Portfolios. Does anyone love them? They feel like a minefield of dos and don’ts. How do you boil months of work down into a couple of pages? And how do you make sure it really captures ‘you’?
I’ve always struggled with this part, but recently had an invaluable opportunity that’s helped change my view. I got to sit in with our Design Director and Strategy Director as they reviewed the portfolios of London College of Communication (LCC) students. This was it! The chance to see how agencies judge people’s work and find out what they’re looking for.
Here’s what I learnt.
Make your portfolio specific
When I think of portfolios, I imagine really strong, striking visuals that wow the viewer. This can be effective for some agencies. But an over-emphasis on aesthetics can mean you miss a major part of your portfolio: showcasing your thinking.
A portfolio is ultimately a job application. Use it to highlight your skills. Make it specific. Focus on how you work and the process through which your ideas were formed, explored and branched out to achieve your goals.
I found the portfolios that did this were the most effective. Students who had expanded the brief. Opened it out. Shared audiences, problems and solutions. The ones who used data and Miro boards to show their research really captured my attention. I started to understand how their brains worked and what a great fit they could be at Output.
What’s the format?
Gone are the days of printing and binding pristine documents. PDFs, Keynotes, Google Slides and live websites all offer ways to showcase your skills on a screen. But which format is best?
Like application letters, style it to the job you’re applying for. For an agency working in print media, a printed portfolio can show confidence in designing for that medium, but you’ll need to consider how to flex the content.