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Preparing Portfolios: Guidelines and Gut Checks

Question: How many portfolios is too many? How many prints, in how many categories, should be in my portfolio?

There are a few rules and guidelines to follow here. The first and maybe most important is remembering that creating a printed portfolio requires a slightly different approach than organizing your website portfolio.

Print Portfolios

If you have a scheduled meeting with a client to show work and are preparing a print portfolio, there are a few things to consider:

1. Show only work that you feel is strong and work that pertains to the kinds of projects the client works on.

“Show only strong work” may sound like common sense, but I have reviewed portfolios with strange choices included, where an artist will say, “I don’t like that piece, but included it in case you liked it.” Not a good idea. Trust your gut.

2. Keep it short and direct.

When meeting with clients, be respectful of their time and limit your portfolio to about 20 pages at most. This should be more than enough to show what you can do. If you bring too much work, it may add some awkwardness, repetitiveness and perhaps even boredom. Ouch!

3. One portfolio is plenty.

I’ve been in meetings where an artist pulls out a huge sketchbook. I don’t really like looking through entire sketchbooks; they’re too personal and the work is usually unfinished. If you must bring along your sketchbook, flag only a few of your favorite pages to be viewed.

4. If you have more than one style, have at least five pieces to back up each.

But while showcasing your versatility, make sure to keep things focused! If you work in one style but many markets, I think it’s fine to blend them into one book.

The Marketing Lab Portfolio Design Guidelines Illustrator Joshua David McKenney Dolls resized 600

© Joshua David McKenney

Online Portfolios

If you design (or hire someone to design) an easily navigated website, you will have more leeway when it comes to the number of images that you can show without overwhelming the viewer. Just make sure you separate the work into clear categories by style and/or market to keep things flowing quickly.

If you’re categorizing your work on your site, try and limit it to four categories or fewer. And don’t feel the need to fill the space just because you have it – better to show a few solid pieces that will be memorable and hopefully lead to a nice project!

About Michael

Michael Thibeault is the founder Art Rep NYC, an agency representing the very best in illustration and motion graphics talent, both independently and also provide full illustration/motion graphics packages. Some clients: The New York Times, Williams Sonoma, WNET / Thirteen, Simon & Schuster, The Wall Street Journal, Proctor and Gamble, New York Magazine, Nickelodeon, Harper Collins, Penguin, Scholastic, Mattel, MAC cosmetics, Nylon Magazine and more. Art Rep NYC

Related Articles:

1. Portfolio Edits: To Mix or Not to Mix

2. 11 Components of a Successful Portfolio

3. How to Prepare for a Portfolio Review as an Illustrator

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