Folio advice? How to wow with your work.

Our Design Director Jed Carter recently took part in a portfolio review with emerging designers as part of DixonBaxi’s ongoing partnership with Creative Lives in Progress. Here he summarises his tips for new creatives showing their work and hoping to make their mark on the industry.

For many of us, our work is often part of how we introduce ourselves. Whether you’re interviewing for that first graduate gig or pitching to a huge potential client, selling yourself, your work and your capabilities is a big part of getting ahead in the creative industry. So it’s worth practising.

I recently did a fun portfolio review session as part of DixonBaxi’s partnership with Creative Lives in Progress. There was some great work on show from a fascinating mix of people, from recent grads to brave mid-career side-steps. There were some nuggets of advice I repeated a few times, so I’ll repeat them here in case they’re helpful:

1. Follow your obsession
It’s okay not to know where you should apply to or what field you want to specialise in, especially early in your career. But no one will tell you these things. You have to do the research. Find the work you love and find out who made it. Follow your obsessions to find where you belong in the world.

Cold emails or LinkedIn messages are absolutely okay, but give someone a reason to reply. Are you asking about their work or for some feedback about your portfolio? You may find people are more responsive to asking for a chat.

2. Remember, you’re presenting.
Think about your favourite TED talk. They probably don’t lead with “so, what would you like to see?” A portfolio review or interview is your presentation, so you’re in control. Tailor what you want to show to the time you have. Ask yourself: Is presenting your website really the most precise, most impactful way to talk through a project? What should someone walk away remembering? What needs a live voice-over? And what could you follow up within a PDF or on the web?

3. Pack a punch.
With the best intentions in the world, people rarely have considerable time to look at portfolios. Try to be concise and get across your idea, process and outcome as efficiently as possible. Stop me in my tracks with your imagery. Assume that no one reads tiny captions (but spell check them just in case). Make the important stuff (e.g. the idea) totally unmissable.

4. Tell a story.
As a viewer, a portfolio is my first step in getting to know you as a creative. Be more than a collection of billboard and tote bag comps. Tell me a story about you, your ideas and what excites you. Let me feel what it was like to be on the journey with you – was it explosive creativity, boundary-pushing experimentation, meticulous problem-solving? Aim to get your audience as excited about your work as you were when you created it. It’s a surefire way to make an impact and stand out from the crowd.

Creative Lives In Progress hold regular portfolio review sessions, so definitely check out the website if you’re interested.