Portfolio Guide: What Not To Do

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So you’ve finished school, orare looking for a new job. Maybe you need to update your book in preparationfor an upcoming interview. What do you do? What are some best practices andpitfalls to avoid when presenting your work?

Tim Lapetino and Jason Adamare partners in Hexanine, a design firm focused on brand strategy and visualidentity. They work with a wide range of clients and media, and are the authorsof the upcoming book, Damn Good: Top Designers Discuss Their All-Time Favorite ProjectsDesigners Discuss Their All-Time Favorite Projects. Tim and Jason havecritiqued countless portfolios during their design careers, and shared somethoughts with us on how not topresent your work.

What Not To Do

The Container

Don’t present yourportfolio 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 viewonline.

Don’t make it unnecessarilycomplicated. Your portfolio doesn’t require tons of bells and whistles, or manymoving parts. Find a format that you can customize and transport easily. Makesure it can be passed around to a group, or provide multiple copies foreveryone in the interview.

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

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

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

The Work

Don’t assumethat one size fits all. Research your prospective employer and make sure yourselection 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 showthose pieces.” –Tim Lapetino

Don’t forget totell your stories. Explain the thinking behind each piece you present duringthe interview. Show the interviewer how you’ve solved each specific designproblem. “As an employer, you want to be confident that you can hand off aproject, and have the employee come back with solutions you haven’t eventhought of yet.” – Jason Adam

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

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

The Presentation

Don’t think thework will speak for itself. The presentation must be a combination of verbaland 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 likean iPad? Make sure you’re telling the story behind each piece. “Show them yourthinking and the design process that undergirds the work you’re presenting.” –Jason Adam

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

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

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