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Selecting The Right Art Portfolio

Selecting The Right Art Portfolio


A sharp-looking portfolio with crystal-clear pages lets your work speak for itself. The choice of a presentation strategy for a portfolio is as individual as the artist. Some choose the most neutral black zipper case with plain, clear pages; others create a completely customized look based on nontraditional containers and accessories. Here is some information about portfolio types and what type best fits your needs.

Academic Portfolios

A portfolio intended for a high school or college interview, or scholarship review should be chosen according to several factors.

What did the academic officers ask to see?

A stack of fifty of your best drawings won’t get you very far if the admissions officer only wants twenty. The first cut for academic admission and scholarship awards is always based on who reads and follows instructions. Follow all guidelines for presentation according to the schools to which you’re applying, above any other advice.

Will you be carrying Originals or Reproductions?

Academic portfolios generally are composed of original art, although very large or bulky pieces can usually be represented by high-quality photographic prints. Though the contents can be edited for multiple recipients, usually a student will use one portfolio for all the schools to which an application is made, so you will want to pick something neutral enough to work for multiple recipients.

Mounted or loose Contents?

To accommodate large display boards, choose a vinyl zipper case without pages, a little bigger than the biggest piece in your presentation. For the best impact, mount all loose works on clean black or white boards of a uniform size (either one or the other, not a mix of both); when traveling, take a couple extra boards in case of damage in transit. Delicate drawings should be matted to avoid damage. If the boards are wrapped in Duralar film, be sure all corners are folded cleanly and tape is cut with scissors, not torn. Labels should be attached to the back of boards, neatly printed, at lower right corner.

A unified presentation looks professional and helps organize dissimilar works into a coherent package. Avoid different colored mounts in favor of a single, neutral color; otherwise, your portfolio might look a little like an Easter basket, and you will be emphasizing the general difference between all your works, rather than letting each piece communicate for itself. The best academic portfolios enhance the work, rather than calling attention to the presentation technique.

Commercial Arts and Graphic Design

Although broadband internet access is universal in the business world, and digital files offer cheap and instant image transportation, all designers still need to maintain a physical representation of their best work. Graphic designers usually keep multiple portfolios. Most artists have a high-quality zipper case containing a binder with clear pages; this will display high-quality reproductions and originals, and will be shown in person during an interview. It’s a good idea also to maintain several less expensive versions that can be sent away or left with an art director without risk of loss or damage.

Though the size and type of portfolio varies with the artist, generally professionals use smaller cases than students, favoring high-quality prints rather than originals. Among the reasons for this are: most published work tends to be smaller; the artist may not own the original art after completion of a commercial assignment; tearsheets (printed samples of completed, published work) are often more desirable than originals, as the final printed piece is considered the finished state. It’s important to realize that art directors will not always want to have a massive portfolio spread open on the desk, with oversize originals that are difficult to handle.

A professional’s art portfolio should contain pockets for business cards, postcards and compact disks containing digital portfolios.

Less costly versions of a graphic designer’s portfolio can be created using Itoya Profolios, a book-style folder with permanently attached clear sleeves. The Profolio line includes all standard sizes, at an affordable price. Despite the low cost, with a custom-printed spine insert and a CD in the inner pocket, the Profolio books make a great impression, and you can afford to give them away.

Next: Non-Traditional Portfolios →

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