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Building Design Portfolios by Sara Eisenman

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For recent graduates, design work generally
addresses problems they were asked to solve in
class, and those samples inevitably reflect the
influence of specific teachers. The danger is that
an art director may review several portfolios with
similar work, making it difficult to distinguish
between applicants from the same school.
Consider designing extra pieces to help your
portfolio stand out. Completing an internship is
also a good strategy for producing professional
work in a specific area. If your dream is to work in
an advertising agency, for example, an internship
at a reputable firm is likely to provide both valu-
able portfolio material and professional experience.
Another good strategy is to take the time to cre-
ate samples in your area of interest. If you hope
to design book jackets, for example, you can
redesign the covers of several well-known books.
It’s a good idea to use literary classics, because
most viewers are familiar with the content, mak-
ing it easier to judge your design solution. This
kind of extra effort demonstrates enthusiasm
and initiative. It also produces solid portfolio
pieces and shows how you would solve a specific
type of problem. One important piece of advice,
however, is that it’s almost never a good idea to
offer to produce free work as a way to get your
foot in the door.
Making a
Working Portfolio
What are the first decisions you’ll face when plan-
ning your portfolio? How should you approach
those choices? Depending on your design training,
it is possible that you already have formed some
ideas or received guidance or advice. Maybe you
have seen presentation boxes you like in the art
store, or perhaps another student or designer
created a portfolio that has influenced you.
One way to begin is to remember that this is just
one portfolio; you can redesign it next year or
next week. Knowing this can make any big project
less intimidating. There is no best way to design
your portfolio. Instead, approach it as a design
project where you are the subject. It’s also impor-
tant to consider the audience you expect to
address. Do you intend to show your portfolio to
corporate decision makers, advertising creative
directors, publishers, museums directors, or
merchants? Does the presentation need to be
distinctive to show off your strengths? No matter
how you answer these questions, one of the most
important things to recognize is that the container
is secondary to the content. It shouldn’t be so
fussy or pretentious that it overpowers your
work. And what’s in the container should be an
assemblage; a grouping of design pieces that
composes a cohesive, unified whole.
audience
Job no:70268 Title : RP- Building Design Portfolios Client : Pro-Vision
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Dept : DTP D/O : 26.01.06 (Job no:000000 D/O : 00.00.01 Co: CM0)
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