Designers have the most difficult job of all in communicating their talent and skills to potential clients. These creative directors want to understand a designer’s thought process, to see more than a finished product. Their main concern is how and why the designer arrived at this solution for the project, concept, budget, and client.
Design samples must be more comprehensive than illustration samples. So that your samples answer the questions in the creative director’s mind, including thumbnails, roughs, final sketches, comprehensives, and finished products,for at least one of your design projects.
If you’re preparing a presentation for in-person reviews, your thumbnails, roughs, comprehensives, and the final product must be organized and displayed so that they can easily be reviewed in order. Clear vinyl sheets, heat-sealed on the bottom to form one large pocket, can be cut down to desired size so that your materials can be slipped in and out easily. Vinyl sheets with three-ring holes can be placed in a portfolio and turned in proper order. Be sure the pockets are clearly identified with self-stick labels or reference numbers.
Another presentation that works well is to cut pieces of mat board the same size and mount your pieces in viewing order, several pieces to each board. In essence, you’ve created a series of storyboards. By presenting them one after the other, you can show your ability to start with a concept and follow through to a finished product. An additional advantage is that your samples don’t become torn and smudged from repeated fingering.
A highly successful art and design studio employing fifty artists and designers may review numerous portfolios and will tend to know their strengths and weaknesses. When a designer just sends something through the mail like a brochure or an annual report, an art director has a hard time even knowing if he really designed it. Maybe he’s worked under someone who really designed it or had a very competent production department that did a lot of the design elements for him, such as drawing the lettering or selecting type.
These are skills that the designer himself should have, and it’s very difficult to determine if he has them by simply looking at a finished piece, even if it’s in a portfolio. You really have to meet with the designer and talk with him or her and see how they respond.
Some questions one might ask—how did you go about doing this? What did you have in mind? You can get the idea of how they handled the project, or could handle it. When reviewing a design portfolio, I like to see the comprehensives and the finished piece. I like to see how a designer works. Any design studio, ad agency or company goes through a process—you don’t just tell a client you have what he has in mind and then instantly produce a gorgeous, full color brochure.
First, you have to go through stages of design, and if a designer can represent those stages with nice, clean, readable, attractive layouts, rather than having to write notes so that the studio can make the layouts, he’s much more valuable.
If you’re a designer it helps if you can do comprehensives and mechanical. You should also be able to do your own lettering, to indicate illustration placement, and know typography well. These are all things that are difficult to tell from a portfolio.”
Once you have presented an entire project that communicates your range of design skills and thought processes, additional final printed products that you’ve designed can follow in full-size vinyl or acetate sheets.
If you’re using the mail to look for a design assignment, have all of the pieces, thumbnails to finished product photographed, and present your information via a sequential slide or photographic show.
An accompanying information sheet is mandatory. Follow your mailing with a personal phone call or, better yet, call before you send your package so that the creative director can be on the alert for it. Follow up with another phone call within a week.
By – Jodi Helm