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Organizing your portfolio

The portfolio

For a creative...

…whatever his level of experience, creative maturity or even specialization, the step of submitting his book is always sensitive, subject to questioning and can sometimes be experienced as a real struggle.

Will my creative universe be understood ? Is my selection of visuals relevant ? Am I consistent in my choices / parti-pris ? What about my versatility ? What about my adaptability? Is my range of skills well represented? Will I be trusted on this future project? are clearly recurring questions.

 

I am often surprised in interviews to see to what extent it is almost “intimate” to reveal one’s creations, as would be a naked exposure, and it is perhaps sometimes useful to have some pragmatic reference points on the content of one’s portfolio, often the fruit of years of work, passion, strong convictions, to facilitate its reading.

 

It is also important to keep in mind that, whatever the creative project, the book of a talent is intended to be shown as an illustration to various decision-makers within the framework of new/future projects.

Among these decision-makers, some of them will come from art or design schools and will be familiar with the exercise, others such as human resources executives for example and/or strategic brand VP will not be as used to visualizing this kind of projects, and, in any case, it is important to be “readable” by as many people as possible or at least to have at one’s fingertips projects on several levels of reading and comprehension.

It will sometimes be important to be able to go really deeply into the detail of a particular skill on such and such a subject/material/context – while at the same time being able to take a more “global”, almost pedagogical approach that is first and foremost : representative of the process of creativity of the talent.

Our recommendations

This being said, this is what I generally recommend to creative people who regularly ask me about the expectations around a portfolio:

 

  • First of all, keep in mind the function of the portfolio: it should clearly illustrate the creative process and serve its purpose.
  • From the form to the content, the exercise starts as soon as the medium is chosen.

 

There are probably as many portfolios as there are creatives, which is a good thing indeed, because each portfolio is unique, and is destined to be and remain so.

A "physical" medium

A spiral bound magazine rack made of cardboard, fabric, leather, plastic-coated sheets protecting original drawings, sketches, quick sketches, photos of drawings, product photos, stagings, press articles/publications, campaigns, technical drawings, moodboards, inspiration boards, sometimes even texts, everything is admissible as long as it serves the explanation of the creative process.

It is also common that it is accompanied by materials, samples and finished products, one must keep in mind the practicality, it is not always relevant to bring kilos of products in addition to paper creations, to be favoured therefore only when it is deemed relevant by the context (or explicitly requested).

 

A virtual support

It is becoming more and more common for us creative headhunters to “leaf through” virtual portfolios, whether in face-to-face interviews on a tablet or computer, or prior to a meeting by attaching an email in PDF or PowerPoint format or on sites such as Cargocollective, Behance among others, or sometimes even self-hosted websites.

This practice tends to become widespread for several reasons, time saving, transport, ease of updating, sending, also because of the “globalization” of the market, (it is sometimes more convenient to exchange virtually with a house (or a talent) on the other side of the planet).

It used to be reserved only for image/communication/stage design creatives or for designers in a product category more focused on the highstreet /contemporary ranges; today it is no longer rare to meet talents from top studios in P-A-P, Haute-couture, or luxury accessories who present their work in this way.

Once again...

… there is no right or wrong method, the choice of medium must be the result of a strong conviction on the part of the creative artist and its legibility must always be the first intention.

 

The legibility of the creative intentions.

In concrete terms, what is expected from a portfolio? It must explain the creative process of the talent.

Ideally it should contain elements that will answer the following questions:

The must have :

  • Where does the inspiration come from ?

(Or, depending on the level of seniority, how do I work with the creative input I receive?)

An inspiration board? A moodboard? Themes? A precise brief? An artistic reference ? Architectural ? Historical ? Direct drawings ? Vintage research? Volume/3D work ?

One must be able to imagine the beginning of the creative process, to understand in particular what type of studio/environment/input/culture is required (or adaptable for that matter).

 

  • The illustration of the purpose

Ideally, the entire creation process should be detailed step by step: first the research.

Then, the first drawings (or the first images if one is a creative image, communication or scenography), the final drawings (colors? gouache?), the final image, the technical data sheets if necessary, the finished product or its setting in situation (campaign / press release / fashion show).

 

  • Clear and organized thematics

Whether it is organized by chronology, by collections, by campaigns or by product (or project) category, there must be consistency in the presentation. An orderly book is easier to pitch (and even easier to scroll for a person who would consult it without the presence of the creative himself/herself, as sometimes happens). One must be able to transpose, to imagine the work of the talent in another universe, in a different context, in this case in the project for which one meets it, whether prospective or more precise.

The nice to have :

A personal project

It is always very instructive to have a more personal approach in one’s portfolio. Indeed, in the career path of talent, it will not be rare for it to work under artistic impulses coming from a particular context: the DNA of a brand, a creative direction, an external brief. Showing a personal work in these contexts is always a real plus to apprehend a talent in its entirety. A “unifying thread” or a personal universe often makes the difference when recruiting creative talent for a given project.

A targeted selection

Within the framework of a specific project, it is also important to present a selection that focuses on the universe in question. It is always very important to demonstrate through this selection or through work carried out specifically for the occasion that one has understood the brand’s intention and that one is projecting oneself into it with relevance.

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