It’s almost too fitting that the most important thing that will get you into a school will be the most important thing when you get out. Portfolios are the currency in the artistic industry, and if you’re just starting your educational path, it’s something you should learn early on.
When you’re in school, it’s easy to forget the big picture. That one day, you’ll graduate and you’ll need something to show for it. That certificate/diploma/degree is after all just a piece of paper and unfortunately it doesn’t mean very much in creative industries. Here’s some advice to get your portfolio/demoreel started on the right track.
Archive Your Work
The first step of putting your portfolio together is to have actual work to show. Many of us learn this the hard way, when we’re rushing to put our portfolios together right before graduation. Instead, always keep your portfolio in mind by archiving your work at the end of each semester.
If there’s something that artistic industries thrive on, it’s process.
When you’re archiving your work, keep more than just the final version. Archive all the sketches, drafts, prototypes, renders and all the work that led up to your final version. If there’s something that artistic industries thrive on, it’s process. Many of the most successful portfolios out there focus on documenting plans rather than showing final products. It shows potential employers your range of thought, ability to overcome obstacles, and more importantly your work ethic.
Archiving your resources also gives you a chance to make changes later on. If you have all your original project files and resources, you’ll be able to make any adjustments you’d like and even finish some of your unfinished work. You never know what could become a great idea.
You’ve met the instructor. The one that says handing in your projects in late because your printer didn’t work, your hard-drive failed, or any other equipment malfunctioned is not an excuse. It’s not an excuse in the real world, and it’s not an excuse in his class. Well…he’s right. Computers will fail you, especially when it matters most. So, always keep multiple copies of your work in more than one place. Your safest bet is off your hard drive and onto “closed” dvds.
If you’re a student, the majority of your portfolio work will come from assignments. That doesn’t mean that it should look like it though.
It’s Not An Assignment Anymore
If you’re a student, the majority of your portfolio work will come from assignments. That doesn’t mean that it should look like it though. There are no deadlines anymore, so take the time to revisit your work. To make your assignments seem, well less like assignments, add depth to your projects by filling in the little details. What was the brief? Who’s the client? What were the goals? By adding these types of information for each project, your portfolio will seem that much more professional.
It’s been said before but it’s always good advice, “quality over quantity”. Many students will plaster their portfolios with work ranging from animation to photography thinking that doing so will show the breadth of their work. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, but never forget that you’re only applying for a single job. If you’re a web designer focus on interaction design, HCI, and anything that relates to it. If you’re an aspiring CG artist, your focal point can be even more concentrated: modeling, lighting, compositing, VFX. Choosing just one stream to focus on will make your portfolio stand out from the crowd.
The last thing an employer wants to see is the same assignments over and over again.
Creativity is Key
Lastly, do something different. At the end of the day there are ultimately two types of portfolios. The ones that say “I can get the job done” and the ones that say “I can get the job done with some flair”. You have to remember that you’re only one person in a graduating class, with multiple classes graduating each year, and with numerous other schools teaching the same things. The last thing an employer wants to see is the same assignments over and over again.
Portfolios are sometimes an afterthought, but don’t let it be. Keep it at the back of your mind throughout your educational career and when you graduate you’ll having something to share that you’ll be proud of.