Category Archives: Portfolio advice

specific advice on creating a great portfolio

reaffirming what should be in the ideal portfolio

My colleague and I visited with principles of a couple of very successful design firms in the Chicago area recently (not going to name them here, but if you want to know, ask me off list). Again they reaffirmed what we have heard many times, and perhaps even more so in these lean days. What they are looking for in a portfolio is about six to eight pieces of truly outstanding work, each piece of which is polished and ideally suited to its purpose. No explanations should be necessary (though out of politeness, some explanatory text or remarks should be discreetly available). Polish the craft, but be mindful that it is only the base-level requirement. Résumé must be typographically impeccable but not showy. Display well-founded confidence. No fear of drawing (no drawing-class projects, please; just the ability to communicate an idea via the drawn line. Work that looks like student work is the kiss of death. (Gotta love the catch-22-ness of this, if you are a student. That is all you have been doing for the last four years) OK, so quit weeping and weed out all the projects that look the same as all your fellow students. Retool or rework the few that stand apart. Don’t cling to a half-good idea, only the truly good ones.

OK, so that is the ideal. We all know few live up to that coming out of the gate. But it is not bad to keep those ideals in mind. Your portfolio will always be a work in progress. And I have it on good authority that most of those very same designers who tout such high standards in hiring would be ashamed to show you their own first portfolios. So believe in yourself and your ability to learn, grow and adapt.

Reports coming back in on effectiveness of custom portfolio packages

Gary Will, coauthor of the textbook Graphic Design Portfolio Strategies, has been working closely with students on customized portfolio packages, using methods described in the Chapter 8 of the book. Here are two letters from current students reporting responses from employers.

Dear Gary

I meant to tell you I sent in my resume package to a company in
Chicago for an Internship and in less than a week I had received a
call from a lady who wanted to call me personally and tell me how much
she loved my resume package. She said that it was definitely something
that stood out from any other resumes they had received and that they
have never seen anything like that before and had been showing it to
everyone else in the office. Thought you might like to know that the
project was a success!

Alyssa Johnson.

Dear Gary

went to my interview anyways and the first thing the lady did when
I sat down was to hold up my book and say, “This is a great idea. This
book is the sole reason you are here. It was the only thing out of a
bunch of boring white resumes that caught my eye and let me know how
you designed.” The next morning, only about 18 hours after my
interview, I found out that I got the job! The OWNER called me to
praise me on the resume experience book that I had sent. So I know
that maybe some people (including me) blow off those kinds of
projects, but obviously it really works. And honestly, being a MM
major, they would have never told me to make a BOOK. It’s always make
a DVD or game….but I wanted to thank you for having that project in
your class because I doubt I would have gotten this job without having
done that project!

Thank you so much Gary!

Amanda deFrees

You can visit Gary Will’s web site at,%20Gary/Garysnewsite/Site/

résumé and matching web site examples web site

Sarah Kelly just sent me this link to a page on Creative Opera that shows some examples of résumés and matching web sites. The advice given at the end of the examples is excellent. Many of the examples are good, although some seem to border of being too busy. Here is the link: