Part of Scott Kellum's beautiful portfolio.

Second in my series is all about the portfolio. This is definitely an area that I am still learning about and I can only give you basic advice on what to do and not do. A few things to think about before you even start to put yours together:

01] How do you want to sell yourself? You may have had classes in just about every area of art, but what are your strengths and what kind of job are you going after? A potential art director may or may not care about your printmaking experience. 

02] Are you planning on showing your personality through your work? This is an interesting aspect of the portfolio that I haven’t ever addressed myself. Your personality can be shown through your actual pieces and also how the pieces are presented. My current art director spent countless hours on a beautiful style guide for his portfolio, which included custom boards that sit in their own tin. You can spend $50 on a black, zippered case like me and plop work in (because you don’t have time, money, ideas, etc.), and you can also make your portfolio unique. If you go the second route, make sure you are able to justify why you did what you did.


DO put in your best work. Even if it’s only five pieces. A few amazing pieces are far better than many so-so ones.

DO think about the order you put your work in. I’ve been told to start and end strong.

DO have a variety of clients and work. If all of your pieces use the same typeface, same photography or same graphic style you won’t be able to show off how versatile you are.

DON’T put any piece in that you aren’t 100% in love with. When you get to that piece and begin talking about it, the employer will be able to tell no matter how well you try to disguise it.

DO be able to talk about every piece like you just finished it yesterday. Know why you made the decisions you did. “Because it looked nice” is not a reason.

DON’T take credit for anything that’s not yours. If you have a great mailer you designed that contains a logo you didn’t, make sure you point that out. If you applied that logo onto a billboard where it is the most dominant element, don’t use the billboard. Make sure every piece that goes in your portfolio is 99% your work. This goes along with lying about your skills in your resume. It will come back to haunt you.

DO take pride in your work. If you are mounting your pieces, use solid black mat board. Don’t scrape the corners and make sure your art is straight. How you present your art is a reflection of the pride you take in your craft.

DO consider getting a website as a supplement to your physical portfolio. There are great sites out there that are free that let you post work, including Carbonmade, Coroflot and even Flickr. Having your work online will help potential employers remember you. Especially if they can view your work at any time.

DON’T get discouraged if you are right out of school and think you don’t have enough “real world” projects. You are in the same boat as thousands of others. However, I highly recommend internships (mine landed me a job) and volunteering your skills for non-profits.

Final step: The Interview