Making a Portfolio that WOWS!

Yesterday, I jumped on Facebook Live to show you my portfolios and talk about the importance of making something beautiful to show your work. Hop right on over to Facebook Video page to watch it with live comments streaming in!

Why make a portfolio? I believe that working in collections, finalizing designs and completing a body of work will really help to round out your experience and expertise as a professional.  If you're a surface pattern designer, offering patterns in complete collections gives the end user so many opportunities to use your prints. The possibilities really are endless!

Having an array of finished collections that you're proud of will show the breadth of your work and open up opportunities for you as a designer.

BUT, no matter how beautiful your work is, it won’t sell if it’s not presented in a polished, professional way. For me, presenting a finished body of work in a well thought-out portfolio was an essential part of moving my career forward as a surface pattern designer. I believe making a portfolio that is a true reflection of yourself and your work can absolutely help advance your career!

Some common questions + concerns I get regarding portfolios:

Q: How many patterns should I have in a collection?

A: Typically, a solid pattern collection will consist of 8-12 patterns. Anything less than this we would call a 'mini' collection (which is still very marketable!).

Q: I don’t think I have enough work to make a portfolio.

A: Even if you only have a single pattern collection, you're ready. In fact, in addition to my larger portfolios, I always make smaller versions for each pattern collection I come out with. They are sort of like "mini presentations". Watch the video here to see some examples!

Don't forget, you can always add to your portfolio as well. A digital version would be easiest, but you can also add pages to a hard copy! The only thing to keep in mind is that if you intend to add later, stay away from adding page #'s initially (and also be careful with your table of contents so that it will still make sense). Trust me, I speak from experience, haha!

Q: I'm having a hard time naming my patterns.

A: I feel you, this is a big one! I suggest writing a story and listing about 20 words that coordinate to your collection before you begin designing. It'll keep you focused and give you something to fall back on when it's time to start naming them! Try to tell a story through you names.

Q: I'm just not "there" yet.

A: If you don't feel ready to make a portfolio, I suggest making just a digital version that will be easy to update later on (I love Issuu for this). Even getting the pages laid out in an Illustrator document will help you tremendously later on! If you need more help on this topic, I suggest taking my course, Design and Bind your own Portfolio.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you begin to designing your portfolio.

What to include. Portfolios can range from simple to complex, and there's really no right or wrong answer. Take some time to decide what you'd like to portray in your portfolio and jot down the pages you would like to include. A simple portfolio could only include a collection or two and a contact page. A more complex portfolio might include a table of contents, about page, several collections with stories, mockups, social media & blog page, contact page and more!

Who will see it. Do you know who you'd like to show your portfolio to? Having an ideal end viewer in mind (an art director, publisher, professor, etc) will help give your entire book direction. Keep this person (or group of people) in mind as you decide what to include and begin designing its pages.

How to stand out from the crowd. The world of surface pattern design is buzzing with designers and companies will often times review 100s of portfolios a week. That's why it's important to stand out from the crowd! When designing your portfolio, pour yourself and lots of love into every detail. Make it a true reflection of you brand and yourself as a designer. I like to say your portfolio should be 'you in a book'!

Showing your work. Of course, showing your work isn't easy and I want to recognize that. As designers, we pour every ounce of ourselves into our work and it can feel very vulnerable to start sharing it with the world. I want to encourage each of you to show your work though, because without sharing it no one will ever see it! We have all received rejection and criticism before, but there's always something to be learned throughout the process. Sharing your designs, patterns and process with the world will always pay off in the end.

Helpful Videos:

Product Mock Ups: Watch: | Password: MOCKUP

How to save PDFs from Illustrator: Watch: | Password: SAVINGPDFS

Helpful Resources:

Issuu (for digital portfolios)

Blurb Books (for hard copy books)

Artifact Uprising (for hard copy books)


Handmade Portfolios:

For some of you, making your own portfolio will be the only way to truly capture the look you're going for. Crafting your own portfolio can be such a creative, fulfilling project, and definitely a labor of love as many, many hours go into the precise planning, designing, printing, and binding of the book. You can see a few images of mine above. I absolutely loved watching it come to life!

If you feel ready to tackle making your very own portfolio, here are some helpful resources:

How to build your own handmade book: Download the eBook HERE

My Skillshare course: Design & Bind your own Portfolio

Questions + thoughts: Where are you currently with your portfolio? Do you have any resources you'd like to share with us? Let's continue the conversation over on Facebook.

We can't wait to see what you create and where it will take you!

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