My previous entry, 4 Tips for Landing Your First Design Job, focused on leveraging your personal brand in order to achieve that goal. This post will center on crafting a portfolio that reinforces your strengths, and brand, to further that cause.

  1. Limit yourself

    Between school, freelance and internships you are bound to have a lot of work you COULD show. However, not everything deserves a place in your portfolio. You might be really proud of that first freelance project you got designing a flyer for a local restaurant. Chances are the owner art directed the piece to death and made you include terrible pictures of the food and his cat Meatballs. Does it belong?

    The curation of a portfolio says a lot about a designer and how they think. Like an advertisement, the visual, headline and body copy send deliberate messages to the viewer. Take a look at your portfolio. What does it say about you? Start by limiting yourself to 10-15 pieces and go from there. (more…)

So you just graduated from college (or maybe you skipped that step) and you’re trying to get a foot in the door at an agency or in-house creative department. In a world where the competition is tough, and space is limited, you’ve got to find an edge. Luckily you are a unique human being with a unique story to tell; and hopefully a unique way to package it. This is known as your personal brand.

Your personal brand matters. Employers aren’t hiring you based on your talent, skills or work ethic alone. Don’t get me wrong; they play a huge part in the hiring process, but companies, especially creative ones, are looking for a personal brand that stands out. By establishing a distinct story and look, you’ll have a better chance of landing that coveted first creative job. Here are 4 tips to help you do just that.

  1. Why you?

    What makes you different? Do you have a uniquely broad range of creative skills or styles? Do you have a personal talent or interest that can serve as a launchpad? Perhaps you were a girl scout or boy scout. Did you play sports? Do you have a passion for music? These personal interests and attributes can help you develop a concept for your personal brand to help you stand out. For example, being a girl scout or boy scout might mean you know how to find your way without a compass (a.k.a. a self-starter who can think and work independently). Being a good athlete might translate into being a disciplined team player. A variety of creative skills and styles may mean you are the Swiss-Army-knife type…capable of almost anything. You get the point (pun intended).

  2. Be true to your brand.

    Design trends come and go. Today faster than ever. Keep your visual identity thoughtful, consistent with your personal brand and based on good design principles. Let your portfolio showcase your range of ideas, styles and executions.

  3. Present yourself well.

    Make a professional-looking digital space for yourself. Whether it is through a Behance ProSite or Squarespace, a well-presented showing of your work counts. (Don’t forget to carry your personal brand concept through this and everything you do.) When I finished college these plug-and-play sites did not exist, so I spent countless hours attempting to code one. Hours I could have spent honing and marketing my personal brand.

  4. Be yourself.

    Literally. Some people feel the need to use a name other than their birth name to add mystique. (I’m guilty!) I couldn’t get a domain using my birth name, so I came up with Get it. Eszoteric doesn’t mean anything to me and I’ve been transitioning away from it for that very reason. Of course, there are success stories (e.g. ISO50), but chances are it won’t serve you well a few years down the road.

Get started now! Write down three personal attributes that make you different and marry them with your creative talent (e.g. illustrator, designer, idea-machine, digital genius, etc.). Then have fun with it! Create a short story or description of your personal brand. Give yourself an interesting title. Package it to reflect your concept. Good luck!

Have a question? Shoot me an email or ask in the comments.