First impressions count. This is true for any first impression you want to make. Whether it be during an interview, meeting a new contact or showing off your portfolio, you want to make sure you’re sending the right message. You want to tell your future employer, client or colleague that you’re professional, proficient and above all authentic.
This is easier said than done when you’re physically talking to someone, but how do you translate this ‘essence’ into your portfolio? Well we reached out to our friends over at Born and Raised and got an answer (thanks Jordan).
1. Keep it snappy
It’s not about showing every single piece of design that you’ve ever done. It’s about showcasing the work that you’re most proud of and that you feel gives a good impression of who you are as a designer. There’s no real rule on how many pieces you should have, just make sure there’s enough to show off your skills but not too much that people get bored. Including five or six decent sized projects is a good place to start, with smaller project items (posters, record sleeves etc.) great for beginners to include. Ideally, you would want to be able to talk about your portfolio / work for about 15 minutes, so make sure the work you choose strikes up a conversation.
2. Personalise it
Your portfolio is a summarisation of you as a designer – no matter how many years of experience you have. It should quickly give people an idea of what you’re good at, what you like doing and what you’ve been a part of throughout your education and/or career. Remember to display the projects you like and want to talk about, with pieces that show how your skills have developed essential to include. Choosing pieces that show your personality are also essential to include, especially as design is a subjective art form.
3. Be positive
Have an opinion on your favourite projects and share them during your interview. You’ll get asked which pieces are your favourite, so it’s good to have an answer ready. The flip side to being proud of the work in your portfolio is to not don’t down any of your designs. Less is definitely more if you’re not comfortable talking about a certain piece in your portfolio. By saying you’re “not really happy with something” or you “don’t like this because …” can throw you off your game and put a negative spin on your interview. In instances where I’ve experienced this I always ask the question “If you don’t like it then why did you think we would?”
4. Put your best project forward
Is each project as big and as good as it could be? Just because you may have run out of time or you’ve already handed the work in doesn’t stop you tweaking the projects you include in your portfolio. It honestly pays to spend additional time making sure each of your portfolio projects are as good as possible. “I wanted to do this, but I ran out of time” isn’t going to get you any extra marks in your interview so make everything exceptional.
5. Make sure it flows
Are you comfortable talking about each piece of work in your portfolio? Do all of your pieces flow together? When telling your design stories, make sure they are engaging. It’s your work at the end of the day to sell your skills, so you should know your designs inside-and-out. Be enthusiastic about your designs. They are the fruition of a lot of hard work, so enjoy showing them off. Remember that people want to know the brief / the problem, your idea or solution and what you learned along the way, so keep that in mind when you’re telling your story. It’s also important that you can be clear about why you did what you did. If you’re struggling to explain the idea behind the project, then maybe it doesn’t belong in your portfolio.
6. Practise makes perfect
Unless you’re amazingly confident and love public speaking, you’ll be a little nervous in your interviews. To get over this, make sure you’ve practised talking through your designs a number of times before you go in. This will make you seem more confident in yourself and your designs – even if you’re dying a little on the inside. Memorising which project is next in your portfolio will also help the conversation flow, with key talking points helping you accentuate your favourite projects. Rehearse your presentation in front of anyone who’s willing to listen, it’ll make all the difference come interview day.