In the creative world, your portfolio is your resume, summarizes your ability and illustrates your knowledge of design principles (or the principles of your discipline). You’ll hear the words “show, don’t tell”, often because we are in the business of being visual communicators. We must present employers with our best work to get invited for an interview and get hired.
My first experience with E3C was in the winter of 2014. I was in my last semester of Graphic Design and wanted to find a creative community for advice and critiques after graduation. This community is priceless and I feel so fortunate that I found them before graduating so I could take advantage of several portfolio review nights before official graduation day.
What’s Involved in a Portfolio Review?
The evening started with an always inspiring and motivating talk, this time by James White (@signalnoise). He is a speaker and visual artist based in Dartmouth with a design background that does speaking engagements all around the world at creative conferences. He’s worked hard to develop a unique style and is one of the most passionate people I’ve met.
He walked us through what it took to get to where he is in his career. In short: work hard, then work harder, pursue your passions, and share work you love making. He loves creativity, pushing the envelope, and always challenging himself to improve, excel, and catapult over the next hurdle. We can all learn from his disciplined approach at mastering his craft.
Building a creative career takes a lot of work, practice, dedication and determination. For those in illustration, design, animation and photography, it also means getting as many people as you can to look at and critique your portfolio so you know how you can improve it. The earlier you start the more confidence you’ll have with your work when you start interviewing. And the more people that you show your work to and get feedback from the better your portfolio will be.
E3C does one of the hardest parts of this process for you. They gather a hand selected bunch of industry leaders and creative experts for you into one room and then they let you talk to them. And most important – they let you show them your work.
This part of the review night is usually timed. For example, you may get 15 minutes and then switch to another reviewer. Like speed dating to practice your portfolio presentation. The roster of reviewers for the last review night included:
- Alison Knott Designer, Artist, Speaker Portfolio . Twitter
- Anne Verge Designer, Marketer Portfolio . Company
- Chris Geworsky Photographer Portfolio . Twitter
- Frank Orlando Principal Designer, Lecturer Company . Twitter
- Jason Ballantyne Art Director Portfolio . Twitter
- Josh Rodgers Animator, Comic Artist Portfolio . Twitter
- Matthew Morgan Art Director, Designer Portfolio . Instagram
- Megan Fildes Art Director, Designer Portfolio . Store
- Rajan Kapila Layout, Lead Prop Designer Portfolio . Twitter
It’s hard at first to show your work to strangers that hold such coveted positions like Art Directors, Creative Directors, or Lead Layout Artist. We are afraid of hearing that our work isn’t good enough or hear that although we’d worked for two years (or more) in school to develop a body of work to apply for jobs… it still needs improvements. However, this is the perfect opportunity to show off your work and get the honest feedback you need to build a more solid self-representation.
If you are still shy about joining in one of these events and sharing your work, remember that there is no job on the line so you have nothing to lose. If you find a few pieces in your portfolio that several people mentioned, you could remove or or improved upon them. You have time to do that before the next interview, which may make the difference between you getting the position or not. Often the feedback is small visual tweaks or the refining of a concept that makes all the difference in getting your voice across.
Keep in mind that these professionals are volunteering their time to look at your work and give you advice and honest critique on how you can make it better and more memorable. They want to help you.
The night is rounded out with refreshments at a local drinking hole where you’ll get another opportunity to talk shop or just mingle with the participants and reviewers alike.
My Personal Experiences
My first portfolio review last year was eye opening and required many hours of work to polish and restructure. There were very few pieces that were left untouched. I completely changed the order so my best work left a more lasting impression by being at the beginning and the end. And I established connections with people I still communicate with on a regular basis to this day who I can reach out to with questions, concerns, or advice as my career progresses.
My second experience was quite different. I am now a Full-Time designer at a creative agency (partly thanks to the awesome advice to improve my portfolio) and did not have many new pieces to critique. But I took advantage of the motivating speaker and after others had their time with the professionals I asked them for advice on keeping my portfolio current, continuing to improve my process, and how I can improve my illustration skills.
I highly recommend anyone with any sort of creative work attend the next Behance Portfolio Review night in the Fall (date to be announced) and take advantage of having so many creatives who are passionate about the local community review your work and give you advice. You don’t need to have a full portfolio done, you just need to show up with a few samples of your work and an idea of what you’d like to do. They will put you on the right path.
Photos by Crystal Picard – you can see the full gallery here!