Monday, February 6, 2017

Things To Do To Create An Effective Portfolio

In the past, if an illustrator asked what they needed for a successful portfolio, he or she would have been told, “every portfolio must contain the three h’s -- head, hands, and heart”. Head referring to concepts, hands referring to skills, and heart referring to desire. These days, a portfolio is expected to contain much more than that. It not only must demonstrate what you have done in your past, but must also predict what you might achieve in your future. A portfolio must be able to weather all situations. Below are a number of tasks a portfolio must now do.

© 2013 Don Arday.

Do Establish the Purpose for 

Your Portfolio

Is it to obtain full-time employment, a freelance commission, a teaching position, a gallery exhibition, etc?

First and foremost, it is important to know what you want your portfolio to do for you. The purpose for a portfolio is the single largest determining factor in how the portfolio will look and function. A portfolio constructed for interviewing for a full-time position will have to function differently than one that is meant to attract freelance work, or is for some other purpose.

Do Know Your Audience

Are they a creative person such as an artist or designer; or are they a non-creative person such as an editor, writer, marketing person, or business owner?

Just as advertisers, marketers, product developers, and manufacturers exhaustively research their audience to get to know their customers, you should do likewise. Differing audiences will require varying forms of communication and possibly even different language sets depending of their knowledge of what it is you do. These factors will affect the form and content of your portfolio presentation.

Do Know How to Reach Your Audience

What are their job responsibilities, and the type of business they work for? Do they have a preferred method of contact? Can you contact them through a referral?

It’s important to know if you are dealing directly with someone who has the power to make a decision, or someone who can only relay information within a company. It’s also essential to know if the business they are in can hire your services directly, or whether you should be in contact with another outsourced company or division. For instance, to work for Pepsi, you will have to deal with an outside firm.

Do Know What Will Attract Your Audience

Have you seen the work they do and what their company does? Are you familiar with the type of work they typically commission? Do you know who their customers are?

Every company has a set of criteria that provide guidance for the type of work that they do. The criterion also sets the personality and style of their business. For some companies like children’s book publishers for instance, it is obvious, but for design firms and advertising agencies it may take some research on your part to know what demographic they specialize in and who their clients are. The work shown in a portfolio should be chosen accordingly.

Do Select the Appropriate Portfolio Media

Will you need a physical hard copy portfolio, a virtual digital portfolio, a website portfolio, a disposable portfolio, etc.?

Pertaining to marketing, aspects of presentation and a portfolio’s function, you should know whether you are seeking a job or commissions locally or nationally. Whether you can get by with a digital or web-based presentation, or whether you will have to appear for an interview in person, and with whom.

Do Select the Best Format

Does the portfolio need to be small or large, physically shipped or emailed, horizontally formatted or vertical, individual panels or a bound presentation?

If most of your work is vertical, arrange your portfolio so the spine is vertical. If the work is predominantly horizontal use the cover or case to indicate that orientation since there are relatively few commercial portfolios made with a horizontally oriented spine. Choose a format that will easily allow you to reconfigure your portfolio quickly if you will frequently need to do so.

Do Determine the Number of Illustrations

Should you show many illustrations or a select few? If you have a series, should you show all of its pieces? How similar in style, format, or appearance should the work be?

Most illustrators show more pieces than they should, and most reviewers tend to experience visual fatigue and attention deficit somewhere between 20 and 25 pieces. The main goal is to leave a lasting impression with the work. Work that is repetitious in composition, color scheme, point of view, and content tends to blend together. Work that presents a variation of aspects tends to be more memorable.

Do Choose the Right Illustration Content

Should you include only published work? Should published work be presented as tear sheets? Should it be full-page illustrations, or should you also include spot illustrations, icons, etc? Should you include black and white work? Should you show all finished work, or add in concept sketches?

Illustrators who have a few years of experience are expected to show published work. Illustrators just starting out are not subjected to the same expectation. The content of a portfolio should be a combination of “absolute best work” and work that relates to the opportunity at hand. If black and white or other forms of work are a part of the repertoire of the reviewer than they should be in the portfolio.

Do Seek Opinions on Content

Are you the best judge of your own work? Have you gotten positive feedback about specific pieces? Do you know someone who can lend you an opinion?

One of the most difficult tasks in creating a portfolio is selecting the work. Even illustrators with years of experience need help when it comes to curating their work. Artists often develop a bias towards certain pieces. It may have to do with the great amount of effort it took, or successfully pleasing a difficult client, or some other prejudice. These situational conditions should be overruled by quality.

Do Provide a Context For The Work

Have you provided relevant titles or client information for the illustrations? Can you provide a sentence to summarize an assignment or to explain the purpose for the work?

Any information that explains to a viewer what they are looking at can be as valuable as the work itself. In a portfolio, all images appear to be very similar in proportion whether they were produced for a 3’ x 4’ poster, or a small format magazine; or whether they were done for a nephew, or a multinational company. Having the work placed in it’s proper context is important for a reviewer.

Do Match the Context to Your CV

Are you showing illustration examples that match the employers and clients you list on your resume? Do the examples demonstrate the skills you have listed? Does the work reflect either your job objective or your experience summary?

It is very easy for a resume and a portfolio to present a split personality. A common example, although it is not necessary, is to list freelance projects on the resume. Reviewers will want to see the pieces that correspond to the listings. And, should the work shown in the portfolio diverge from actual past experience, it can be easily addressed with a career objective statement on the resume. Both credentials should be mutually supportive.

Do Design Your Portfolio

Can your portfolio case or binder be differentiated from other portfolios when it is closed? Does the interior layout of your portfolio compliment your work or compete with it? Is the layout uniquely identifiable? Does the page size and scale of images show off the level of detail in your work? Do images sit opposite one and other on page spreads if you are using a bound portfolio? Does your portfolio shift from a horizontal orientation to a vertical one several times?

All aspects of your portfolio presentation should be customized to leave an identifiable impression on a reviewer, from the materials used, to the layout, color scheme, and application of typography. Reviewers sometimes look at a dozen or more portfolios, which equates to viewing 200 to 250 images within a single sitting that lasts less than one hour. So in addition to the work, a portfolio’s design must also form a memorable impression.

Do Work on the Order of the Work

Do adjacent illustrations compliment one and other? Is there a natural progression of work? Does the order of the work support a presentation narrative? Does the arrangement of works at any point cause a reviewer to make a “this is better than that” judgment about two pieces? Is the arrangement the visual equivalent to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony?

Organizing the sequence of work in a portfolio is a subject unto itself, and although there are unlimited possibilities, there are some strategies that work better than others in certain situation. The work itself must be high in quality to provide the best source for a portfolio, regardless of any organizational tactics. Some of the most common approaches will be covered in a future posting.

Do Support the Work With Branding

Do you have a logo or specific type treatment you can apply to your materials? Do you have a specific color scheme? Does your portfolio coordinate with your resume, mailers, business card, website, etc.?

Branding goes hand in hand with portfolio design and function. Branding not only serves to promote recognition, but it reinforces memorability and reveals the rank of a professional. Branding, once established, provides solutions for many design and promotional problems that arise when preparing marketing materials like the appearance of the resume, cover letter, mailers, stationery, home page design, etc.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Resources To Help You Create A Professional Portfolio

The number one error that young illustrators and recent graduates make is underestimating the extraordinary power a quality-based, professional portfolio presentation can make in a job or freelance solicitation interview. I have personally witnessed where the failure to invest an additional $100 in a portfolio has resulted in a job offer that was thousands of dollars less than what the work and the artist deserved. For some unknown reason, the importance of a portfolio’s appearance, with reference to its contents, is grossly underestimated.

© 2013 Don Arday.
It may only be human nature, but human nature is unwavering. Value and worth are presented materially, and potential employers view portfolios in relation to potential worth. An applicant must present himself or herself at the same level that an employer views their own business status or higher. As the saying goes, “first impressions last a lifetime”. Portfolios presentations that appear to be in an economic bracket below that of the potential employers will not be considered seriously, no matter how good the work may be.

The following is a list of resources that cover the three major formats for portfolio presentations; 1) paper portfolios, 2) digital portfolios, and 3) e-portfolios or remotely accessed virtual portfolios.

Paper Portfolios

Custom Portfolios

Brewer Cantalmo
Brewer Cantalmo have been manufacturing portfolios for professional artists and illustrators since 1928. With a full line of superb quality products, and unlimited custom manufacturing, Brewer Cantalmo is one of the premier portfolio providers in North America. We are manufacturers selling worldwide directly to the public, There is no minimum quantity required and the typical turnaround time for a custom portfolio is about 2 weeks.


House of Portfolios
Thomas Lombardo, founded The House of Portfolios over thirty years ago. He began his apprenticeship in Italy and relocated to the USA where in 1990 he single handedly established his own company "The House of Portfolios" in NYC. He is a master craftsman in the top echelon of the custom-made portfolio industry.


Bella Forte
Extremely exclusive and highly crafted, Bridget, the company founder, began her bookbinding career over twenty five years ago in Italy. After studying the arts of bookbinding, papermaking and book restoration abroad, she returned to the US and opened her first bindery in Center City Philadelphia.


Klo Portfolios
Tarlan Seyedfarshi began Klo Portfolios to customize portfolios by size, color, material, with the treatment desired by the artist. Klo does all the rest. Typography and custom graphics can be applied to the portfolio binder of case. Every portfolio book is unique, handcrafted and injected with lots of love and care.


Etsy Portfolios
Etsy the web community for artists and craftspeople has numerous listings for custom portfolio cases constructed from a wide variety of materials that range from fabrics, to woods, to metals. And although the producers of these portfolio cases and binders are “home Grown”, there may be the perfect solution for a portfolio just waiting to be purchased and put to use.


Readymade Portfolios

Portfolios and Art Cases
Portfolios and Art Cases has specialized in prefabricated portfolios since 1995. Their inventory comprises an extensive selection of portfolio types for both flat art and rolled at presentation, storage, and transportation. Portfolios can be easily selected and ordered through their website.


Archival Methods
Archival Methods manufactures and offers a wide range of professional presentation portfolios. Customer service and delivery times set Archival Methods apart form their competitors. They offer complete portfolio solutions such as portfolio and board combinations, onxy portfolios, etc. Their service is professional and pricing is extremely competitive.


Light Impressions Direct
Established in 1969, and long having been the first choice for professional photographers and museums, Light Impressions offers the world's largest variety of fine archival storage, display and presentation materials for artwork and documents, negatives, transparencies, CDs, photographs, etc. Light Impressions is considered to have set the standard for readymade archival portfolios in the US.


Pina Zangaro
For the past 24 years Pina Zangaro have been redefining the way the world presents artwork and documents by designing and making innovative, attention-grabbing and functional portfolio books, binders, boxes and related accessories for the presentation and storage of artwork and documents.


Digital Portfolios

Tablets

Apple/Apple App Store
For Apple hardware devices turn to the Apple Store. The iPad has now become an acceptable portfolio presentation format for certain situations and settings. Its size is just large enough for display. The iPad Mini is also available, but due to it’s smaller size, is inferior to its larger sibling. For apps to support the pad hardware use the Apple App Store. Although not covered here, a future blog will go into detail about specific portfolio apps.


MacMall/PCM
Although the name implies a Mac exclusive inventory, MacMall is a great place to get tablets and products made by other manufacturers including Samsung, Lenovo, Acer, Viewsonic, etc. PCM, formerly PCMall sells tablets manufactured by nine companies including Dell, Toshiba, Asus, Motion Computing, etc. Apps for these tablets use the Android operating system.


Portable Storage

Amazon
CD’s, flash cards, and jump drives are available from local electronics stores or online from vendors like Amazon.com. These devices have the storage capacity to easily accommodate most portfolio presentations. Software to prepare the presentation for remote viewing like PowerPoint and Keynote are available from Microsoft and Apple.


Picture Frames

Best Buy
Digital picture frames offer a lower cost alternative to using a tablet to display a body of work. However, they don’t offer much in the way of versatile functionality. These frames are made by a variety of companies, some which also manufacture tablets like Viewsonic, Sony, HP, etc.


E-Portfolios

Free/Limited Free Portfolio Sites

There are a number of sites that allow an illustrator to upload a body of work. Some are totally free, while others place a limitation on the number of pieces that can be placed on the site without incurring a fee. Many of the sites provide a number of resources such as categorization, subject search engines, direct contact sales, and order taking mechanisms, etc. Researching, choosing and actually using the right portfolio sites may be a daunting task, but one thing to remember is ”it’s the company you keep” that will reflect back on you and your work. Choose those sites that project a personality you are comfortable with, and are directed to the markets you wish to reach.

Note: The site links below are for portfolio sites that do not require an illustrator to sign up webpage hosting or use unique website building features. Those sites will be featured in a future post.


Paid Portfolio Sites

There are several paid subscription portfolio sites to choose from, and the cost of having a listing on them can vary considerably, anywhere from $300 a year to upwards of $2000 per annum. Of course, the cost relates to the amount of service these sites provide. The main difference between a paid site and a free site is that the paid sites aggressively e-market your work, while the free sites do not. With the cost there are also amenities that may be well worth it. Paid sites can provide very specific individual data and demographics about who has viewed your portfolio and when. And, some paid sites can even provide the company and profile information as to who looked at your work.


Logo Portfolio Sites

Website Hosts

Any list of resources in this category will have no end to it as there are new hosting sites literally going live on a daily basis. There are many reasons that go into choosing a specific website host, ease of use, capacity or bandwidth, reliability, pricing structure, accessibility, web identity services, security, etc. Ease of use or flexibility of the website building engines provided by these sites may be the deciding factor. What is more important is to secure the proper domain name, one that will be uniquely explanatory and identifiable, i.e., your own name. A proper domain name will assist potential clients and employers to more easily locate your portfolio on the web.

Note: This is a partial listing. It is meant for the purposes of getting you started. Many of these listings are not specifically designed for illustrators, but are popular hosting sites on the web.


Disclaimer: The list of website links is provided to be a resource for illustrators. It was not intended for the purpose of advertising or endorsing one source over another. Nor is it by any means complete. There are many other excellent sources not mentioned here.