The 5-piece portfolio: the art of self editing
TAKEAWAY: What to put on that portfolio? Decisions, decisions, for the writer or designer collecting samples of his/her work for
others to evaluate. Tip: how about editing yourself to five pieces.
I have received this document, sent through YouSendIt, a fat zip full of goodies, as in pages, illustrations, graphics. The person sending it wants me to take a look , offer suggestions, and attaches a note “please evaluate my portfolio piece, and tell me how it looks to you as I start a new job search” . It is a common occurrence and I am always happy to review materials that people send. In this case, the designer wants to explore the possibility of jobs outside of the US, and “since you have contacts everywhere, I think you are the person to see my work.“
So far so good. But, what is the problem here?
The portfolio includes 57 pieces. I counted them. So, before I look at this monster porfolio with “everything I ever did” as its central and only category, I sent a note to the sender with some tips on how to best get his work evaluated.
First, edit yourself. Oh, the art of editing oneself. Never easy. Sort of like cleaning your closet: what do I throw away? Everything has a special meaning or emotional attachment.
Second, try to limit yourself to not more than 10 pieces of the best of your work. It will be hard, but you will rate a better chance of getting the work reviewed by the busy people you are sending it to.
Third, in my view, the five piece portfolio gets instant attention, as we can do it quickly and it seems totally approachable.
What to include in a Five Piece Portfolio? Follow my basic rules:
1. An early piece (executed at least five years from today) so that the evaluator can see how you have evolved and progressed. The nicer that piece the more that we value what you did subsequent to that!
2. A piece that represents “the best of you”. Your one pride and joy: the piece of work that sparkles, that married content to design effectively.
3. A piece that represents “the experimental you”: here you took risks that paid off. Look at that page, it sings!
4. A piece that gave you the biggest headache as you were doing it, but, alas, it turned out among the very best you have ever produced. Explain the saga of getting there please.
5. A piece where YOU catered to the editor in an almost impossible situation, and the result made the two of you——and the readers—-smile.
One way to help with the self editing: get folders on your desktop with the labels for the five categories above. As you finish a page you are happy with, deposit the pdf in the appropriate file, and twice a year do the editing of those folders.
You don’t have to be looking for a job to keep your portfolio updated. Just you reviewing those folders regularly is a great lesson. In fact, just before we at Garcia Media pitch ourselves to a new prospective client, I follow the 5-piece portfolio concept. It forces us to take a good look at what we have done in the recent past, and, in the process, we evaluate ourselves, which is always a good practice.
And, sorry, but I don’t have the time to evaluate a 57-piece portfolio, wonderful as it may be. I am sure many of my colleagues share this feeling.
Our first good impression of the person sending that portfolio for evaluation may very well be his/her ability to edit his own work—-already a good sign of things to come.
In this case, less may show your glorious best