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Portfolio Review: Expert Tips

When applying to a design role, one of the first things a hiring manager will look at is your portfolio. The creative consultants at smartdept. inc. review 100’s of portfolios each month and want to share their top tips on how to make sure yours stands out from the crowd.

Unsurprisingly, the one thing that everyone on staff wanted to talk about was organization. Whether you’re organizing by campaign, client, or type of medium, it should be very easy to navigate through and get to the right place.

See the rest of our expert tips below:

Hannah Staal, Creative Consultant in Grand Rapids

  • The most effective portfolio will tell your story, celebrate your brand. It will showcase your growth and development.
  • Flushed out campaigns: Does your messaging hold true for several different pieces? i.e. signage, logo, branding, sales sheets
  • Are you specialized? i.e. packaging, agency driven…or more generalized? Embrace it!
  • Concept to Execution: did you show process? That’s always a cool perk.

Jaime Sklar, Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Functionality: Content and samples should flow naturally and easily. User experience is huge when looking at design portfolios especially. Nobody likes to waste time trying to click through different samples and images that are choppy and inconsistent
  • Layout and Design Aesthetic: If the color and design aesthetic is too bulky, showy, or flashy, it takes away from the work. Black backgrounds look outdated. The text should be easy to read on each page/sample.
  • Portfolio Site Used: Use a modern portfolio site and check it regularly. Coding changes and updates can pop up without warning.
  • Variety: I prefer portfolios that include several samples from each project, along with descriptions of that project and the work you contributed.

Colleen Walton, Creative Consultant in Seattle

  • Keep it simple! The background should be neutral and the navigation should be intuitive. Your site shouldn’t distract from your work.
  • Descriptions are key. They don’t have to be long, but one or two sentences about what the project is and how you were involved is very helpful.
  • Make it easy for people to contact you. Include your email or add a contact page. People can’t hire you if they don’t know how to reach you.

Nina Strolia, Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Share some information about each sample to give the viewer context. What did you contribute to this piece? Was this an existing file that you updated or did you concept it?
  • Delete that distracting background. The highlight of the site is your work, not some crazy animated background. A simple, white background is always a winner.

Colin Wodarski, Business Development Manager

  • You should express your personality without it distracting from the main focus – your work!
  • Samples should include a pertinent description in an easy to find, quick, digestible format: where did you do the project; who was the client; if it was done as a team, what was your role; tools/software used; challenge & outcome (i.e. these direct mailers helped increase web traffic by 50%)

Amy Porter, Sr. Creative Consultant in Chicago

  • Hiring managers like to see a copy of or link to your resume on your portfolio. Put everything in one place. That goes a lot farther than the cutesy “about me” page.
  • Tread carefully with sensitive materials. Did you sign an NDA when you designed that nifty piece of internal software? Even if your portfolio is behind a password wall, your future employer may worry if you’re showing samples from legally protected work. Be sure you have permission before putting your work out there.
  • Building a responsive site portfolio site Square Space, Wix or WordPress using snappy template. Or if you’re targeting Web Design and UX roles, build the site yourself to push it the extra mile. Be sure to test it on multiple browsers, your tablet and mobile phone.

Eric Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

  • When I am reviewing a portfolio I look for a clean and organized presentation.
  • Often the way a candidate presents their work in an interview setting can be a hint as to how they organize their work day.
  • Show up to an in person interview at the scheduled time. Late is never good, but too early can also be a deterrent for many hiring managers.

Michelle Pairitz, smartdept. inc. Principal

  • Present your work in chronological order. Most recent work should be first and student work you are proud of should be last.
  • If your portfolio lacks depth, it is perfectly acceptable to include well-executed spec work.
  • Be honest with yourself and your recruiter about what your role was on each portfolio piece. Elaborate on working with a team, the software used, and if any special circumstances were involved.

 

8 Portfolio Phrases That Send the Wrong Message

Like corporate website, which use phrases like “innovative strategies” and “leading-edge solutions” ad naseum, many freelancers’ online portfolios tend to use some of the same tired phrases again and again. I combed through dozens of freelance websites (many of them discovered through FreelanceSwitch’s Find a Freelancer Directory) to create this list of over-used and ineffective phrases.

If you’re using these in your own portfolio, consider finding other phrases so you can stand out from the pool of eager freelancers.

Read the full article here! (via freelanceswitch.com)

Concise Guide to Archiving for Designers

Designers, protect your hard work! Archiving is one of the most important steps of the creative process, even if it isn’t always the most fun! But if you take the time to archive properly, it will pay off down the road. For effective ways to archive, check out this comprehensive guide.

‘I swear you’re the only one!’ Or, The Importance of Customizing Submissions

So the tedium of the job hunt is getting you down. It seems like you’ve applied to a billion places, and no one is getting back to you. You’re frustrated and all you want is an ice cream sandwich.

I understand your pain.

But let’s look at one huge thing you can be doing to better your chances.

So here’s the set-up question:

Is it better to:

A) Send out a billion resumes that all say the same thing,
Or
B) Five that are customized?

If you chose B), DING DING DING! Correct! Go get yourself that ice cream sandwich as a reward!

Potential employers get frustrated when they get materials that are either obviously generic, or (even worse) have someone else’s name on them. As an internal staffing professional, I saw a lot of ‘em. Google, Apple, Yahoo!, you name it. What did I do with those resumes and cover letters? Tossed them!

Employers want to feel special. When applying for specific positions, be sure to send a resume that has an applicable objective, as well as a resume that high-lights your skill sets that will be most valuable to that particular job. Being a jack-of-all-trades is a fantastic thing—it means you have a lot of doors open to you. However, if someone is looking for a print packaging designer, chances are they don’t really care that you were a camp counselor at Little Champs Baseball Camp and know how to make balloon animals. Focus on your packaging design skills, including brands you worked on and programs you use to design.

And double-y goes for your cover letter. Try and limit it to one page, high-lighting those awesome things about yourself that make you perfect for the job. Address the needs and wants specified in the posting, and how your skills will benefit the company. And the cover letter is the place you can let a little personality shine through (here’s the place to mention your mad balloon-animal-making skills.) Mention accomplishments that you want to highlight in your resume, such as measurable profits, gains, awards, or accolades.

Indeed, personalizing your documents can be time consuming, but trust me: it’s worth it!

Looking for an advertising job? You’ll need this threesome.

Rarely a week goes by at SVC that we don’t interview someone who’d like to break into advertising copywriting or art direction. We’re delighted to meet them, of course, as our ad classes have been one of the mainstays of our portfolio training for umpteen years.

However, we’ve noticed lately that aspiring ad creatives seem less prepared than ever to break into the field. Why? Because advertising has changed so drastically in just the past couple of years. The old style portfolio with a dozen funny or provocative print ad concepts just doesn’t cut it any more.

So what would we do if we were in your shoes? These three things:

Read more: http://www.svcseattle.com/blog/svcthoughts/2010/01/looking-for-an-advertising-job-give-me-three/#more-155

Article posted at The School of Visual Concepts Blog: “Thought of the Hour”

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