The Portfolio

             So you hear a lot of people telling you that you ought to have a portfolio of your work but you don’t know why or how to make one.  Making a portfolio can seem like a long and scary process, especially if you are unsure as to what one actually is. The portfolio is the showcase of an artist’s work and their most important marketing asset. Having a well put together portfolio can mean the difference between being the designer or the copy boy; so making sure yours is beautiful is essential.  So let’s clear up some basic portfolio essentials.


  1.  Why should every artist have a portfolio?

            I’m so glad you asked.  Your portfolio has one essential function: to showcase your most marketable skills.  Your portfolio should give a general idea of what you are good at by showing your best work.  You will show it to colleges you are applying for and employers during job interviews.  Depending on what you are applying for it may or may not need to be very diverse.  Generally however, it is a good idea to show your versatility in a few different areas.  For instance, if you are applying to a print design job you would of course show examples of print work you have done; but you may also want to show some typography or even packaging designs you have created.  Be careful though, as to not show too much variety if you have a specific skill you are trying to emphasize.  Variety is good, but know when to focus on your best skillset.


  1.  How do you make one?

            When you start your portfolio, you must determine what your strongest pieces are.  The easiest way to do this is to take all (yes I said ALL) of your work to a group of peers, a teacher, or maybe even a class.  They will give you feedback on what they think your strongest work is and what you should improve upon before you actually assemble your portfolio.  The opinion of others is invaluable and should always be sought and taken into consideration.  Of course if you disagree you have the final say over your own portfolio, but try and keep an open mind; they are trying to help you put your best foot forward.

            Once you have determined your best works you need to decide what to actually show.  What you show in your portfolio is going to depend largely on why you are showing your portfolio in the first place.  If you are applying for a general design job you should show a general ability in multiple facets of design.  If you are applying for an illustration position you should should focus more on illustration than anything else.  For instance you wouldn’t need to show much layout design if you are going to be creating character concepts.  However if you are going to be illustrating magazine covers then layouts may be a good thing to show.  Do your best to understand the purpose of your portfolio so you know how to fill it best.  

When organizing your portfolio you really shouldn’t keep all like works together.  If your portfolio is more diverse then you should try to evenly disperse all the different disciplines you are showing.  All of your illustration does not need to be in a group, neither should all of your product designs be together.  Keeping your work in groups like that will cause their individuality to be lost in the series, making your portfolio appear boring, mundane, or unprofessional.  Try to mix your work up while still keeping them in an orderly flow of concept.


  1.  Make it about you

            Remember, your portfolio is not meant to sell your work, it is meant to sell you.  What I mean is that people are not looking at this assemblage of art for the fun of it, they are looking at your work to see if you have what it takes for the task assigned.  You want people to see who you are through your artistic style.  Not all of your pieces will show that, and that’s ok.  However, if you have a piece that does not portray your voice as effectively, even if it is a “good” piece, then don’t show it.  Show the one that has your personal touch as opposed to one that is classically ‘better’.  Classical skill is an important thing to show, but when in doubt go with your own personal style.  Your voice is what will attract your audience or groups that are hiring.