How should you approach the design of a portfolio?
The work is the hero, so you’re showcasing the projects that you’ve done, and you want that work to sing. But that said, you want that work to sing in a beautiful way. If you’re applying for a design job, you want people to feel like your portfolio has been designed, rather than, ‘Here are some images and here’s some copy.’ You want it to feel a bit more crafted, because that’s your craft. You don’t want it be overdesigned, of course. The majority of portfolios we see are fairly clean and simple, which normally works best. But you need to pay close attention to detail. For example, if you have a paragraph of copy with a little widow – one word on its own – and then you talk about having a passion for typography, no one’s going to believe you. It’s little things like that which make the difference.
Should you include personal work?
I think that’s a great idea, I really do. Because often you’ll have a fantastic idea, but in the world of commercial design sometimes it doesn’t end up the way you first imagined it, for any number of reasons. So, yes I think showing personal work in your portfolio that demonstrates how you think about ideas, your approach to work and so on, alongside your client work, is a great way to show off the other things that you can do. You don’t want it to dominate, but including some personal pieces can be a nice way to talk about things you enjoy, and demonstrates you’re someone with a bit of passion.
How can you make your portfolio stand out from the crowd and grab someone’s attention?
When I get a portfolio, I want to feel that the person who’s sending it loves their portfolio. Because it’s something that represents you as a person. If I look at something and I get that sense that someone’s proud to share that, that’s what I’m looking for, essentially, whatever level you’re at, whether that’s at the junior level or at the design director level.
How do you achieve that in practical terms?
I think it’s largely about putting in the time and effort. In truth, people can tell when a designer has lavished care and attention on a portfolio, rather than just chucked some work in a layout and that’s it. There’s a consideration to the length and the projects that are included, it’s not too dense, and it’s almost like you’re telling the story of yourself. If a portfolio has that feeling, it definitely becomes more engaging.
How important is it to sell your portfolio at interview?
Some people love to present, some people hate to present, but you have to learn how to cope with it, because it’s part of your job. That said, when we meet people, we try to keep it quite informal so it’s not an interview as such, it’s more a conversation.
Creative director at Superunion
Lou has been with Brand Union since its creation in 2008 (formerly Enterprise IG, where she also worked). With almost 20 years’ experience, she’s worked within a wide range of disciplines from retail, environmental experiences and live events through to visual identity systems and guidelines, internal communication strategies and roll out, and strategic brand creation. ■