Designer Profiles and Portfolios Tips

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Why do I need a portfolio?

Why You Need A Portfolio

Whether you're a Chicago graphic designer or one in a smaller town, one thing is certain; you'll need to have a portfolio. Portfolios are sort of an "extended resume" for design professionals that highlight examples of their best work for potential employers or clients to see. This way the people reviewing your portfolio can see what your style is like and you have a chance to show off your strengths as a designer.

Everyone in the field should try to develop a good portfolio of work, as it is an expectation that you will have one available for people to see. Graphic designers may have an on-line portfolio if they specialize in Web design, or a hard-copy book with a variety of samples. The way you set your portfolio up will depend on the work you are looking for and what your specialties are.

Taking the time to set up a good portfolio is a worthwhile investment. Once you have one, review it periodically and update it with newer work. That way you will stay current with the trends and come across as a savvy, knowledgeable designer instead of one who is dated and old-fashioned.

   
Where should I look for feedback on my portfolio?

Getting Feedback on Your Portfolio

It doesn't matter whether you're one of the top New York designers or are just getting started in your new career, there are some things that always will remain the same. For example, successful designers know that they have to keep their portfolios updated and fresh, and this means getting some feedback on what to include from time to time.

Feedback can come in many forms, such as:

  • Professional feedback. This is extremely valuable and can help keep you up-to-date on the latest trends in terms of showcasing your work. Portfolio reviews and coworker feedback provide solid insight on your work from those who have their fingers on the pulse of what's happening in the field.
  • Client feedback. Pay special attention to any feedback you receive from clients (or potential clients), as these are the people who will be hiring you—or who are already paying you.
  • Talent agencies. Talent agencies can help you select some of your best work to highlight and give you some direction on what to include in your portfolio.
  • Personal contacts. Although these are not "pro" opinions, sometimes you might be able to fine-tune a detail or two based on feedback from friends or family. Use this type of feedback carefully, though—if they aren't professionals, don't weigh it too heavily.

   
What are some tips for dropping off or mailing a portfolio?

Dropping Off Your Portfolio

Once you have a freelance designer portfolio, it is time to shop your work around. Sooner or later you'll probably be asked to either mail or drop off your portfolio so that it can be reviewed. There are some things to know about this process, and attending to these details will help you come across as a professional.

First of all, don't use original pieces for a portfolio that is being mailed or left at a company. Instead, use high-quality scans or photocopies of your work and make sure they are labeled. If you will be mailing it, make sure you package the portfolio well, and include a business card and cover letter. If you are dropping it off, make sure that you have someone from the company sign it in so that there is a record of it being delivered. You will be given instructions as to how to pick it up again.

Sometimes you will receive a request for an interview after your portfolio has been reviewed. Other times you may wind up with some notes on your work that you can use to improve your portfolio. It depends on whether or not the company is interested in hiring you after looking at your work.

   
Should I hire a writer to create my profile?

Writing Your Profile

If you're trying to land one of the coveted Chicago or New York design jobs, you'll need a strong portfolio and a sharply written profile to get your foot in the door. If you're not a writer by trade, you may want to consider hiring one to create your profile for you.

If you decide to go this route, you'll need to provide the writer with the tools to get the job done. This means giving them all of your information. Start by providing a resume, samples of your work, and other details to help them get the "big picture." Then take the time to sit down with the writer and talk a bit about your life, your design philosophy, and your career highlights.

Before hiring a writer to do this type of work, you may also want to ask them a few questions, such as:

  • Have you done profiles before?
  • How long have you been writing?
  • Do I get more than one draft of the profile for the fee you charge?
  • What do you know about the design industry?

   
What are some tips for surviving a portfolio review?

The Portfolio Review

Portfolio reviews can be stressful. Sitting in a room with a potential employer and discussing your work can make anyone nervous--even someone with an amazing graphic designer portfolio. There are some things that you can do to make the experience less nerve-wracking:

  • Practice. Sit down with your book and talk to a range of different people about your work. The more you practice, the better you'll get.
  • Make sure the work that you are showing is the absolute best you have. It will boost your confidence.
  • Work on handling the portfolio while you are speaking and explaining your designs. Coordinating all of that can be a challenge and you won't want to try it out for the first time during an interview.
  • Make sure to check your portfolio out a week or so prior to the interview. If there is something amiss, you'll have time to fix it before you go. Finding out last-minute would be a difficult situation to remedy.
If you run through these things and get yourself ready to go, the portfolio review should be a snap.

   
Why should I consider having an online portfolio?

Online Portfolios

It doesn't matter if you're looking for a position at a Chicago graphic design company or hoping to start your own freelance business, you always need to have a good portfolio. In this digital age, many people are turning to the web to showcase their work, and this can be a great alternative to a traditional portfolio.

Many sites on the web offer this type of service, so a simple search can provide a good starting point. In addition, certain talent agencies may offer a bit of their own web space to help you highlight some of your best work for potential clients. Take a look around and see what's available before you settle on a website, but give it some serious consideration as an addition to your regular portfolio.

Savvy designers will understand the need to have both a physical portfolio and an online presence. It just makes sense, since you can't be sure what the client may prefer. If you have all the bases covered, you'll be able to show your best work to someone no matter where they're located.

   
What are some tips for creating a professional Website?

Tips For A Professional Website

Whether you were raised on New York graphic design concepts or have always gone off in your own direction, showcasing your portfolio is something that requires some serious attention. If you are planning on doing yours on the Web, there are some things you should think about ahead of time.

If you already have extensive Web experience, you will already know most of these tips, but if you specialize in print, or aren't very Web savvy, you'll want to take the following into consideration:

  • Make sure your name and contact information are easily visible and are written in a clear font.
  • Don't make the site overly complicated. You'll want it to be simple to navigate and attractive to the eye.
  • While it's fine to use some of your own style, try not to be too bold with your design.
  • A short bio is nice to include, but keep it relevant.
  • When selecting your images, make sure you have them at a size that won't load too slowly. At the same time, make sure that the quality is good enough to showcase your abilities. It may take a little bit of experimenting to get the mix just right.
  • A resume page is a great addition.
  • Don't put too much on the site. Choose your best work and try to narrow it down to somewhere around 10 to 14 pieces. You can always change them out periodically if you just can't decide.
These simple tips will help you create a Website that is clean, informative and attractive. You can also talk with your Web designer and see if they have any additional suggestions.

   
What are the main things to consider in a portfolio for an intermediate or advanced Web designer?

Web Design Portfolios: Intermediate And Advanced

Web designer portfolios are fairly easy to come up with when you are first starting out. As you move up in the field it can be a bit more challenging to select the Websites that best represent the full range of your abilities, but that's exactly what will help insure that you are considered seriously for jobs in the field.

Showing what you are capable of is the ultimate goal of a portfolio. Since you can never know ahead of time what people may be looking for, it is a good idea to include a wide range of work. For example, if you have created a Website that has a forum section and one that has a great flash opening sequence, you'll want to include both so that people are aware of what you can do.

What happens if you have a Website that showcases a particular skill, but you don't want to include it in your portfolio for one reason or another? Whatever doesn't fit in with other work can be outlined on paper--either in a profile or on a resume.

   
What is the best way to get started on developing a freelance designer portfolio?

Developing A Freelance Portfolio

If you are trying to figure out how to set up your own freelance designer profile and portfolio, one of the best things you can do is look around. Browse the Websites of other designers and take a close look at how they are set up--as well as what they include. Take some notes that will help you remember features that you really like. You might want to include some information on things you don't like as well.

You can also take a look at the Websites for larger firms that do work in your field. These can also be a good source of ideas. At the very least they can help give you an idea of current styles and trends when it comes to showcasing work. This will be an advantage when it comes to setting up your own portfolio. Looking at the work of others in your field can also help you be more aware of what the "competition" is doing so that you can set yourself apart.

Pay special attention to the style of companies that you may want to work with and see what you may have that suits their look and tone. This research can make you stand out from others when it comes to pitching your services as a freelance designer, as it shows you can produce work that matches their vision.

   
How can I start building a portfolio as a Web designer?

Web Design Portfolios: Beginner

So how does one go about building a web designer portfolio? If you're just starting out in the field, it can be tough to get jobs without an established portfolio or body of work to show your skills. If you have nothing to show, people are sometimes unwilling to gamble on your ability; no matter how much schooling you may have.

The good news is that there is a fairly easy solution to this common dilemma. You can volunteer to build a site for someone and then use it in your portfolio. One great place to start is by researching non-profit organizations in your area. Is there an animal shelter nearby? What about a senior center or even a dance company? Chances are, if they don't have a Web presence, they may be very interested in using your services. Build a few of these, and you have something to show potential employers. It will also give you some valuable work experience and a chance to be creative.

If you have no luck with this, you can always try your hand at building a site for an individual, or for someone you know. Perhaps there is a local artist that you admire, or a friend of the family that has a start-up business? There are many different options once you start looking around. After you have some Websites finished, you can decide which ones are "portfolio-worthy" and use them to showcase your skills.

   
Should I shop the same portfolio around to everyone?

Customizing Your Profile And Portfolio

If you are applying for a job as a Los Angeles graphic designer you may not want to use the same profile and portfolio as you would for a position in New York. Although design trends tend to follow a pattern, different areas hold different attitudes and what may work in one part of the country may not be as impressive in another. Taking a minute to consider your market can be well worth your while. So can tweaking your portfolio and profile to suit the position you are applying for.

Instead of shopping the same profile or portfolio around everywhere, first take a look at the type of job you are trying to get. Is it particularly creative? Very detail-oriented? Web-based? The answer to that question will help you review your work to select appropriate pieces. What about the "hot" trends in the area? Can you identify any? If so, see if you have something similar that you could include.

Taking the time to review your potential employer and adjust your profile and portfolio accordingly can mean the difference between getting an interview and getting a "no thank you." It's absolutely worth the time spent. If you do this for every interview, you'll increase your chances of getting work overall.

   
How can I develop a designer profile?

The Designer Profile

Developing a designer profile is a great way to articulate your work experience, education and philosophy as a designer. It can also be a wonderful tool for self-promotion. Networking sites on the Internet use profiles to provide information about people at a glance so that those interested can get in touch. A profile can also be included with a resume as a way to highlight details about your design experience and style that may not fit well in a standard format.

If you haven't yet done so, take a little time to write out some thoughts about your influences as a designer. Try your hand at writing your own philosophy. Jot down any unique training or partnerships you have had in your career. If you have won any awards, you may want to include them as well.

From here you can begin to compile a good profile piece that hits the highlights of your career while explaining your design philosophy. This is time well spent, as once it is done, all you need to do is periodically update it. Designer profiles are a great tool for freelancers as well, and can be used to scout out jobs, or simply as an informational piece on your Website or in your promotional material.

   
Does quantity or quality matter in a portfolio?

Select Your Best Work

It doesn't matter if you are putting together a Web designer portfolio or one for graphic design, there is one key rule to keep in mind--select only your best work for inclusion. When it comes to showing your abilities, keep in mind that quality is always better than quantity. This goes for on-line work in addition to print samples.

So the next step raises a question--how do you choose your best work? Try and think about several things when selecting things to include. For example, if you have worked for a particularly well-known company, you may want to include them in your portfolio. Also, try to look at the work from a technical point of view. Is it outstanding? If not, you may want to leave it out. Even just a few well-chosen pieces can show your ability.

Another thing that can be helpful is to get a second set of eyes on the work you are considering for the portfolio. Choose someone who has technical expertise as well as an understanding of the field, and have them take a look at your work. The feedback they give may help you finalize what you include. Once you have made your final selections, you are then ready to assemble the portfolio and shop it around.

   
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