Four Great Articles Written by Industry Professionals about Your Creative Portfolio Portfolio Section

The Blog is introducing a new section featuring the creative portfolios of FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising’s Graphic Design and Digital Media’s most recent graduates! Click on any of the thumbnails on the left hand panel to view the most recent portfolios. To celebrate the launch of the new portfolio section, we bring to you four articles, written by industry professionals with advice on how to develop an effective creative portfolio.

1. Tips from FIDM’s Director of the Graphic Design program, Stephen Reaves.

Prior to his position as Director of FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising‘s Graphic Design program, Stephen Reaves served as both the Vice President of Creative at Intralink Film & Graphics, as well as the Creative Vice President at New Line Cinema, working in the design industry for more than 20 years, including the execution and creative development of hundreds of movie poster campaigns. Below he shares his advice for developing an impressive creative portfolio:

Louise Nesselsten

Logo design and brand application by FIDM Graphic Design Alumna Louise Nesselsten

( In your opinion, what are the most important factors that students need to consider when compiling their final creative portfolio.

(Reaves) It is important for students to put their best foot forward in regards to their work, and to 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’ve adapted their brand to various formats within the media you’re using (print, Web, product, etc.). 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.

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 are not comfortable, or that challenge 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 your 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.

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. 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. A black and white version of the logo, in addition to an example of product placement are important because it shows the logo in its natural environment­– the product.

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. In regards to branding, the total impact of the brand is when you can look at the total aesthetic with merchandising, etc. This will show the client that you understand sequential design, and working with assets for a total look. 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.

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 designs go, or what will stay in their creative portfolio. They choose the work they like, whether it has relevance to what they’re showing or not. Another common mistake is 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.

2. “A portfolio doesn’t speak for itself,” by Jim Best of Pensa.

Pensa-door-450x204Before you build your portfolio, check a great article published at (a site dedicated to showcasing creative portfolios from around the world- check it out!), written by Jim Best, the co-owner of well-renowned design firm Pensa Design. Best provides relevant advice that you can apply to your design portfolio, as well as what you can do to impress potential employers in your interview. In summary, he advises:

1. Choose wisely.
2. Keep it relevant.
3. Use your portfolio to tell a story.
4.Keep it simple.
5. Show me you can think.
6. Show me the basics.
7. Get inspired and get feedback. 8. Meet the criteria.
9. Get to the point.
10. Send a summary of your work.
11. Understand the medium.
12. Be confident and positive.

Click here to read the full article.

3. “5 Tips for Creating Your First Digital Design Portfolio,” by Ian Clazie.

ian_clazie1If you’re building a digital portfolio, creative director Ian Clazie offers words of wisdom in his article 5 Tips for Creating Your First Digital Design Portfolio including:

1. Don’t reinvent the wheel (unless you’re looking for work reinventing wheels)
2. It’s about the content
3. Edit and organize
4. Know your objective
5. Get the metadata right: what was the brief and what was your role?

Click here to read the full article.

4. “Presenting Your Portfolio: My Own First Time,” by Steff Geissbuhler

aiga logoThe AIGA (professional association for design) published an article written by Steff Geissbuhler of Chermayeff & Geismar Inc. who delivers an interesting first-hand account of his experience interviewing for a design position at J.R.Geigy (now Novartis) Pharmaceutical Corporation in Basel, Switzerland.

“The elevator doors opened, Max Schmid came towards me and I started to walk towards him when suddenly the bottom of my portfolio came unglued and everything fell to the ground, sailing slowly—for what seemed forever—in all directions along the polished surface,” says Geissbuhler. “I turned bright red and bent down to gather everything in a hurry. But Max stopped me. He suggested that we should just walk through the work and discuss the pieces where they had landed. Letting the chips fall where they may.”

Geissbuhler also provides advice about porfolio organization and presentation. Click here to read the full article.

James Peacock

Logo design and applied branding application by FIDM Graphic Design Alumnus James Peacock.

Louise Nesselsten

Logo design and brand application by FIDM Graphic Design Student Louise Nesselsten

FIDMDigitalArts.comHave you ever considered pursuing a career in graphic design or digital media? Check out FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising’s program for Graphic Design where you can learn all aspects of print media, including typography, digital photography and publication/layout design, and FIDM’s Digital Media program where you can learn editing, digital composition, motion graphics, 3-D modeling & animation, and sound design.

Visit our main site, to view multiple galleries of breathtaking graphic design and digital media, created by FIDM Alumni.

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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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