refer to the whole set of items one has to choose from, but I've always thought that one's portfolio would only fit inside a nice case to take to clients. For students, it probably would, I guess, but anyone who has worked seriously for more than a year or two will have way more than that, assuming they've been successful.

aluminum's picture

"What exactly is a medical binder clip? I did a quick search and came up empty. The reason I ask, I, too am getting my portfolio together and always on the look out for easy, yet clean ways to fasten a portfolio together."

You're not the first person to ask me this. ;O)

I've always used that term because they are the same thing used in old medical folders.

Anwyays, I found them at officemax. I guess they're called 'saftey prong fasteners':


They are cheap and give it a nice industrial feel. Plus, they're easy to undo during an interview if pieces need to be passed around.

"If I understand correctly, in the USA one has to build a potfolio to be left behind?"

Oops! Mili corrected me. Sorry, circehouse...I was describing a 'get a job at an employer' type portfolio. You were after what Mili was referring too. In the small firms I've worked at, we did a combo of what Mili does (just bring samples) and 'case study' portfolios in the 8.5x11 format. The main reason for the latter is a lot of our stuff was web based. Plus, it's nice to leave something behind...you usually don't want to leave actual printed samples behind as you end up running out of those. ;o)

My favorite portfolio was when Chank stopped by our offic. He just ran to Target and bought all the candy that was using one of his fonts. It was impressive to see his work plastered all over the products, plus, it made for a really nice leave behind (mmmm...candy...)

circehouse's picture

so the general consensus is that there is absolutely no need for a "complete works" portfolio. I have an online portfolio and the brevity of that can be supplemented by a well-produced pamphlet?

Hmm, i hate pamphlets, but i'll look into it. In my community most advertising is word-of-mouth, so it does make the most sense for me to have an at-a-glance promotional portfolio. I'll just have to make cataloging my complete works a personal project for later.

aluminum's picture

"“complete works” portfolio."

APPROPRIATE works is the key. To get the gig, you want to show work that shows that you can provide the client with what they are asking for. Be it samples, a portfolio, a brochure, or just a sales pitch.

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