Manager Monday: So You Need a Portfolio (Design)

Mon, 28 Mar 2016 17:00:15 +0000

Whether you’re about to graduate, you want to get a leg up on the job hunt, or you want to dabble in freelance on the side, developing a solid online portfolio is a must. Portfolio trends are as dynamic as the technology they rely upon, and there are hundreds of how-to videos and tutorials out there. The type of portfolio you create will vary depending on your intent, audience, and most importantly, personal preference.

Choosing a publishing platform and selecting work samples is the easy part; before making any of these choices, you should work to develop a platform—a philosophy, a brand—that will guide all your decisions. Ideally, this front-end brainstorming will simplify later decisions, streamline the production process, and ensure the portfolio communicates a unified vision. This development process is no small undertaking, with entire workshops, classes, and books devoted to the subject. At its most robust, your portfolio could extend your visual identity’s reach across various media platforms to include your personal story, resume, blog, and social media accounts. For those of us just starting out in our careers, building substance out of limited resources is the big challenge; hopefully these pointers will help to illuminate that process.

Articulate values. While it’s easy to take them for granted, it is essential to make note of your values. These values should be the driving principles for your interactions (virtual and otherwise) with prospective employers and clients. For example, if you want to portray yourself as creative, self-driven, detail-oriented, and flexible (as I do), these attributes should color everything throughout your portfolio—its layout, content organization, copy, tone, and visual aesthetic.

Tell your story. You are just as much selling yourself as an individual as you are your skills and the services you are capable of delivering. Your interests and experiences should be an extension of your personal philosophy and reflect your worldview; when combined with your qualifications, your story will help to fortify what makes you unique. Each of these touchpoints—your blog, portfolio, and social media accounts—should serve as windows into your personality.

Embed skills in narrative. Your experience will be grounded in your work samples. Framing your examples with a little context (each should tell a story) allows you to show how you approach the work you do, providing further opportunity to give your prospective employers and clients a glimpse into your process. Don’t be afraid to strut your stuff here, you problem-solving savant, you.

Be aspirational. Always be thinking of your audience and your objectives. What are you trying to achieve with your portfolio? For work samples, include the kind of work you’d like to be doing in your professional life. Also use this time to audit your skill set and fill in any gaps. Project the person you want to be.

Tie it all together. Ideally, everything in the portfolio should serve the same purpose. Is all the content relevant? Is the tone consistent? Is the sum of the work representative of the image you want to portray?

Inspiration

  • stephaniepodmore.com – This portfolio from a fellow Ooligan has a crisp design, is written with direct language and consistent tone, and is easy to navigate. It is helpful to compare your own organizational methods with someone who has a similar background and objectives.
  • mikehouston.me – Straightforward, no-frills portfolio from an experienced copywriter. The project descriptions are concise and capture both the essence of the client’s needs and his own skills and contributions.
  • fionaraven.com – While a bit cumbersome, this website is also comprehensive, inviting in tone, and relatively user-friendly. The author has a very well-developed platform, and the depth of resources makes evident that her expertise is without question.
  • bookdesigners.com – What this website lacks in personal philosophy, it makes up for with ease of interactivity and clarity of purpose.

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