Portfolio content?
November 14, 2006 6:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm after content ideas for building a design portfolio.

I'm studying web design and earning a little on the side with design (and research assistant and clerical) work, but I'd like to have a portfolio to direct potential customers to. I'm in small country town and have connections at the local university, so ideally, I'd like to appeal to (other) academics there, as well as other business groups. So far my work in this area includes graphs, diagrams, illustrations etc for books, powerpoints for international conferences, logos.

Obviously, I need samples of my work, and I don't have many. I want to build a collection, but where do I start? Do you have any ideas about stylesI should cover (eg logos, diagrams, book covers) or different media (Illustrator, CorelDraw, photographs, Ink & Pen, Powerpoint) or different topics (draw a monkey-politician as it will be appealing and get you lots of work).

What am I not thinking about that I should be?
posted by b33j to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Is my question too broad? How about this?
What would encourage you to hire my services if you were browsing my website? Colour diagrams? Business card designs? Illustrations?
posted by b33j at 7:43 PM on November 14, 2006

Who do you anticipate your clients being? What size job do you think you could do the best work on?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:32 PM on November 14, 2006

It's hard if you don't have samples, but not impossible - you can always do a case study for an existing site on how you'd improve it. Also find out what your potential clients would need - if there are professors that want websites or course web sites, find out what they'd need and create sample versions so that potential clients can see the benefit of what you *can* do for them.

Your portfolio really depends on what you want to highlight - if you're studying web design and want that to be the focus, don't emphasize the other collateral material (i.e. logos etc.). Include your examples of logos etc., but emphasize that your strength is in the web design sphere. It's fine to note you have all of these other skills and abilities, but perhaps hone in on the web design as the focus (if that's what you want).

Also a huge help is not only showing the illustrations or screen captures of the web site, but to talk about the problems you're trying to solve for your clients, and the processes you've used to create those web sites. That can also help flush out who you are and what you do - and that they're hiring a professional with a wide variety of skills that can be applied to the client's needs.

Does this help? Let me know - I have other ideas as I've been in similar circumstances.
posted by rmm at 10:51 PM on November 14, 2006

Response by poster: I guess what I think I'm after is a random bunch of -
* could you draw me a cross betwen a cat and a bunny
* i'd like to see a logo for an ethical lawyer
* how about a modern baroque CD cover
* goth wedding invitations
* diagram of alien dna helix
which should inspire me to create a bunch of things to go in my gallery.

Stupid idea?
posted by b33j at 11:19 PM on November 14, 2006

Best answer: If your target is academics, and you're very good at PowerPoint, you could differentiate yourself by offering PowerPoint polishing services -- basically, taking cookie cutter presentations and making them look flashy and appealing. I know that for a lot of academics, these are their bread and butter when it comes to making presentations at conferences, so at the very least you could grab their attention this way.

Unless the charts you made really were amazing, I wouldn't focus too much on them. Pretty much anyone with Excel can make a decent looking chart. If you've made a brochure that lays out charts in an appealing way, however, that might be good.

If your target is academics, you want them to think of you as someone who can present information in a visually appealing way.

Also, unless your web design is spectacular, or there are few web designers in your region, or you have deep experience with it (i.e. several years' worth of sites that you can use as portfolio material) I wouldn't push that aspect of it. With so many people proffering web design these days, it's not a field that is easy to compete in. With your experience as a research assistant I assume you have a somewhat richer understand of academic information than your average web/graphic designer. So, you should be thinking more like Edward R. Tufte, less like Lynda Weinman. You're not a graphical designer, you're an information designer!

At least, that's the path I would take if I were you.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:46 PM on November 14, 2006

Best answer: Maybe you can conceive of your portfolio in terms of who is likely to need you. You can pick just one or two areas to focus on... here are some examples that come to mind.

Academics: presentations, web design, specialty illustrations, information design as Deathalicious suggests...

Small business: business cards, signage, logos, stationery, decals for company car, company Christmas card, computer or poster presentations, web design etc. Do you do window decorating for shops?

Musicians: cd cases, t-shirts, business cards, press packet design, fliers for shows, fliers for cd debut parties, etc

Custom invitations: wedding invitations and programs, retirement party invitations, 60th wedding anniversary, 40th birthday blowout, etc.

For each category of client, think of three or four sample clients with different tastes. One conservative, one middle of the road, one unconventional (or similar spread).

Make wedding invitations for:
-Barbara and Phil, who are having a garden ceremony followed by tea on the patio. They're nature lovers, and traditionalists.
-Nadine and Herbert, who are having a church ceremony followed by a black tie party at a wine bar. They're in their middle 40s. He's a jazz clarinetist and she's a nurse; they love to party.
-Kyra and Max, who are getting married at an art gallery and having a big reception themed around Japanese food, decorated with paper lanterns, with Kyra wearing traditional Japanese bridal garb. They're both in their early 20s.
-Elsie and Kurt, who are getting married in bare feet on the beach and invite their guests to spend the weekend camping and drinking at the beach with them. He's a tattoo artist and she's in a punk band.

You can imagine similar scenarios for whichever category you want to highlight. (I would say, your first order of business should be to put together a range like this for one type of thing. If a business-card client sees 4 aesthetically very different wedding invitations, she'll be able to see the breadth of your abilities. It will also give a starting place for discussions of what you will do for her business cards. But if she sees your favorite aesthetic, as applied to 10 things, she'll think you can only do that.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:29 AM on November 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

I heard Elsie and Kurt were jerks.
posted by clunkyrobot at 7:44 AM on November 15, 2006

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