7 New Rules for Your Portfolio

The advertising and design industries are always evolving and it doesn't take long for a portfolio to lose its relevance. If you have doubts as to whether your portfolio is still cutting it out there - here's some tips to consider.  

Jennifer Novak, Global Head of Talent Recruiting from DDB, reviews Kristen Sugihara's portfolio

Jennifer Novak, Global Head of Talent Recruiting from DDB, reviews Kristen Sugihara's portfolio

  1. Ideas matter. A great idea needs to be at the core of every execution. The viewer should have a reaction when they see your work - they should be surprised or fascinated - they should laugh, cry, or think. If you get a passive reaction, you need to step up your game. 

  2. Execution must be flawless. Years ago, concepts could be communicated with rough sketches. Those days are gone. The competition is out there and their skill level makes it impossible to compete with poorly executed but "promising" ideas. Find a creative partner who can work as a graphic designer, art director, or copywriter to help make your ideas shine. 

  3. 360 roll-outs are essential. Go beyond traditional print, broadcast, and web design by working with new platforms. 

    • Think apps, social media and news, kiosk and digital outdoor, entertainment and games, augmented and virtual reality, digital publication, electronic and digital gadgets, short form video, experiential approaches, and new media as it emerges. 
  4. Media choices must make sense. Don't put your work on everything from billboards to t-shirts unless you have a reason to do so. Smart media choices that tie in with your core concept show that you have an understanding of media strategy - a must for creatives. 

  5. Tailor your work for your job prospects. Present work that mirrors the products and services of the companies you hope to work for. Don't show spec work for clients they actually have - just work in similar client categories. 

  6. One-dimensionality is usually a mistake. Create work for different clients and different needs. Diversity in client choice and execution shows design maturity and an understanding that this is a business with a variety of challenges that you must solve.

    • Create work for industries that include: Automotive, Banking/Commerce/Insurance, Communications, Food/Beverage, Cosmetics/Pharmaceutical/Over-the-counter, Environmental/Social/Cause, Fashion, Home/Garden, Publishing/Editorial/Media, Retail/Manufacturing, Services, Sports, Technology, and Travel/Leisure/Hospitality.

  7. Your portfolio needs to be online and current. The days of piles of portfolios sitting on a desk in an agency somewhere are gone. Showcase your portfolio on your own website, have an updated Behance site, and make sure your Linkedin profile is complete. Use other social media and blogs to share your curated work too. Make sure it is smart and out there where it can be found.  

If you've been putting off a portfolio update, there is no time like the present. Create new spec work, take some design, copywriting, or web classes, or roll-out a few solid projects to be more marketable. Your portfolio is a reflection of what you can do. It's time to make it great. 

AUTHOR: Gina Greco is the Director of Operations and Programs at Portfolio Studio San Diego and Portfolio Studio Onlinea school that helps graphic and web designers, copywriters, art directors, and creative strategists build portfolios for the creative industries.