Your portfolio is one of the most important things that need to be considered when thinking about applying for a new job. Us "old schoolers" have all spent countless hours trudging around Soho with our A2 portoflio in tow, ending the day with a dislocated shoulder. But now with the advent of the online portfolio - even for us print designers - the rules of how we engage with recruiters, agencies and clients has changed.
Everyone who works in the creative industries knows how important a portfolio is. It is the vital piece of kit to get your foot in the door and should present to the best of your ability a summary of your skills, style and talent. Whether it be for that first interview with the creative director or a first meeting with a client - what you have done previously is a good indication of what you can produce in the future.
Utilising the web for your portfolio space has dramatically changed how you can present yourself to the waiting world. It also has made the process slightly more complicated than just rocking up to the client/agency/recruiter with your portfolio. The web with its flexibility, ease of access, multimedia capabilities and cost benefits, go far beyond what you could achieve with "your book". But it does have one major disadvantage - the fact that you are not there.
An online portfolio can have different functions and is used by different individuals to achieve different things. However - fundamentally an online portfolio needs to be thought of as the equivalent of an online sales pitch. It is there for people to judge your work and make the decision whether to hire you, collaborate with you or maybe just say hi.
In today's bitterly competitive marketplace, a web based portfolio has become a necessity for anyone who is serious about their career. Many designers do not spend enough time promoting themselves online and to do this in such a web-centric world is a mistake. The web is now the first port of call for almost anyone looking for information and this includes you.
You have 3 main options when putting together an online portfolio. Many people utilise all of them or have multiple sites dependant tailored to different parts of their skillset or goals. Each of them has a different purpose and you can leverage them for different reasons.
Job sites and online portfolio sites
For job sites and online portfolio sites such as creativepool, the setup of these is a must for all designers. It costs you nothing and you are practically walked through the process. A lot of employers and recruiters will use these and they are a good source of jobs in the marketplace. However, you do not have a lot of flexibility in what is displayed and the profile page itself is generally standardised for recruiters and employers needs.
These give you a bit more flexibility than the standardised portfolio sites and usually include different layouts, customised URLs and the like. For those of you with limited web technology experience, then this is a good bet. Three examples of this are wordpress, blogger and squarespace.
Your own site
For the adventurous. Designing for the web for those of you from a dtp or graphic background falls quite neatly in the "not that easy" bracket. You'll need to learn at least html, find yourself a hosting package and get yourself a url. For those of you who take their online presence seriously, want the full functionality of the web or truly want to be able to produce something unique then this is the only option.
Cheap hosting packages can be found with 1 & 1 and Go-Daddy - but do shop around as there are a lot of options and if you look hard enough a few free hosting packages lurking around (be careful though they generally have caveats!)
Recruiters and agencies view dozens of online portfolios every day so it's important that yours will stand out amongst the crowd. But before you get too carried away, make sure that your portfolio does the basics:
1. Keep it clean and simple, effective navigation tools should take precedent to clever. Or for those of you in the online world - one word - usability. Consider typographic styles, colour, layout, shapes and font sizes and make sure it's consistent. Please check for spelling mistakes...
2. Include work that you're proud of, is up to date, and which you are interested in talking about at a later stage. The aim is to tease the person looking at it so don't overdo it. Leave them with a few samples to look at but leave more up your sleeve for the interview.
3. Don't show everything that you have ever done - or at least make sure that your best pieces of work are the most accessible. You should only really include the pieces that you are most proud of. Remember, this is you showcasing to the world what you are capable of.
4. Stamp your own style and personality on your online portfolio. It's important to show your unique strengths which will hopefully be what the company is looking for. If you can make sure that the pieces that you are including are tailored to your audience.
5. If you're an online designer - then make sure you point to the actual website - screenshots are nice as a placeholder - but there is nothing more annoying than not actually being able to see a "real world" example of your work. And whatever you do - make sure that everything works on your site!
6. Make sure you have enough contact information on your site! This should be easy to get to and also easy to use - no fancy forms if you can help it.
7. Remember the sales pitch comment above - always keep in the back of your mind that you will not be there to talk your viewer through your thought process; why you did this or that, what the brief was or what implications the parties you worked with had on the final outcome. Make sure this is clear - for complicated work often showing scamps and roughs till you get to the final product can be a really nice touch.
8. Always promote your site yourself! For a simple start, make sure it's in your email signature and on your Facebook page!
An online portfolio has no geographical boundaries. Someone in Mexico is just as likely to see your site as someone in London and you never know where your work might take you.
You can use your site to network with peers - this is especially true if comments can be left on your work. Finding work you like and vice-versa is a great way to learn new skills and maybe even collaborate on work with one another.
This is really the whole point of a portfolio (unless you really are in it to massage your own ego). So just make sure that you step back at what has been done and put it in this context. Does this promote me to the best of my abilities?
Just by having an online presence in whatever form shows an employer that you take what you do seriously and have pride in what you do.
It's worth putting in the extra work into creating an online portfolio, vital if you are serious about advancing your career. Our suggestion is to spread yourself around, on a few showcase type sites, add your CV and portfolio to those more tailored toward getting you work and offering CV searching. Make sure the work you showcase is only the bits of which you are the most proud of, a portfolio which shows off your skill set - both from a functionality and aesthetics point of view.
For inspiration, please visit Creativepool.
If you would like to have a further conversation about portfolios and how to get ahead, please contact Marc from Source.
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