Portfolios: the basics.

So you’ve got your kick-ass CV in front of someone, they love it, now what? In our industry it’s work samples. Ultimately these are what’ll get you sat in front of someone for an interview.

Lots of designers have their own websites, that’s great, but actually I think a small PDF of work, fronted by your CV, is still the best way to get the conversation started. Everything is there in one place, no clicking required so less opportunity to be distracted.

Work on two sets though. A condensed version that your CV fronts — typically a 5–10 sheet PDF of your very best, most relevant work — a sort of snap shot of what you’re about — and an extended version that goes into more detail that you can use at interview.

With your condensed version concentrate on what packs the most punch. Remember, we’re dangling carrots here, inviting the viewer to spend a bit more time with us at each stage. Show work that’s actually run and chimes with your viewers client base and try to avoid too many extreme close-ups or cutesy logos for your Mum’s mate the mobile hairdresser. As delightful as some personal projects are this is not the place for them.

“if in doubt, leave it out!”

Your extended portfolio is where you can go into finer detail and offer up some more unusual pieces. You should have the luxury of time here — well, at least a bit more than before — so make the most of it. That being said, don’t be tempted into showing work that’s old and/or below par — your viewer won’t know that, so if in doubt, leave it out and only show projects you’re proud of and happy to be judged by.

In terms of how to structure your portfolio, If the aim is to get hired, remember that hiring someone can be a box ticking exercise. Putting your very best, commercial work at the front and centre should help you cover all the core things your hirer is looking for as early possible (concept, layout, typography etc). Once you’ve done that, you can use the second part of your portfolio to show off some added extras, the quirkier pieces that’ll get across what you bring to the party that others may not.

As designers we’re really lucky; CV’s and portfolios give us a chance to shine before we even walk through the door so it’s well worth spending the time putting them together.

Interviews still have to be negotiated though so I’ll give you a few tips and tricks on how to make the best of them in my next post.

CV's: the basics.

A few years ago, I wrote my most popular post ever; Advice for design graduates. Much of that advice still holds true but It’s obviously been while …it’s been a while since my last post full stop really.

So here’s an update and rather than a complete rehash, this time I’m going to break it down into a few posts — what with all the talk of dwindling attention spans…

First things first then. If you’re actively looking for a job your CV will most likely be the first communication your prospective employer will see of yours. It’s important. Very important, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw everything at it.

I often describe landing a new role as a ‘carrot dangling exercise’ and your CV ought to be the first ‘carrot’.

(Best stock image ever?)

(Best stock image ever?)

Remember that, first foremost, it’s a utilitarian document that’s main purpose is to communicate your name, how to contact you, a BRIEF indication of your work history and/or educational accomplishments and — at a push — a line or two about yourself to inject a bit of personality.

For designers especially, I think it can be helpful to think of your CV as the first page of your portfolio (2 pages at a push). It’s an easy opportunity to tick a few boxes right from the get go — have you got an eye for layout, grid systems, how are your typographic skills, colour palettes etc.

“Always leave them wanting more…”

I said earlier not to throw everything at it. The best CV’s are visually clean and concise. Huge blocks of text are intimidating and are rarely read so the trick is to provide just enough information to ignite interest then direct your reader somewhere where they can find out more.

For example, In a recent role I’ve worked there were over 200 other applicants and with the best will in the world, I will not be reading 200+ CV’s front to back. I’ll scan them and the ones I like — great laid outs, recognisable clients and/or work history — I’ll spend more time with.

Those that use word.docs, have multiple pages, demonstrate poor typography or are simply visually unappealing get left behind because if you can get those things right, you’re not who we’re looking for.

And that’s the next point — make sure you point your reader to where they should go next. Even a great CV can only do so much — unless you’ve got a stack of top drawer agency names in your work history, your CV alone will seldom get you to an interview by itself. Your work should do the talking, so make it easy for your reader to find.

What, where and how should to show your work? We’ll talk about that in the next post.