Portfolio Guide: What Not To Do

Portfolio Guide
So you’ve finished school, or
are looking for a new job. Maybe you need to update your book in preparation
for an upcoming interview. What do you do? What are some best practices and
pitfalls to avoid when presenting your work?
 
Tim Lapetino and Jason Adam
are partners in Hexanine, a design firm focused on brand strategy and visual
identity. They work with a wide range of clients and media, and are the authors
of the upcoming book, Damn Good: Top
Designers Discuss Their All-Time Favorite Projects
. Tim and Jason have
critiqued countless portfolios during their design careers, and shared some
thoughts with us on how not to
present your work.

What Not To Do


The Container

          
Don’t present your
portfolio in just one medium. Your portfolio should consist of multiple pieces
– a physical form for the interview, and a digital one that is easy to view
online.

          
Don’t make it unnecessarily
complicated. Your portfolio doesn’t require tons of bells and whistles, or many
moving parts. Find a format that you can customize and transport easily. Make
sure it can be passed around to a group, or provide multiple copies for
everyone in the interview.

          
Don’t give away
all of your great work online. Reserve some of your best work to round out your
presentation during an interview. Consider your online portfolio as an
extension of your physical one, and keep some work unique to both. “Think of
both parts of your portfolio as distinct parts of the same overall story.” –
Jason Adam

          
Don’t be caught
with just one copy of your portfolio. “You’ve got to prepare for any
eventuality, whether it’s forgetting your book on the train, or dropping it in
a puddle with people stepping all over it.” – Tim Lapetino

          
Make sure your
portfolio is appropriate to your work and audience. Avoid something that’s too
precious or too beefy. Make it just right. “It’s important to customize your
book to fit your personality, your audience, and the kind of work you want to
do. This is your first opportunity to show prospective employers the ability to
tailor a message to the appropriate audience.” –Tim Lapetino

The Work

          
Don’t assume
that one size fits all. Research your prospective employer and make sure your
selection of work is geared towards the company and what they’re looking for.
“Be prepared and find out what the interviewer wants ahead of time, and show
those pieces.” –Tim Lapetino

          
Don’t forget to
tell your stories. Explain the thinking behind each piece you present during
the interview. Show the interviewer how you’ve solved each specific design
problem. “As an employer, you want to be confident that you can hand off a
project, and have the employee come back with solutions you haven’t even
thought of yet.” – Jason Adam

          
Don’t show too
many pieces. Aim for quality over quantity. “Think of your portfolio
presentation as a story – it should have a strong beginning, middle and ending.”
– Jason Adam

          
Don’t leave them
empty handed. “Leave your mark and with something to remind you by.” –Tim
Lapetino A leave-behind helps connect you and your personality to the work
they’ve seen, and provides a lasting reminder of your time and interview.

The Presentation

          
Don’t think the
work will speak for itself. The presentation must be a combination of verbal
and visual. Does your presentation allow your work to put its best foot forward?
Is it presented in an appropriate physical way or a slick interactive medium like
an iPad? Make sure you’re telling the story behind each piece. “Show them your
thinking and the design process that undergirds the work you’re presenting.” –
Jason Adam

          
Don’t talk to
the table. Make good eye contact, and really address the people you’re speaking
to. “Your personality and communication need to shine — they’re hiring a
person, not just a portfolio.” – Jason Adam

          
Don’t forget
that you’re also interviewing the firm. This works both ways. Make sure to size
up the culture, personality, and work environment of your prospective employer.
Make note of anything that might keep you from being successful as part of that
team. “This could be a place you’ll work at for years to come, so make sure
that it meets your criteria and it’s an environment you can see yourself in for
the foreseeable future.” –Tim Lapetino


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3 COMMENTS

  1. Bravo gentlemen, on a concise, and articulate article. This is very sound advice, well explained. I will recommend that both colleagues and students read this. It covers much of what I have found to be relevant for professional portfolios – at any level. Thank you.

  2. Bravo gentlemen, on a concise, and articulate article. This is very sound advice, well explained. I will recommend that both colleagues and students read this. It covers much of what I have found to be relevant for professional portfolios – at any level. Thank you.

  3. Bravo gentlemen, on a concise, and articulate article. This is very sound advice, well explained. I will recommend that both colleagues and students read this. It covers much of what I have found to be relevant for professional portfolios – at any level. Thank you.