General Question

bridold's avatar

Does anyone use print portfolios anymore? If so, what does yours look like?

Asked by bridold (638points) January 23rd, 2009

I’m currently taking my bachelor level Portfolio class for Graphic Design. Part of the class requirement is to create a unique print portfolio. I was just wondering if any of you artists/graphic designers/photographers/etc use printed portfolios frequently. If so, what does yours look like? Did you personalize it or is it just plain black? Do you have pictures of it?

In case you are unsure of what I’m talking about, here is a link to a site that sells these portfolios:

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19 Answers

cookieman's avatar

I have taught this class for almost ten years, so here’s my basic rules of thumb:

• No more than twelve pieces/projects.
• Black or Charcoal Grey backing paper (neutral color).
• Throw out the paper that comes with the portfolio and replace with Canson pastel paper.
• Use 3M double stick, acid free tape to hold the items down.
• A small piece of tape on the back, 1/3 of the way down will do. Don’t over tape it.
• When the book is open in front of you, the piece should be on the right-hand side.
• Never put a piece on the facing left-hand page unless it is directly related to the piece on the right (of the same project/campaign).
• Only exception to this is the very last page.
• Leave approximately a 2” border of backing paper around each piece.
• Bottom border should be a smidgen wider than the rest (1/4”).
• Do not include your resume or any self promotion pieces in the portfolio.
• Self promotion items should be separate (in an envelope or in the pouch).
• Unless you have an amazing printer at home, have your work professionally printed.
• First page, middle spread, and last page are where your “wow” pieces should live.

And MOST importantly…Build yourself a self promotion/portfolio web site.
Hardly anyone looks at physical portfolios anymore.

designfire's avatar

I still have mine, and though I still show it at interviews, it doesn’t seem to be a crucial element since I mainly have interviewed for web design positions. It is in a black vinal/plastic 11×17 book, plastic sleeves with black matte paper in them and I divide my work up by project from newest to oldest but always trying to have my best piece first.

bridold's avatar

@designfire and @cprevite
Thanks for your answers.

I was under the impression that portfolio web sites are more important these days, but this class seems to be putting the print portfolio as priority.

We also are encouraged to have a “themed” portfolio. Something that matches our “image.” They want us to try and stray away from the plain black portfolio, and be more creative.

I just don’t want to go all out and spend a ridiculous amount of money on something that is hardly even viewed anymore.

I also wanted to see if people in the field have these types of unique portfolios and what theirs looks like.

Thanks again!

blondie411's avatar

I graduated from an intense portfolio class in 2007, sounded exactly like that. The professor wanted none of the pre-made portfolios along with all of these rules about your first portfolio. You need this class to graduate, along with the portfolio to graduate and get a job. It is a big circle that your never going to win.

Eventually when you do get that first job with that portfolio that is filled with amazing work from school, you’ll stay there for a few years but sooner or later you will want to look for something better and need to look for something else. That custom made book that you made in college will need to change because it is now filled from college and out of date. Some interviewers might look at college done work as a turn off.

My advice is to do a portfolio that works for you that helps you for the class and works for an ease of transition down the road. Not one that is so permanent that you can’t change out the work. I had classmates that made hand stitched books on hand-made paper that was ridiculous to make when they made new work in the future.

I still show a print portfolio when I go on interviews, even though when sending out resumes, cover letters and such I will send my link to my website. I think it looks better on print than on the web. Maybe though primarily I am a print designer.

cookieman's avatar

Do not spend a lot of money.

Look here and here.

Also, the book is about your work and should exist to support that work – not detract from it being over designed. Think of this analogy, when you see a painting or print hanging on a wall, you don’t want to say, “Hey, nice frame.”

@blondie411 is right. Sounds like the teacher is pushing the purpose of the class, not the practicality of the portfolio.

Is there a web site component to this class? In this day and age, there needs to be.

simpleD's avatar

I disagree with your instructor. The portfolio, either print or Web based, should be about your work, not about itself. The framework, whether a zippered case or a Web interface, should highlight your work. An effort to make the presentation flashy could be seen as an attempt to distract from the quality of the work. Just as you wouldn’t add a superfluous design element that adds only empty eye candy to a piece, you shouldn’t adorn your presentation unnecessarily.

I like @cprevite suggestions, but I also believe that rules may not be relevant to every situation. The content of your work should suggest it’s placement in the sequence.

cookieman's avatar

@simpleD Very well said.

bridold's avatar

@cprevite Yes, there is a website required for this class. The reason why it is not priority is because we had an Associate level version of this class that focused mainly on the website and everything else was secondary. Now they just want us to break out of the box when it comes to the printed portfolio since we all pretty much had the same black portfolio case in the first class.

There are 3 main requirements for this class: Printed Portfolio, Web portfolio and a leave behind. (Of course business cards, but those were also a main focus of the associate level)

@blondie411 what school did you go to? My teacher did warn us about over designing our portfolios and made sure we understood that it’s the work that counts, she just wants us to take it a step further than the norm. She told us that binding it permanently is an option, but it’d be much better to be able to change your work. That is what I plan to do. I definitely want to be able to change the work that I have.

blondie411's avatar

My professor wanted your work to have a “theme” as well I said this isn’t movie night this is my life in a book. Group your work together that makes sense to put together, expand on ideas, etc. Make the portfolio as practical as possible for you. I suggest books with the post and screw option that looks like almost a scrapbook type idea but removal and adding is easy.

cookieman's avatar

@bridold So how’s your web site looking?

dynamicduo's avatar

I don’t think you have to spend a lot of money in order to make a portfolio that matches your image. I’m thinking back to my recent university days, where I was in a 4 year multimedia program. There’s a lot you can do in terms of graphic design and information flow in order to make a regular black and white portfolio your own. Easiest is changing the color of the portfolio itself. If you have a personal branding theme, now is the time to use it, and if you don’t, now is the time to make one! Even something like having a letterhead/professional treatment on any information pages, or simple monogram logo put on the front with elements brought in through the design, can really make the portfolio your own.

I made a portfolio in order to get into the program. It was a simple 12 or so page 8.5×11 spiral bound booklet, with a blue spiral binding (not terribly modular, but it could be taken off if I wanted to, but I don’t). I wrote the basic info on the cover with a silver gel pen which looked really elegant, and I further decorated the cover with an elaborate squiggle design (one of my signature items). Nothing over the top, just a bit of expression. Inside, first was a summary of myself, followed by each art page which had a piece of art and basic details, concluding with a page which had further explanation of all of the pieces. I also included a Flash-based and HTML portfolio on a CD that matched the theme of the portfolio, it included links to the live websites I had designed as well as higher resolution art pictures.

I’ve just seen your recent answer where you mention business cards as another part. That’s exactly what I was thinking would happen! This is why it’s a great time to think of a type of branding for yourself, that way you can replicate this branding throughout your business items.

There was a simple exercise we did in graphic design. Take two characters, say your initials, and use any fonts, sizes, colors, placements, occlusion, etc to make those two characters look spectacular and expressive in a square box. You really learned how to use negative space, how to occlude parts of the letters without losing their meaning, how you can change the alignment or color or size and tell a totally different message. Twice so with fonts. Many people in my class opted to use this method for designing their own independent ventures as it produces results which are surprisingly effective. It’s very easy to play around with doing this with Photoshop or even with the Gimp. And it’s also a great way to get those brain juices flowing – you may stumble on a font or color that just resonates inside of you, and that may spark another idea… then you’re on the train to inspirationland!

blondie411's avatar

I went to UNF, in Jacksonville. The program is limited access, you have to apply to get in. They actually upped the program in the two years I have left and made it even more intense. Make your portfolio as useful to you, because it is what you need to get a job. Also think about competing in the AIGA portfolio review in your area, you will get a lot of experience talking about your portfolio on an interview.

bridold's avatar

@cprevite : I’m actually doing a total redesign of my website.

My name changed when I got married and my web address had my old last name. I decided that since I’m changing all of that, I might as well revamp the branding and address as well.

So far, the redesign is going well, I just have to code it now.

PupnTaco's avatar

I don’t use a print portfolio anymore, all my work is online. Haven’t used one in five years.

cookieman's avatar

@bridold Spend more time on the website versus the print portfolio.

As @PupnTaco alludes to, print portfolios are fast becoming dinosaurs.

Which is not to say there’s not a place for some well-designed, effective print collateral for self-promotion. But their purpose should be to drive folks to your website.

bridold's avatar

@cprevite Yes, definitely think I will spend more time on the website and touching up some of the work I plan to put in the print portfolio.

I thought that would be the case to begin with, but this class kind of got me all mixed up, lol

I’ll definitely find a print portfolio that matches my branding, but I won’t go overboard with it.

Thanks everyone!

cookieman's avatar

@bridold You’re welcome and good luck.

PetShark's avatar

A couple of things to consider.
While I believe the role of the physical print portfolio has diminished, I don’t believe it is gone yet. When I interview people at my company chances are that by the time you come in to see me I’ve already seen your work online and probably passed the website around to a couple of colleagues. So at that point I’m not really evaluating you on your work so much as on things like your drive, passion and work ethic. And nothing says “attention to detail” and “self-motivated” like a well thought out portfolio. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. It just needs to tell me that you took the time to present yourself in the best light.

The other thing to consider is the type of position you’re applying for. We’re a branding agency so that means we want someone who understands that an effective brand is consistent and cohesive through all the customer touch points. So in this case, the resume, website, business card, and portfolio, all should work together to tell me, the customer, who you are and what you are capable of.

Good luck on your class and future job search.

bridold's avatar

@PetShark Thanks! It’s definitely helpful to get the interviewer’s perspective.

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