Thursday, 18 October 2012

Portfolios planning and pitfalls.

It's the dreaded portfolio season and everyone is in a healthy state of panic as deadlines approach, paper runs out and roving gangs of critics prey on the unsuspecting. 
The following is a handout that I thought was so useful that it would save me from the terrible strain of actually coming up with something orginal for this blog.


Your portfolio is a summation and collection of all the work you have done on the programme.  In it we well expect to see your exploration and integration of art and design skills including evidence of the following:

·         Hand and digital skills

·         Drawing as a means of expression, developing concepts, and recording observations

·         Art and design principles – 2D and 3D

·         Experimentation, development and resolution of creative work.

·         Remember that you can improve any mark you might have already received by doing more work on an exercise or workbook content for the Portfolio.


The portfolio is a major means of assessing work for the course.  In it you represent everything you have learnt and done over the course.  We require it to be produced to as professional a level as possible.  Reprocessing (photocopy, photography – digital and normal etc) allows for both editing and representing your work allowing you to rework it.


·         Don’t plan to do all of your printing on the day of the hand in.  Everyone will do the same and the printer demons, who feed on the tears and frustration of students, will go to bed well fed that night.

·         If you are using an outside printer then make time for Murphys Law (what can go wrong will go wrong)  Double check everything and make certain you’re wearing clean underwear in case you get run over by a bus.

·         Resources such as digital cameras, computers, printers become very busy during this period.   Plan ahead and don’t leave the photography of your work to the last minute.  That way madness lies.

·         You don’t have to do it all on the computer.  Collaging and/or using the photocopier could be quicker and give a better result than scanning for some items.  This goes hand in hand with the above pointer of planning it out ahead of time.

·         Remember that this is an exercise in showing us your work for the whole semester in a broad sense of creativity and not your skills as a graphic designer per se – although we will be looking for evidence that you have picked up 2D layout principles so no pressure or anything.

·         Allow plenty of time for crafting the document but at the same time don’t be too laid back about the whole thing.

·         Watch for spray gluing as it is time consuming and can get messy.  Always use the workshop and make certain that it is well ventilated.  Don’t spray directly onto the workbenches, use newspaper or something similar as a spray surface.

·         Staff are happy to check the progress of your portfolio.  Use them often!  But don’t wait until the last moment before putting up your hand and sheepishly admitting that you’ve got a problem for there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth.


The collection is meant to be a summation of your work.  Clearly if you put in every bit of paper that you have touched it will be huge so editing is required.

But edit carefully:

·         Do not edit into invisibility

·         Do include process drawings models etc.  Creativity is not just the finished work and at this stage of your career we are very interested in your process.


·         Small can be beautiful but reducing the size of the portfolio will certainly affect your images.  Be careful when deciding about the size of your book as too small will mean that detail may be lost.

·         Three dimensional projects needs to be carefully photographed to capture both their overall form and details.

·         Beware of tricky computer graphics and manipulating your work.  While the photoshop filters might make it look funky the flip side of the coin is that you could end up rendering your image unrecognizable in terms of detail, materiality and skill level.

·         Keep everything moving in the same direction.  Choose either landscape or portrait and stick with it. (Or don’t.  Sometimes art is all about breaking the rules)

·         Put some thought into what kind of paper you’ll be using.  What will work best for the work you’re attempting to present?

·         Be careful with the text.  You don’t need to write an essay for each piece but some text will help because you won’t actually be there to present the work.  Stay away from the “I did this because…” kind of exposition – This was very difficult for me to overcome.  (Just saying)


·         If you want to mount your portfolio don’t use foam board.  Because of its bulk and edge vulnerability it does not make for good mounting.

·         Painting plain cardboard, unless it has been done very carefully, looks scrappy.

·         Use a craft knife and a straight edge for all cutting.  Scissors should be avoided as should pinking shears


·         Submissions do not need to be bound.  The could be a collection of same size boards in a folio for instance.  Binding means that you can use both sides of the page/board.  If you are using separate boards then you should only use the one side.  Being able to spread boards out to see the work as a whole can be useful. Can your separate boards be arranged to form a larger image?  Something like this would be tricky to plan but effective if you manage to pull it off.  

·         Binding means that you can use heavy weight paper rather than card.

·         Bought plastic sleeve folders are not very professional as the plastic obscures your work.   Laminating does this as well

·         Bolts, shoelaces, single ring hinged binders hunks of wood etc make poor binding unless planned for well ahead of time and done very well.

·         Your time should go into preparing and thinking about the contents rather than the container or binding.

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