Having read through a few dozen job applications in the pursuit of a GOWales design graduate last year, I was a bit surprised to see so many applicants without graduate portfolios. No websites, no Flickr pages, no links, no nothing. The applications weren’t without enthusiasm or an eagerness to please but I was so disappointed to see very few online examples of their work.
Back in 2002 I got my first design job on the back of a little website I built. It was, as far as I can recall, an animated scorpion that wriggled in the middle of the screen whilst other unidentified objects travelled around the creature. It was basic HTML with an embedded Shockwave file (pre-Adobe acquisition) and a few evenings of animating in Flash 4.0. It was basic, a bit random but enough to get my first design and web job.
From my own personal experience, I only interviewed those who did have their work online, even if it was just a photo or a PDF. Some graduates had some very impressive portfolio websites but they tended to be the interactive grads rather than the graphic designers. I needed to see print examples for the placement we had advertised and it was proving difficult.
I’m not sure what design students are taught at university regarding online portfolios but I hope it goes as far as recommending that students make one before they graduate and pointing them towards online resources that are readily available. Back in 2002 there were very few places to put your work online. There were no free blogging platforms like Blogger or WordPress (they came a year later), no Flickr, Carbonmade, or social media sites either. (Sounds bleak doesn’t it?) You either battled with the now deceased Geocities or uploaded your work to the very green interfaced DeviantArt. Unless, of course, you had free hosting with your dial-up internet service provider and were savvy enough to link your own domain to your host. Back then, 5MB webspace was considered generous!
Eleven years later and we’re spoilt for choice to get our work on the internet. There is no excuse to not get your portfolio online if you really want to work in design. Don’t try and learn coding overnight or sketch out a million designs that you can’t decide on – just get your work out there on a platform you can use. The CV with an online portfolio link is more likely to result in an interview than one without.
Tips for graduates looking for their first design job:
• Put your portfolio online. You don’t have to put it all on the internet if you don’t want to, just a few examples to get the recruiter interested is enough. Bring your non-online work to the interview.
• If you want to photograph your portfolio, use a compact camera or smartphone if you don’t have access to a studio environment. (I’ve used white paper, a garden stool and the sun to build my portfolio in the past)
• Keep your URLs short and sweet. Recruiters may have to type in your web addresses by hand from printed application forms so don’t make it an arduous task. If your work is hosted or displayed on another website, use an URL shortening service if a long URL is unavoidable. E.g. bitly.com or goo.gl
For a selection of online portfolio services, have a look at this post from Mashable and Grace Smith. Very handy.