Landing the Job: How to Assemble an Irresistible Portfolio

By: Shannon Sankey Filed under: Animation & Effects

March 17, 2016

One of the most important ways The Art Institutes can help prepare you for professional success is by guiding you in assembling the strongest possible creative portfolio, a critical component to our curricula. Who are you as a creative warrior? What have you done? And more importantly, what are you capable of achieving? Your portfolio or “book” will answer all of these questions in an accessible and intuitive package. Done right, it will give you a distinct advantage when you’re jockeying for that killer job. So consider these 3 simple best practices to optimize your final product:

1. Curate Your Work

It’s important to maintain a critical and objective approach when selecting work to showcase in a portfolio. Maximize your limited space (8-10 pieces maximum) by presenting work that is best representative of your strengths. Which projects demonstrate complex problem-solving? Originality? Willingness to take risk? Include preliminary sketches where relevant to highlight your creative process.

Of course, it’s not always about showcasing only the million-dollar ideas. A strong creative portfolio communicates flexibility. Select work that represents your ability to accommodate and adapt to a spectrum of client needs and budgets, from the flashy and high-profile to the elegantly simple.

Next, reflect on the breadth of your work. Which projects most excite you? What kind of work would you like to do more of? Communicate your professional interests and aspirations by featuring the passion projects that keep you up at night!

2. Keep It Fresh

With each new project, you evolve as a creative professional. You are continually developing the skills and considerations critical to success. Your portfolio should tell this story.

Online environments and physical portfolios should reflect recent work and current endeavors. Update your website with professional news, works-in-progress, and industry expertise. Represent yourself as an engaged, thoughtful member of your community who is actively seeking opportunities. Employers will take notice.

3. Add Some Polish

A competitive portfolio isn’t simply an aggregation of raw material. Contextualize your impressive work for potential employers. Descriptive titles and concise blurbs will offer the insight of the why and the challenge of the how. You identified a problem or need, and you offered the creative, dynamic solution that only you can offer. Own it.

Your portfolio is also an opportunity to brand yourself. Consider the design elements—the font, the architecture, and general aesthetic—as leverage to establish your unique voice. Keep it clean, accessible, and appealing.

Finally, the prevailing wisdom around exemplary portfolios is you need to grab your audience from the outset and leave them wanting more. Consider starting and finishing with the individual pieces you consider to be your strongest.

A strategically curated and well-maintained portfolio is a vital tool in competing in your field. Take it from the experts. Ai faculty members weigh in on student portfolios:

“A portfolio piece should be the first thing you show a potential employer. Don’t come up with an idea that’s going to reveal a weakness. Make sure your portfolio highlights your true strengths.”

-Ed Kramer

Ed Kramer is a full time instructor in the Media Arts & Animation and Visual Effects & Motion Graphics programs at The Art Institute of Colorado in Denver. Ed brings a wealth of experience into the classroom having worked on graphics for films such as The Mummy, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Galaxy Quest, Twister, The Perfect Storm, and Star Wars episodes I, II and III.

"We want students to constantly update their portfolios – and it doesn’t matter if they are an old or new student. We tell them to constantly evaluate their portfolios, pull out old work, put in new work, and to be their own harshest critic. If you keep old work in your portfolio, you may show people how you’ve grown, but not where your skill level is right now."

–Andy English

Andy English is the Photography Department Chair at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and teaches Campus & Online Digital Filmmaking & Video Production/Visual Effects & Motion Graphics.


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By: Shannon Sankey Filed under: Animation & Effects

March 17, 2016

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