A portfolio is essential for all designers. Gathering your strongest work and displaying it in a cohesive manner is no easy feat.
The various techniques and philosophies behind curating a strong portfolio is constantly being debated in the design community as there is no concrete, end-all-right-way to do so. One of the best ways to build a portfolio you are confident with is to listen to opinions from other designers that you respect. We also highly recommend perusing the graphic design portfolios of recent FIDM Grads for inspiration.
The FIDM Digital Arts team was fortunate enough to discuss this topic with at length with Steve Reaves, the Director of Graphic Design at FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. From content and layout, to trends and making an impact, scroll down to see what Mr.Reaves has to say on the topic of a building a stellar graphic design portfolio.
5 Portfolio Tips From FIDM’s Director of Graphic Design Steve Reaves
1. What can a student do to enhance the impact of specific projects, such as a logo design for example?
“It’s always better to show more than one approach to a given problem, whenever possible. The rule of thumb is to show things in threes,– your idea, your client’s, and something in-between. How the logo relates to placement and various media is also important. You must always show the client that your designs can be reproduced, no matter what format that may be.”
2. What is more important: to showcase a variety of work, or to showcase the type of design that a student is most comfortable with?
“I’ve always thought that good design takes risks. Only by trying things that you are not comfortable with, or that challenges your design sensibilities, will you find out what you’re made of. There is always safe design, but you never see it win awards! Always remember that this portfolio is not for you, but for the person hiring you. Young designers don’t always know their best work, especially when it takes them to uncharted territory. Like a good speech, the work needs to talk to the audience in their language, not yours.”
“Like a good speech, the work needs to talk to the audience in their language, not yours.”
3. When you think about the strongest examples of a creative portfolio that you’ve seen, have you noticed a trend in the elements that make a strong book?
“Every client wants to see how your designs work in a real-world scenario. With regard to branding, the total impact of the brand is when you can observe the total ‘look’ of a brand with merchandising etc. This is when the client knows you understand sequential design, and working with assets for a cohesive look across multiple mediums. Individual designs in a brand usually don’t hold up unless they’re positioned with the entire visual look of the brand. A visual impact is what you want the client to notice. It takes a family to make the name, not just your ‘Uncle Fester.'”
4. Do you notice any common mistakes or errors in judgment for students who are compiling their final portfolio? What advice would you give to a student before they begin to compile their final portfolio?
“The most common mistake is the students’ editing choice for what will go, or what will stay. They only want the work they like, whether it has relevance to what they’re showing or not. Second would be the way the book is laid out. Many times students will showcase one design per page, breaking up the flow and look of a branding project or campaign.”
5. In your opinion, what are the most important factors that students need to consider when compiling their final portfolio?
“It is important for students to put their best foot forward in regards to their work and show the relevance of their design to the job they’re interviewing for. If you’re meeting with a branding, or licensing company, they would like to see how you adapt their brand to various formats within the media you’re using. Beautiful pictures and illustrations are great for showing your artistic nature, or passion in the arts, but not when you’re trying to fill a position. Employers need to see their company in your design.”
About Steve Reaves
Steve Reaves brings 20 years of design experience in the fields of Entertainment and Advertising to his position as Director of Graphic Design for FIDM. After earning a B.S. and Master’s of Art from San Diego State University, Reaves began his career as Art Director at B. D. Fox & Friends, Inc. Advertising. He then accepted a position as Vice President of Creative at Intralink Film & Graphics and eventually joined New Line Cinema, also as a V.P. of Creative, where he worked with all major film studios as well as TV networks and home entertainment distributors.
In the late ‘90s, he realized his passion for education when he received the opportunity to develop a Graphic Arts program for three of FIDM’s campuses. Although he continued to work for the next few years in theater and home entertainment at Seiniger Adverting and Bingo Advertising & Marketing, he also taught classes at FIDM, and ultimately, joined the faculty of California State University Long Beach’s College of the Arts as an Associate Professor.
Steve returned to FIDM in 2002 as Director of the program he had helped to initiate. Since his tenure began, he has expanded the Graphic Design program to include an emphasis on Entertainment in response to changing demands and burgeoning markets in the industry of design. To realize his goal of providing education with real world, hands-on experience, he has worked tirelessly to ensure FIDM offers a solid industry internship program for both its Branding and Entertainment Design students.
Start college and kickstart your career in graphic design.
FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising isn’t just a recognized leader in the study of design and creative business– we’re training ground for the exciting career in graphic design you’ve always dreamed of pursuing. No other graphic design program has the same unique focus on the fashion and entertainment industries, teaching creative expression in all aspects of print media, logo development, corporate identity, product branding, packaging, apparel graphics and more.
Creative careers begin here.
With four California campuses located in the heart of the fashion and entertainment industries, FIDM is a leading, accredited college offering specialized Associate of Arts and Bachelor’s of Arts degrees. FIDM has been educating students with creative and leadership skills for the global industries of fashion, visual arts, interior design, and entertainment for more than 45 years. Learn more at www.fidm.edu.
The FIDM Digital Arts Blog is dedicated to professional and aspiring graphic designers and filmmakers, illustrating the range of career opportunities within these fields written by FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. See more at www.fidmdigitalarts.com