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Forward thinking.

There are so many perks to working in a creative industry – interesting people, ties and heels are optional and most of your work can be done over coffee or beer. But the downside?

You have to build a portfolio in order to get your sneakers in the door.

So, when a CD receives dozens of folios each time they look to hire, how do you make yours stand out? There is a formula to this, all great portfolios have certain things in common. Creative Director, Art Director and Branding Designer and now Co-Founder of SANA Studios, Sacha De Boer has shared her thoughts on the do’s and don’ts of portfolios.

DO: Keep what’s relevant.

‘Quality not Quantity.’ It’s an overused expression but it can really make a difference. Creative’s get attached to their work and often find it difficult trimming down a portfolio. You spent hours, weeks, months labouring over each project, they are like your children. And no parent can pick between their children. Well in this instance, you have to… or do you?

Sacha’s advice is to tailor portfolios of work, you don’t need a one size fits all;


“We all want to show that ‘I can do logos, I also do EDMs, and websites’ but I think it’s best to have separate PDF portfolios, maybe two or even three, to really focus on different skill sets that are relevant to the role you’re applying for. For example, you can have one version that is more focussed on your digital skills and another one that is really showing off your packaging design work."

Rather than seeing a portfolio where someone has done a lot of different bits and bobs, I’d be more impressed by someone who really tailored their book for the role and has a clear vision of what skills they want to be hired for. Your website can then be more allround to really show off what a creative unicorn you are.” 


Taking a look at the content that the agency or studio produces. Look at their previous campaigns and if any of your work displays the same techniques, strategies or is in the same category, include it.

The client doesn’t want to be left pondering whether you’re a good fit for their brief, they want to have total confidence that you can nail it.


DON’T: Just show executions. Show case studies.


It would be very easy to upload a photo of the ad you wrote or the visuals you designed and call it a day. You understand the process behind the project because, well, you made it! But the client checking out your portfolio has no clue.

Create case studies that include information such as the brief you were given, the process you took, the outcome you delivered and its impact on the business. It’s also useful to explain the involvement you had in the project to make it clear on your contribution.

Sacha states that without background, the meaning behind your content can be lost.


“There are portfolios where they are like “here’s a logo I like”. Okay great you drew a logo, but it’s not a case study. Pick five or six case studies that you’re really, really proud of that you’d have in a PDF, and then have a few more on a website.If I get a PDF of 50 pages, I get anxiety.”


I mean I know it’s called a “book” but 50 pages is overkill. Don’t overwhelm the client with lots of executions, show them the case studies that will knock their socks off.


DO: Get Constructive Feedback


During this quarantine period it’s easy to get caught in a slump. Having your hours reduced, clients delaying projects, struggling with Zoom calls or being let go altogether, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed and get lost in Netflix. But this down time presents a great opportunity; to give your portfolio some love.

Sacha has explained how important it is to keep creative and get feedback on your book;


“There’s so much crap out there. It sounds so ruthless, but there is. You’re claiming to be a designer and there are typos in there, there are line breaks in there. Practice what you preach. Get constructive feedback from other creatives on it, people that you know. That’s my main tip, use this down time to make your portfolio impeccable and flawless.”


Use this time to swap folios with a friend and compare notes. Get a fresh perspective on what impression your book leaves behind, and where you might be able to make any improvements.


DON’T: Scrap old work


An oldie can still be a goodie. There is nothing wrong with having a piece of old work, but only if the idea still sticks today.


“If it’s well known and had a real impact 8 years ago but people are still talk about it or it’s instantly recognisable then then yes, definitely. If it’s iconic and you’re proud of it, then yes, absolutely keep it.”


The longevity of the project can make your portfolio look better, just make sure to include a mix of past and present work. Don’t look like a dinosaur.


In short, keep your portfolio short. Make sure that it showcases your best work in depth and only includes projects relevant for the job you are applying for.


I would say good luck, but with a folio like that you won’t need it.

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