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Art Students: Portfolio Show Dos & Don'ts

Art Students: Portfolio Show Dos & Don'ts

Elisha-Rio Apilado

The Four Faux Pas of a Portfolio Show

1. Have no leave behind. I know, I know, you’ve spent all that time building this large sheeted portfolio for clients to flip through. The portfolio show should be a time where those employers stand at your booth and admire it. But guess what? The majority of the time, your show is at a time and on a day of the week where professionals are busy working at their OWN jobs. A couple may pop through the show, but won’t stay long.

This isn’t a speed dating session where you pair up and go through your portfolio for 20 minutes straight Your portfolio usually consists of 12-15 pieces. They don’t have time to look through each and every one of them while you’re talking for minutes explaining each piece’s concept.

Good Idea: Make a mini portfolio! A handy (literally the size your hand) mini portfolio highlights the most interesting and unique pieces of your large portfolio. It’s also a chance for you to show how you represent yourself in a mini book and in package design. How would you make a mini book? Maybe another spiral bound? A saddle stitch? Or maybe mini cards in a small box? It’s all up to you, whatever you choose, make sure it represents you. These professionals are taking a little piece of you home (er, back to the work place).

2. Have an online portfolio ONLY. Have both. Please, make sure your portfolio is on both the web and in print. When you’re at your portfolio show, again, professionals may not have time to view all your work. An online portfolio allows them to look at your website on their own time.

Good Idea: Make sure to have your website on your resume, stationary, business card, and every other piece of marketing material throughout your career. Another tip: Make sure your online portfolio doesn’t take forever to download. You’d be at risk losing the interest of potential clients and employers.

3. Only keep your projects in your portfolio. Come on, I’m sure you done a lot of design projects that had you making mock ups of package design or books or even magazine layouts. I know you’ve photographed them professionally to have in your large creative book, but don’t keep it there only for recruiters to view! Graphic designers like to touch and feel (which is why most of them are still loyal to print design). As a matter of fact, humans are curious and like to touch and feel to understand things.

Good Idea: Have package design products? Display them (professionally) so that the viewer can have a 3D experience. Book layouts or magazine layouts? Lay them out as you would do on a coffee table at home! But please, PLEASE make sure these projects were done in great care and are presented flawlessly. Would you want a tear in your book to be exposed to the world on the most important day of your school/career life? I think not!

Keeping a sloppy booth. Presentation is important. Not only of the samples in your book, but for yourself and your booth. Before spectators even walk through the door, make sure you lay out your portfolio and actual samples for them to touch and look through. Have a stand for any books you’ve designed and bound and especially for your portfolio itself!

Good Idea: People know that your portfolio is a sacred piece of your art career, so they may be a little hesitant when passing through to go over and look at it. Make it more inviting, have it on a stand at an angle rather than laying flat, dead on the table. Prop up your portfolio! Have a little area where people can pick up mini portfolios, resumes, business cards (and hey, even candy!) Dress professionally, no jeans, no outrageous colors like hot pink tees. You’re at the show to show your goods to professionals who could potentially be your boss or co-workers. Think of everyone as a recruiter, and stay professional in both your attire and mannerism.

Please remember that even though you have this portfolio show, it’s NOT the end of your portfolio. It evolves over time, will encompasses many different graphic design trends and will also demonstrate how you grow as an artist after many jobs. Your portfolio is a long-term career investment — Treat it accordingly.


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