So for this article we’ll be touching specifically on PDFs and printed portfolios you may take to an interview. We’ve talked previously about the pros & cons of an online portfolio so go have a looksie over there for more info on that side of things.
FIRST: Your introductory ‘E-mailable’ PDF is not the same as your printed PDF. See them as 2 separate things & they’ll be a lot stronger.
Q. What is the job of a PDF portfolio?
A. To give a snapshot of what you can do & leave the viewer wanting more.
We’ve designed up a quick example below. This is for a rough guide to show you the rationale behind WHAT to show, not HOW to show it, so don’t copy it!
Page 1: We’ve included the recipients name & company on the cover – people will appreciate the effort. We’ve also paid old Dave a couple of compliments, never a bad way to break the ice. Notice how we’ve kept Jessie’s brand simple, her approach friendly and only used her essential personal details. Also be aware that we’ve suggested a date to meet up (within next few weeks) this minimises the chance of the studio forgetting to respond.
Page 2: Here we’ve introduced the first project, you’ll notice '1 of 3', this lets the recipient know they’re not going to be here all day :). We’ve kept the copy short, and included a few quick bullet points, which could be the deliverables of the project and a short space at the bottom to write about the outcome or impact. We suggest keeping the text large & on a separate page, as when you try to squeeze it all onto one page the layout becomes uglier & the copy is less readable.
Page 3/4/5: We then have 3 pages to present your project visuals. We’d suggest using the first page to set the scene. This could be sketches, unused concepts, pictures of you doing research or the ‘old design’, before you redesigned it. The following pages should then be used to show the finished project. Use the best imagery you have, you can always hold some back for the interview stage.
Page 6: Notice now how we’ve gone back to a standard layout to introduce the next project, this adds familiarity. You’ll see we’ve used a different colour scheme, simply to let the viewer know they’re onto a different section. The title of the piece is again a ‘problem’ – graphic design is all about solving problems, so consider how you can tweak the title to make it impactful or engaging.
Page 7/8/9/10/11/12: Follow a similar structure for your next projects. If you have links off to websites, make them bold & clickable.
Page 13: We’re now back to the original colour scheme & a final message from Jessie thanking the viewer for his time. She reemphasises her upcoming availability, pays another compliment, signs off in a friendly way, and finishes prominently on her email address, making it as easy as possible for the studio to respond.
Now that you have a layout, it’s worth considering how it can be bespoke. We mentioned making the cover page unique, but the projects themselves could also change to better represent the style of the studio. If you have a collection of 6 projects, choose around 3 that best represent what that studio currently does.
Most studios aren’t looking to radically change their style, so consider where you’re sending it and tweak your portfolio to include projects you feel compliment theirs.
So, you’ve got through the door, and you’re taking some work to show the agency. Usually you’ll have around 45-60 mins, so I’d look to take around 6 pieces, plus some physical mockups, sketch books and any personal work. A typical A3 portfolio with sleeves will do the trick. Ensure your portfolio is neat, no coffee stains or dog-eared pages. If you have video/animation work, bring a laptop or iPad (fully charged & dodgy website tabs closed).
For your personal work, give the a sense of who you are, your hobbies/interests. Being passionate about anything (your obsession with 90’s skate culture or even your American cereal box collection) is a GOOD thing.
For more advice on the interview itself, have a look over here.