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Ivan's picture

7 tips for a good portfolio

portfolioIf you're just out of school or have a few work years behind and need a new gig, the most important thing for you to do is to put a good book together. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you:

  1. Plan in advance and be consistent in keeping archives of your good work. This will help you tremendously when you need to collect your work quickly.
  2. Don't put any cliches in your book, such as condom or wonderbra ads. Creative Directors, not to mention clients hate those.
  3. Don't put more than 7-12 good ideas or designs in your book. CD's and clients don't have time and they don't want to look at your work history. They want to be sure you can do good stuff and a few good ideas are enough to prove that.
  4. Have at least a 3-4 of those works made for FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods, such as toothpaste, detergent or soft drinks) products. Important agencies and design studios have these clients and they want to make sure you can do such work as well.
  5. Show a range of different jobs. Have a 360 degree campaign, but also have a logo design. Include ambient, online and other unconventional media ideas as well. Variety is important, unless you specialize in a narrow field.
  6. You may want to include at the end stuff that's not directly work, but shows your skills that are related to the job. Poetry, drawings, product ideas, etc.
  7. Make your book as simple as possible. It's all about the content. Not about the cover.

You can have both an off-line and an on-line version of your book. Good free online portfolios can be built on coroflot and behance.

If you have any other suggestions, please do share!

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Anonymous's picture

Thanks man!

3dogmama's picture
1990 pencils

Excellent post, Ivan.

Also maybe include:

Before you show it to a potential client or employer, try running it by a few close honest friends, no holds barred. They'll tell you when the yawn factor kicks in...

"Art -- the one achievement of Man which has made the long trip up from all fours seem well advised." - James Thurber

gwells's picture
1707 pencils

i would take it a step beyond that. find an art director or studio owner who's willing to do an "information interview." they're experienced at reviewing portfolios, they can be honest with you (in ways that your friends can't), and their peers are the people you'll be interviewing with.

plus, even if they don't have available jobs, if they see a good book, they'll remember it when one of their peers mentions they have an opening and your name could come up.

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for sharing that great idea...I am going to contact an art director right away!

Ahmed.GFX's picture
9 pencils

That's wonderful post, I was searching about these tips.
Many thanks Ivan!

Anonymous's picture

"Don't put any cliches in your book, such as condom or wonderbra ads. Creative Directors, not to mention clients hate those."

Heh, but why did you put an open brief for condom brand @ adsof?

Ivan's picture

Hi! Good point. This is the one you're referring to, right?

I didn't meant to have this as a porti piece. Rather to give students a different direction on an overused subject.

I think its important to learn that not every condom brand is the same. Each has a different positioning.

This was the objective. Not sure if I achieved it.

Regardless, next month I will post a brief that will be a base for a portfolio piece.

GregSauce's picture
110 pencils

I don't usually promote websites, but this site won me over, similar to linkedin, gives you easy portfolio creation and access to a social network of other artsy fartsy peepz so you can schwingle and dingle your mojo all the way to employment. (i should really be in marketing eh?)

"Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent."
— Joe Sparano

"Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent."
— Joe Sparano

Anonymous's picture

Thanks man.

Anonymous's picture

Its Great dude. Thanks alot for sharing with us.

Anonymous's picture


Anonymous's picture

I think it is a great idea to keep track of all preliminary work done for each piece, including thumbnails. Clients love not only seeing a finished piece in your portfolio, but they are also interested in seeing your thought process. Chances are you'll be showing thumbnails to a client in the future.

Good Luck!

gwells's picture
1707 pencils

i'll agree with this. i think it's always good to have an envelope in the back of your portfolio that shows the full process on one of your pieces. as anon said, this allows you to show the interviewer your creative process.

sivapriya's picture
2 pencils

Thanks 4 ur tips...its..very useful ...

Anonymous's picture

Personally I like Carbonmade over any of the portfolio sites mentioned. You get a lot for free and a ton more for 12 bucks a month. Check them out:

Anonymous's picture

such as condom or wonderbra ads

And hot sauce.

However i don't agree totally. I think you caN have one Condom/Bra/Hotsauce ad in your portfolio, as long as it's amazingly good and innovative

Anonymous's picture

Not only do you need to be a highly-motivated artist...but have a personable approach with people. Your art will speak for itself...and you don't want to ruin that by having horrible people-skills. A lot of employers will not only look at how polished your art is but will also want to know if you can take critz and work well with others. (...and be sure to use mouthwash before the interview. It goes a long way.)

Very nice article! Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous's picture

I would simply add be flexible and check out who you are going to see. The same book won't hit different people in the same way - use your targeting skills!

Great topic btw!! Thanks.

mitchelle2child's picture
33 pencils

Thanks Ivan... for the Nuch... It really helped me a great Deal... Thanks!
Thumbs Up!

Keep on smiling!

AndyBlackUK's picture
2 pencils

Some good tips there. I interviewed for a new graphic designer about a year ago and most of the applicants had some fantastic portfolios. In fact, their portfolios showed that they were in fact over qualified for that position. I advertised for a designer for basic artwork and redrawing logos. Still, for anything above this sort of position I think it's vital to have a good portfolio so your points are very valid.


rmitchadv's picture
1 pencil

Hi, Although your comments are spot on FOR BEGINNERS, I have a question/comments to offer. What do you suggest as far as spec work goes in a portfolio for someone who is seasoned, such as myself? I know there are two schools of thought. My background is such that I have never worked with CPG; is it right or wrong to put in a campaign for something you have never actually had published, printed or aired--especially when you have a lot of experience??! (FYI: All of my experience has been at small to medium sized agencies or in-house).

Also, when I have been lucky enough to get a face-to-face, and I have brought a small amount of work in my book--(less than 15 pieces), the common comment I get is, "Is this all the work you have??" Is that more reflective of the kind of work I am showing the people, or the actual amount of work? Thank you.

Rhonda Mitchell

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