Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background Background

How to prepare your portfolio

Arti­cle by Bill Schaaf
Head of School of Design & Craft at Buck­ing­hamshire New University

Art and design portfolio

Your port­fo­lio is one of the most impor­tant tools in your career devel­op­ment. The port­fo­lio you cre­ate today to help you get into the col­lege or uni­ver­sity of your choice is only the first build­ing block in a project that will con­tinue to expand and develop through­out your study and into your profession(s). It should not be seen as a sta­tic thing to cre­ate once and reuse many times but, instead, as a dynamic change­able thing which you can eas­ily add to, take away from and re-​order to tell dif­fer­ent sto­ries about your­self to dif­fer­ent audi­ences. A good port­fo­lio is not a sin­gle object but a col­lec­tion of sto­ries that can be told in many dif­fer­ent ways. A port­fo­lio is used to open doors for you – to get into uni­ver­sity, to get a job, to show off what you are and what you are capa­ble of doing.

Col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties use port­fo­lios to help under­stand a num­ber of things about you: what inter­ests you, what skills you have, what you are pas­sion­ate about and how com­mit­ted you are about reach­ing your goals.

Prepar­ing a portfolio

Stu­dents should main­tain at all times a port­fo­lio of work that demon­strates their expe­ri­ence, abil­i­ties and pro­fes­sional inter­ests. At any time, you may be asked to demon­strate to some­one else what you can do. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, you rarely have enough time to cre­ate some­thing entirely new. You must have mate­ri­als, ready to hand, which you can eas­ily cus­tomize to fit the ‘client’s needs’.

Your port­fo­lio should be con­sid­ered to be a col­lec­tion of work that is under con­tin­ual devel­op­ment, edit­ing and improve­ment. You should main­tain your work in phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal form and be able to rearrange or cus­tomize the com­po­nents eas­ily. Depend­ing on the intended use, you may need to pro­vide a sin­gle high-​quality image, a col­lec­tion of five-​ten images with asso­ci­ated descrip­tions, a CD-​ROM or a pre­sen­ta­tion to an extended audi­ence. You should always have avail­able short, descrip­tive text about each piece; you are not always in a posi­tion to present the port­fo­lio so, there­fore, it needs to be self-​explanatory.

What do you put in a portfolio?

You should select pieces that demon­strate your skills (in, for instance, draw­ing, com­po­si­tion, colour selec­tion, mak­ing mod­els, crafts­man­ship), your under­stand­ing, your inter­ests, your cre­ativ­ity and your com­mit­ment. In par­tic­u­lar, uni­ver­si­ties look for demon­stra­tions of your cre­ativ­ity, pas­sion, process or approach to devel­op­ing work and skills – fre­quently in that order of impor­tance. It is vital that stu­dents can show an ele­ment of cre­ativ­ity in what they make and/​or the approach they take to devel­op­ing work. Stu­dents enter art and design study from a num­ber of dif­fer­ent routes and have very dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences and skills. With pas­sion and com­mit­ment, stu­dents can be taught new skills in their cho­sen dis­ci­pline and, while uni­ver­si­ties like to see some exper­i­men­ta­tion related to the intended study, they do not expect to see a high-​level of spe­cial­ist skill. Much more impor­tant to demon­strate are the trans­fer­able skills of draw­ing (see­ing and inter­pret­ing), crafts­man­ship and atten­tion to detail.

You should have exam­ples of fin­ished work as well as ideas in devel­op­ment. If pos­si­ble, include the stages of devel­op­ment in a more com­plex project – ini­tial sketches, inspi­ra­tional images, mod­els, pho­tographs, colour stud­ies, evaluation/​feedback from users. This might be con­sid­ered one ‘piece’ pre­sented, for instance, as a devel­op­men­tal log-​book.

It is use­ful to demon­strate a vari­ety of projects and approaches – two-​dimensional and three-​dimensional work, mul­ti­ple phys­i­cal media (char­coal, paint, block-​print, papier-​mâché, plas­tic, metal, wood…) mov­ing image, com­puter and hand-​generated. For mov­ing image work and ani­ma­tion you should print keyframes and/​or sto­ry­board devel­op­ment so that some aspects of the work can be under­stood with­out see­ing the ani­ma­tion itself. It is par­tic­u­larly ben­e­fi­cial to include work done out­side your class assign­ments; uni­ver­si­ties want to know what you do on your own inspi­ra­tion, with­out the direc­tion of teachers.

For larger, three-​dimensional work, you should include pho­tographs rather than orig­i­nals; 3D work can be awk­ward to carry, han­dle and present and dif­fi­cult to pull out of pack­ag­ing and wrap back up for safety. Fur­ther­more, pre­sent­ing a port­fo­lio is a kind of per­for­mance. It should appear effort­less and flow­ing; the last thing you want is to be fight­ing your work because it is in awk­ward plas­tic sleeves or con­strain­ing packaging.

Some uni­ver­si­ties, in fact, rec­om­mend that you do not place work in plas­tic sleeved port­fo­lios but, instead, mount work on light card-​stock. The rea­son for this is so that they can see the work with­out annoy­ing plas­tic high­lights, that they are not fight­ing metal teeth and man­gled plas­tic sheet and that they can quickly sort through the work to exam­ine the pieces that inter­est them.

How much work should you include?

While some col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties will pro­vide strict guide­lines for the num­ber of pieces, oth­ers will not. Gen­er­ally, your port­fo­lio should include a max­i­mum of 25 pieces. They should be care­fully selected to show the bal­ance of your capa­bil­i­ties appro­pri­ate to the posi­tion for which you’ve applied. It is bet­ter to put in fewer excel­lent pieces than more poor ones.

How should your work be presented?

Flex­i­bil­ity of port­fo­lio mate­ri­als is the most impor­tant aspect to be able to eas­ily pre­pare an appro­pri­ate port­fo­lio. One uni­ver­sity may pro­vide very strict guide­lines to how work may be pre­sented such as a port­fo­lio of a par­tic­u­lar size and num­ber of sheets. Another uni­ver­sity may wish the work in DVD or slide form only. You must be pre­pared to have it in a vari­ety of for­mats. What­ever form is cho­sen, it is impor­tant to think of the sto­ries to be told.

Con­sider the sequences of pieces and how they relate to one another. Con­trary to how many stu­dents present, it is help­ful to put the fin­ished work at the front and then fol­low it with the devel­op­ment sketches and sub­se­quent refine­ment. This enables the viewer to know ‘the end game’ and focus on the devel­op­ment work accord­ingly. What are the ‘chap­ters’ of the story? Do you want a sep­a­rate sec­tion of skills or of per­sonal extra-​curricular work? Do you want the port­fo­lio arranged chrono­log­i­cally or thematically?

What­ever you decide, try to apply a con­sis­tent approach to pre­sent­ing. You should aim for a con­sis­tent set of sizes (either all one size or, at least, only a few) and posi­tion work in the same loca­tion on each page or, at least, a graphic grid (like a news­pa­per where images only take up one or more columns but don’t stop halfway across a col­umn). You might select a colour scheme to pull together themes or pro­vide con­sis­tency of appear­ance. The more con­sis­tent the pre­sen­ta­tion the fewer dis­trac­tions from the work itself.

In sum­mary, a port­fo­lio is a very per­sonal thing that should show, to a vari­ety of audi­ences, who you are, your views and capa­bil­i­ties in art and design. Your stock of port­fo­lio mate­ri­als should be read­ily avail­able and eas­ily mod­i­fied or rearranged to cre­ate a focused pre­sen­ta­tion specif­i­cally tar­geted to a par­tic­u­lar pur­pose. It should be sequenced and for­mat­ted to demon­strate your cre­ativ­ity, expe­ri­ences, skills and, most impor­tantly, pas­sion for your subject.

An art portfolio is important for an artist to display work to clients and galleries, and it should include a variety of work in the form of slides, transparencies or prints. Create an art portfolio with tips from a professional illustrator in this free video on art. Expert: Lars Erik Robinson

Forskjellige typer e-portfolio. Designstudier.no

In order to make a photography portfolio, a photographer needs to edit down their best 20 to 30 photographs. Make a photography portfolio that is cohesive and shows a personal style with tips from a professional photographer in this free video on photography.

Bio: Anthony Maddaloni is a professional photographer from Austin, Texas. He has worked as a photographer for the Texas Senate, the Texas House of Representatives, and the University of Texas.