If you are a freelance graphic designer, graphic artist or illustrator, here are a few simple and easy tips on how you can quickly improve your portfolio.
1) Market Research – Know your target audience
It is important to understand who will be viewing your graphic design portfolio. Whether you are preparing your portfolio for a big show at a gallery, entering a graphic design contest on the web, applying for a position as a graphic artist at a local graphic design studio, or trying to impress your parents so they finance your incredibly overpriced graphic design degree, it is important to know your target audience, and cater to them accordingly.
For instance, you wouldn’t show all your erotic artwork or some sentimental pieces about your childhood troubles to a serious, snooty, posh, academic-looking, top graphic arts program or art history program when applying to their graphic design school would you? It is important to realize that everyone’s creative and artistic juices flow in many different directions and that they are very personal. So, as objective as we would like the world to be and as great and original as we believe our own artwork may be, we have to remind ourselves to prepare our portfolios in such a way that they will be properly received by our audience.
Understanding who your portfolio is for, where it will be presented, how it will be evaluated, and ultimately why you are creating it, should always be the first step in its inception.
2) Presentation – Choosing the right medium to present your portfolio
The way in which your design work is prepared and presented can make or break your portfolio’s success and your success in general. Presentation counts. As Marshall McLuhan would say, “the medium is the message”.
Presentation materials can definitely be applied to complement or contrast with your artwork. A unique style or twist should definitely be applied to your portfolio if you have a particular style of artwork or are featuring particular subject matter.
When applying for a graphic design job, you definitely want to consider the type of company you are applying to, and the position you are applying for. If you are applying for a print media position, definitely bring along some printed copies of flyers, brochures, business cards, post cards, Christmas cards and any other print designs that you can showcase.
If you’re being interviewed at a top web design firm, go with digital media, like an Adobe Flash presentation or even a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. If you are a web designer and you want to showcase your websites, graphics, logos, icons, and digital illustrations created using Adobe Illustrator, you may very well be better off using a complete website with some sort fading transitions via Java script in between each piece. A more high-tech approach is definitely in order in this case. However, such effects are best applied in moderation. In addition, make sure that the user controls the pace at which artwork is displayed. Never have artwork on an automatic rotation in your web design portfolio. Such effects work exclusively for web banners.
That said, having something to grab onto, to touch and feel adds to the end user experience, whether it be a glossy surface, a spot varnish or matte effect, a rugged texture, a fancy corporate binder or the simple weight of the paper itself, or a slide presentation, it adds to the experience. So if you are going for exclusively a digital medium, bring along a few business cards as well.
You always want your graphic design work to remain the core focus, never second to the presentation medium. Essentially, the way in which your portfolio is presented should be just as high priority as the way you dress, the upright position in which you carry yourself, the way you style your hair, groom your beard, keep your fingernails clean, and the way you project and amplify your voice. Sadly, many graphic artists get caught up in their own artwork and refuse to think outside the box. Be creative inside and outside of the studio or it’s back to the drawing board for you.
If you are applying for a branding position, you may want to apply a very prominent theme across your entire portfolio and take into account the logo design, be consistent with the formatting, the color scheme, and other variables.
2) Content – Including the right pieces in your portfolio
The way you organize your content is paramount to the impressions and reactions of your target audience. That means both selecting the right pieces, and the order of presentation counts.
Generally speaking, you want your absolute overall best two pieces to be showcased earlier on. Then, based on what your target audience is seeking, follow with a series of pieces designed to illustrate something whether it be showcasing your flexibility, diversity, the various subject matter or industries you have worked in, or a certain style of design. End the portfolio with the third most powerful piece in the series of artwork. If your artwork is presented in a book or binder format, try to have all images placed facing inwards throughout the portfolio. Having outward-facing work inside a book or binder-style portfolio can be uneasy on the eyes.
You wouldn’t stuff your portfolio to the brim with nude drawings when applying to an architecture program or an architecture firm, right? It would be like showing up for your first day working in an office wearing a bathing suit and carrying a beach ball instead of a suitcase (nowadays a laptop bag). You get the point… By the same token, you definitely want to include such creative pieces, and some concept and imagination-driven artwork in your portfolio when applying for a more creative endeavor such as a position as a concept artist or creative director.
You may want to include life drawings and even sculptures (or photographs of your 3D works) if applying to certain technical and creative positions to showcase your skill, knowledge of space, depth, and ability to create naturally as opposed to digitally, as few people these days possess real life drawing skills or observation skills. I once saw designs created on a shoe, which was carefully and particularly placed inside a shoe box. It was magnificent and the colors were very well coordinated. GraphicDesignMontreal.ca wishes you the best of luck on all your freelance graphic design portfolio requirements.