Every designer has at some point early on in their careers run into the same dilemma: “What can I, or cant I, show in my portfolio”? It is a hot topic amongst Junior Designers and seasoned Art Directors, but there are some guidelines you can follow that could help build your portfolio and make your managers look good in the process.
So you get an awesome assignment that you can totally connect with and, as the details are being given you, are already developing concepts on the fly. After talking to the Account Manager, Art Director, and possibly the client, you roll up your sleeves and dive in. It feels like a perfectly cohesive mix of ideas and execution and from your mind to the blank page, a design is born (and what a handsome design it is)! You want to show it off to the world, but you know that one of those team members is probably going to have a problem with you doing so … if you don’t do it correctly.
First thing you have to do is take inventory of what you did for the project. Did you come up with a line of body copy? Did you take the photo being used? Did you come with the concept or execute someone else’s idea? There are many cogs that make up a successful design, no matter what media it is being developed for. As long as each of those pieces are satisfied with your description of the work, showing it is usually not a problem.
It is best practice to focus on what YOU did for each piece you are trying to present. A good written example would be: Cannon Cameras Regional Print Ad, original size 8.5X11, concept, tagline, and production, created while employed as a staff designer at Grey Advertising.
By doing this, you did not oversell yourself, and you gave credit to the brand and the agency that writes your checks and allows you to get your ideas seen by the masses. It also gives potential future employers a more specific idea of your skill set, and let’s face it; if you are building a portfolio, it is for the purpose of securing future work.
What about concepts that were never actually produced? As long as you give credit as demonstrated in the above example and let the viewers of your portfolio know that what they are viewing are unused concepts that are not for sale, this is usually not a problem, especially for a designer just starting out. No one is expecting you to come into the world of advertising with a fully developed portfolio.
ADs and CDs want to see what you can do and until you get some experience behind you, showing concepts are acceptable if you feel they showcase your abilities in a positive light. Worst-case scenario, you may be asked to stop showing something, but unless you are, make those ideas work for you!Source: Tom Roarty, Talent Zoo