A modular new media portfolio.
February 7, 2010 12:46 PM   Subscribe

I've decided to finally get create a portfolio modular enough so that I'll be able to reuse parts of it for at least a year or so. But how ought I go about this so as not to waste time.

I'm an artist who works with web, sound, photography, video and text. 2010 is the year where I'm getting my stuff together and I'm applying for shows, grants, stipends and AIR programs. And for each program, I'm finding myself throwing a new portfolio together, and it's getting to the point where I realise that 50 hours spent on coming up with a sustainable, long-term solution to the portfolio would save me a ton of work and aggravation, so I'm casting about the best way of doing this.

I'd like the end product to be a system whereby I'd be able to specify (for example) to use the short-text English version of three selected art pieces, and have a pdf output, ready for either print or email, with a table of content and an introductory cover letter. (which would be specific to that particular output)

I guess I could bite the bullet and do this in LaTex; Being able to markup different versions of the project descriptions (I'd need them in Swedish as well as in English) would be useful, but I wonder if there isn't a neater DB solution for this, which isn't as thick with the ugly.

The brute force way of doing this would be do do finished, separate designs of each project description in InDesign or somesuch, and then just join whatever PDFs I need into a finished document. Doing global changes to the layout would be impossible though, as would proper page numbering and a TOC which takes the cover letter into account.

So maybe FileMaker or another such app would do? An added bonus would be if I could export for web, either into straight html or integrated with MySql or a CMS front end. (I'm using Wordpress)

Perfection is indeed the enemy of good, so as things stand I just want to get this done. Please advise.
posted by monocultured to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting. There don't seem to be a ton of great solutions for this, but one hack that'd fit most of your spec would be to do them all on a HTML page and then narrow down by tag, and restyle / show and hide parts of descriptions with CSS? And then use print to pdf to generate PDF output?

(note that LaTeX is great for formulas and certain types of output, but the HTML it produces is 2000-quality, and including & styling images seems like a total hack. Don't even think about multimedia in LaTeX)
posted by tmcw at 1:41 PM on February 7, 2010

Response by poster: Yep, doing the markup in HTML and then having a style sheet for output would work, but it's still not a very elegant solution. Page numbering wouldn't work, for one, nor would I be able to prefix the portfolio with a separate letter easily. Or am I missing a dead simple way of doing it in html with some js "layout for print" libraries?

I'd much rather work with markup which doesn't interfere with writing the stuff, so no inline tags would be a bonus for legibility. (Reading a text in a css-formatted browser while writing in an editor is one more step towards not being arsed to do it…)

On the upside, it would be easy to migrate such a db into any other format…
posted by monocultured at 2:50 PM on February 7, 2010

I do this in InDesign.

The trick is to create a separate InDesign document for each of your projects/clients, then create a book (File > New > Book). You can add whatever projects make sense, and the page numbers and TOC will automatically update (as long as you've set things up correctly). Adding/subtracting "chapters" is trivially easy, and you can export to PDF from the book menu at any time.

For bonus points, you can create a separate document just for page headers and footers, and import that doc as a link in your master pages. That way you can change those just once and have your entire book's headers and footers updated.

Just make sure and plan ahead for this sort of modularity, and play around with a couple of chapters before converting your whole portfolio to this format till you get the hang of it.
posted by nadise at 3:12 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Nadise, I didn't know you could dynamically update headers in a book with imported files, that would simplify the process. Thanks.

It's still not quite there though; If I want to change data in one project description (For example, an old art work is exhibited in a new venue, which I'd like to add to the description) I'd have to go through four versions (Swedish short, long, English short, long) of the document to get it done. (Or I could maybe nest books within books, but that would become unwieldy in a hurry)

Have you had any experience using Data Merge with InDesign? It seems to accept different kinds of data and might just work (As in, I'd only have to add another row to a "showed" column. Opinions on that?
posted by monocultured at 3:36 PM on February 7, 2010

If you use latex, you can manage things using version control software like git, i.e. merge this change from that that past portfolio into the portfolio being created. I've found that latex and git are pretty effective for writing letters that have similar constraints, but not so similar as to be systematizable. You might achieve the same effects with InDesign plus Version Cue, but I've never used Version Cue.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:51 PM on February 7, 2010

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