Thinning the herd: how do I trim down my design portfolio and sample pile?
January 18, 2006 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Fellow graphic designers: I need help thinning out my collection of samples and portfolio materials. What should I keep? please hope.

I've got about 12 years worth of samples at this point, which takes up two big plastic bins, and an overstuffed drawer in my filing cabinet. I'd love to get it down to just the file drawer, but I'm not sure what to get rid of. I'm planning to build my freelance work back up again, so I'm a little wary of tossing out too many samples.

Just to give you some idea, I've got 5-10 samples of booklets and other "printed on paper" stuff, and one sample each of screenprinted items like shirts and giveaway items. Plus, lots of clippings and covers from my years of working at an alt weekly. I only have about 20 percent of this stuff on disk, which, again, makes me wary of throwing away what might be the only copy of something I've made.

So, my question is, what criteria should I use to thin out this collection? Stick to more recent stuff? One or two of each type of project? Scan things and ditch the hard copies? Thanks in advance.
posted by whatnot to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it's a matter of nostalgia or personal connection to certain pieces, then that's another issue, but from a purely business standpoint -- ditch anything that you won't be able to score more work with from having it in your portfolio.

Of course, me, I'm a complete packrat and don't throw out anything I've done unless I can't even stand to look at it.
posted by Robot Johnny at 10:06 AM on January 18, 2006

Best answer: For your portfolio: small multiple of samples of your best work from your most recent, highest profile projects in the areas where you want to do business. Or basically what RobotJohnny said.

Archive everything else digitally. Then throw out what you can, keeping only the things you can't bring yourself to get rid of.
posted by safetyfork at 10:16 AM on January 18, 2006

maybe you should post some things, and people can take a look when it comes to thinning out different kinds of projects like logos, ads, etc.
posted by at 12:29 PM on January 18, 2006

what chuckforthought said, plus, add voting! :-)
posted by Wild_Eep at 1:07 PM on January 18, 2006

Best answer: For a while now I've been intending to go through my samples and list the strongest pieces, then have my wife go through and list her favorites. I figure that the intersections between my (designer's) list and her (consumer's) list will be the best candidates for the portfolio. Gotta get around to that some day.
posted by Dean King at 1:21 PM on January 18, 2006

Best answer: 'High profile', 'recent' and 'work you like' are all good criteria. Another approach is to include work that tells a good story; things you can talk about well, that have an interesting background or otherwise engaging details. Those go over well in interviews.

Also, if possible, let your folio be a document that can present itself, so it can represent you well if you're not around when people are looking at it. That means writing a short blurb about your pieces. While it's true that good work speaks for itself, context aids understanding and gives you a shot at explaining the genius behind your design. When I used to keep an updated folio I designed it to read like a design annual/book. Viewers stayed engaged for longer and understood more.

Not every piece has to be commerically viable either. It seems counter intuitive, but our small company portfolio (address in profile) still has pieces from my personal folio in it, and clients respond really well to those. Potential clients get to see that you can really go leftfield if necessary, and that's usually a plus.

These are just things that have worked for me, YMMV.
posted by BorgLove at 2:38 PM on January 18, 2006

Response by poster: thanks, all! If anyone is still reading this, how many samples of your "good stuff" do you keep on hand?
posted by whatnot at 9:36 PM on January 18, 2006

You could post digital photos of everything on your Web site, then throw away the "maybe's." Keep the originals of only your best stuff.
posted by wordwhiz at 9:43 AM on January 28, 2006

« Older Why don't the radiators in my apartment stay hot?   |   How to pull off programmed music live? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.