Portfolios… if you’re a creative in any field, you know just how important they are. When it comes to selling yourself, your portfolio is probably your most valuable tool. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, your portfolio is your opportunity to demonstrate your skills, your creative style and your work.
As a web designer, I can only think of a handful of sites I’ve created that didn’t have some kind of portfolio or gallery to showcase a person’s or company’s work – creative or not.
So, where do you start when it comes to putting a portfolio on-line? In today’s post, Part One, we’ll look at some of the things to consider when putting together a portfolio together for the web and in Part Two, we’ll look at some of the different types and styles of portfolios you can find on-line.
the basics of an on-line portfolio
Before you start to put your portfolio together, take some time to consider these points:
- who is your target audience? clients? art directors? editors?
- what do you hope to achieve with your portfolio? a job? sales? gallery showings? location assignments?
When you know who your target audience is and what you want to achieve, focus your portfolio. Edit ruthlessly and include only your very best work. Ask somebody you trust to help if you’re having trouble deciding what to include.
Keep the focus on your target group. For example, if you want to appeal to the wedding market, keep your samples relevant. If you do other work not related to weddings, consider having multiple portfolios and use the appropriate one at the right time.
make it easy
As creative people our normal urge is to do something, well, creative. When putting a portfolio on the web it can be tempting to use all kinds of bells and whistles (this is especially true of web designers and graphic designers – it’s very tempting to show off or do something “different”). Be very very careful if you go this route.
Remember that target audience… are they web savvy enough to figure out unique navigation systems (I am web savvy and sometimes even I get completely lost on some of the funkier portfolios out there)? Is it fast? Do you think an art director or editor has time to sit there and wait for your flash intensive portfolio to load?
Keep your presentation simple, clear and fast. Don’t let the presentation of your work overshadow the work itself. Make it obvious to your user how to find what they’re looking for. If you don’t, it might wind up costing you a job.
Really think about whether or not you want music on your portfolio. For many people, myself included, going to a website and having music coming at you is a pet peeve. I turn it off immediately. Music can be an enhancement to your work but it can also be a distraction – make sure there is an option to turn it off. Better yet, let people know it is there and give them the option to turn it on.
If you do decide to have music, (or any other components that are not of your creation for that matter) make sure that you are legally entitled to use it. As artists, we are often the first to get upset when our work is used without permission. Be respectful of the artists whose music you want to use and get permission. Ethically speaking, if you use music illegally, you don’t look very professional.
just starting out
Everyone has to start somewhere and if you feel you don’t have enough work for a portfolio, don’t fear! You can use personal projects (which might be some of your most creative work!) and school projects (if you are a recent grad). Try to make sure they are relevant to your target market though.
If you still don’t feel you have enough work or the work you have is not relevant enough, start looking for opportunities to get the right kind of work. Volunteer to do small jobs for friends or work on your own projects and make them relate to the niche you are targeting. The goal is to show that you have the creative talent and the technical skill set to do the jobs you want to get.
words or images?
Most creative portfolios are highly visual due to the nature of the work we all do (unless you are a writer, of course!). But you should still have an About Me page or section telling prospective clients or employers a bit about you, your work, your philosophy and your skills. If your aim is employment, mentioning your technical skill set is a good idea. This would include any software or specialized gear/equipment that you are proficient with that relates to your craft.
Again, the key element in all of these points is having a keen awareness of the aim of your portfolio and focusing in on that and making it the. best. example of your work.
the next steps…
In the next installment on portfolios we’ll look at the different kinds of on-line portfolios and finding what is best for you.
I hope this has given you some useful things to consider when starting to plan your on-line portfolio!