15 August 2007


Carl Grivakis

Every May design students exit the great halls of their university with high expectations of the job market. Many find work within a month or two, becoming an employee of where they previously interned, or some through some other connections. Many others discover that competition is fierce and jobs may be few, many very talented individuals are turned down because of their inexperience or portfolio. When you go out to interview make sure that you and your work look their best. Here are some portfolio tips and tools I’ve used in my job hunt and have seen work for others.

There are several methods to show your work, whichever you choose, be sure to print and present with the best quality available to you. Do not let your craft abilities be your crutch, many art directors will be looking at your trimming and matting skills as much as your design ability. I suppose that’s why many job postings ask candidates that ‘pay attention to detail.’

Boards: This is the method we used in school, and some people prefer to use in their interview process. If you don’t mind the bulk of carrying around boards, then remember these few things when preparing your portfolio.

1. Maintain a uniform size and orientation on the boards. Choose something that is large enough to showcase the largest piece with enough margin, but also make sure the smallest pieces don’t become lost on the board. Make conscious choices on layout, if your showing a brochure, maybe have an open piece as well as the cover. Or show the front and back open, but overlapping one another.

2. Color. Choose a color that is subtle and enhances your work, rather than something that drowns it out. The most used color is black, since colors jump out the most from this background, but if you have pieces that are heavy with black print...consider a medium gray. I’d keep the color of the boards all uniform as well.

3. Carrying Case. Keep your board in immaculate shape, this is very important in presentation. Make sure you have a case, a professional one, that will not let the boards shift to much getting curved edges or water damage.

Boards are a good method if you want to keep your mounted pieces on a good firm backing that will not fold or easily break. The do get heavy though, especially when your using so many for a reasonable size portfolio of 10-14 pieces. They probably are the easiest for switching out pieces as well, but storage may also be a problem if you have limited space. I think boards might be better to show to a client rather than to a prospective job.

Book with Pages: This is my favorite method of presentation, I believe it is the most manageable and maintainable method of presentation. A book presents a few options as well, you can mount actual pieces of work or present photographed samples. Whole design sets can be shared on a spread as well, doubling your presentation space if needed. There are some things to consider when using a book as well.

1. Color – Most books come with black pages, as with boards…this will be your call. Be sure that anything you use is ‘acid free’ and archival quality so your prints don’t yellow too quickly.

2. Glare – Most books use clear plastic sheets to hold the pages. The clear plastic sheets do produce glare on pieces though, if you buy a book that uses punched boards you can mount directly on pages without using the plastic holder. I personally don’t mind the glare, but it could present problems.

When using a book, purchase something that will last you a good long time. Use a size suitable to hold your largest flat pieces with no problem. Consider photographing 3-d pieces and placing these on pages within the book. If you have two focuses in your portfolio, i.e. Illustration and Design, I would keep two separate books.

Design and Bound Book: If you want a more unique and creative portfolio you may design a personal book unique to your tastes. This could be something you layout like a scrapbook, a magazine, or a unique portfolio case. This is an exercise of your imagination.

Slides: An antiquated and unflattering method of making a portfolio, not really needed when we have computers and other means of file transfer. Color correction and photo retouching on slides simply isn’t an option.

CD: A digital version of your portfolio is a good method to leave something behind…or to send some of your work abroad for consideration. The method of delivery will be up to you, something as simple as PDF samples, or a little more complicated such as a self contained website or flash intro. Let the CD make an impression, if your sending the work to far off locations, try sending small post card samples, or design a self promotional kit to go with it. Having something physically printed with your work will make it more memorable. When using a digital medium also remember that you are not there to explain your work or answer questions, so be as informative as you can with descriptions of your work.

I hope these methods help you consider your portfolio carefully. The advice is given as guideposts to help find your own unique method of showcasing your work. As with any design project, consider the why behind each design decision…including your portfolio.

About the Author - Carl Grivakis - Graphic Designer and Production Artist as well as a design ethics enthusiast. Located in the Massachusetts he is the founder of PowderKeg Graphic Design and Tapp-d, which can be found online at www.grivakisgraphics.com/html/wordpress

Copyright © 2007, Carl Grivakis, All Rights Reserved


Shaun Crowley

Freelance designers who produce marketing materials will know that design and copy should be developed together to work well.

But sometimes there isn’t enough budget for teaming with a copywriter. Or the client needs a project in a hurry. That’s when being able to produce concept and copy in addition to design can be a powerful business advantage.

It goes without saying that an ability to write is fundamental. But you don’t have to be a copywriter to produce strong concepts and write copy for many smaller projects.

Think of the concept as a hook, a lead-in that will grab readers’ attention and persuade them to read on. Think of the copy as a fulfillment of the concept’s premise, the fleshing out of the product story.

Avoid trying to do too much, bombarding readers with multiple copy and visual messages. For any piece to be persuasive and memorable, its design, headlines, visuals, and copy must work together to communicate one single and strong message.

As idea starters, below are thirteen simple concept/copy approaches. Each has been proven to help deliver sales results.

1. Focus on a particularly persuasive benefit.

his is a fail-safe approach to communicating the product message in advertising. Brainstorm a list of product benefits and focus on the benefit your reader will find most appealing.

Product: Beds. Headline: “Turn your back on aches and pains”. Visual: Profile of woman, back to camera, lying comfortably on a mattress.

2. Create a need—then show how the product fulfils it.

A proven way to position a product is to show how it solves a need or a problem. The problem can be real…

Product: Kitchen appliances. Message: “Everyone knows showers are more efficient than baths. So why do dishwashers work like baths?” Visual: Photo of shower cubicle alongside product.

Or the problem can be imagined…

Product: Teaching (recruitment drive). Headline: “Children have an energy and spontaneity that just aren’t found in many office jobs”. Visual: Happy child contributing in a classroom activity.

3. Focus on the product’s Unique Selling Point.

The product you’re selling doesn’t need to fill an obvious gap in the market to have a Unique Selling Point (USP).

A USP can be a fact about the product (such as sales history, brand reputation, or product origination)…

Product: Muesli. Headline: “The original Swiss muesli”. Visual: Idyllic Swiss landscape.

A USP can be a product feature (something the product has that no other product has)…

Product: TV. Headline: “Color like no other.” Visual: Bright-colored paint splashing across a television set.

Or a USP can be a product benefit (something a product does that no other product does)…

Product: Educational text book. Headline: “At last, a coursebook that puts you in control of your lessons”. Visual: confident looking teacher walking into the classroom..

4. Associate the product with a connected idea, feeling, or emotion.

Metaphor is commonly used in consumer advertising, corporate-identity, and brand-building publicity. It can be particularly effective in activating an archetype that connects an emotion with the brand.

Product: Cognac. Headline: “Let the conversation flow”. Visual: Glass of cognac in focus; a group of people in conversation after dinner out of focus.

5. Prove how popular the product is.

People trust popular products because they are seen as reliable and imply good quality. Popularity messages also respond to deep emotional needs to feel part of a community.

Product: Telecommunications. Headline: “Thousands of people are coming back to XYZ Telecoms”. Visual: Woman opening door to friendly telecoms engineer.

6. Use a case study.

Case studies prove validity by showing how people have already benefited from the product in the past. They are particularly useful for highlighting success stories, before-and-afters, or for demonstrating the versatility and universality of the product.

Product: Weight-loss milkshake. Headline: “I lost 18 pounds in just one month on the ThinQuick Plan!” Visual: Before and after photos of individual alongside close-up of product.

7. Endorse the product.

People trust respected figures in society. Your lead copy could be a published testimonial—or have the client pay a respected figure to put his/her name to the product.

Product: Rowing machine. Headline: “The Gold Standard”. Visual: Snapshot of Olympic rower presenting product, with his signature.

8. Tell the product’s story.

A product with an interesting background has real news value, and news makes for an attention-grabbing message, appealing to the reader’s sense of curiosity. Product stories can also initiate desire for the product by developing the reader’s emotional attachment to the brand.
Product: French Beer. Headline: “When Edmund Willims created Bertillon Noir, he didn’t just break the mould. He broke the law.” Visual: Melodramatic black-and-white photo of character nervously hiding behind a door.

9. Put the product to the test.

You can ‘test’ the product to highlight its key features such as convenience, strength, versatility—or to show how the product compares with the competition.

Product: Battery. Headline: “Duromax lasts up to three times longer than conventional alkaline batteries”. Visual: Battery-powered toy rabbit beating his competitors in a race.

10. Announce something new.

The word ‘New’ is one of the most powerful words in advertising copy. Sometimes the most effective message is simply to announce the product’s newness.

Product: Cat food. Headline: “Introducing new finest cuts from Feleba”. Visual: Plate of gourmet cat food hidden by a silver cover.

11. Guarantee the product.

A guarantee quickly dissolves any scepticism your reader has about the reliability of the product. Guarantees can be based around results, quality, durability, strength, customer satisfaction, a commitment on behalf of the company, fixed price promises, and lowest price claims.

Product: Golf clubs. Headline: “Guaranteed! Cut six to eight strokes off your game… or your money back!” Visual: Product photo overlaid with guarantee stamp.

12. Announce how much and where to buy.

If the product is particularly good value for money, you can’t go wrong with “the three Ps”: show the Product, show the Price, and show where to Purchase.

Product: Clothes. Headline: “Back-to-school sweat-shirts from just $4. at Berkleys (opposite MacDonalds)”. Visual: Photo of mothers and children choosing sweatshirts in-store, with map of where the shop is.

13. State the offer.

People are always looking for a bargain, which is why the word ‘Free’ is another powerful word in the advertiser’s lexicon. If you have a good offer to tell readers about, lead with it.

Product: Newspaper. Headline: “Get a free Mozart CD in tomorrow's Sunday Bugle”. Visual: Huge ‘FREE’ flash alongside product.

This list of advertising concepts is hardly exhaustive, but can be used as a framework for brainstorming ideas. Whatever your concept, ask yourself this: “Am I effectively communicating the product message through my headline, visual, and body copy?” If you’re not, the chances are your concept is too complicated—you need to strip it down and focus on just one thing.

Shaun Crowley is author of 100 Copywriting Tips for Designers and Other Freelance Artists, available at www.copywriting-designers.com

© Shaun Crowley 2006. The content of this article is lifted from 100 Copywriting Tips for Designers. (Article first published at www.creativebusiness.com)


Russell Arsenault

For small businesses, creating a logo is one of the most important stages of a company’s infancy. A professional image can take you a long way, distinguishing your company from the competition. Unfortunately, not everyone is a stellar graphics designer. Even if you choose to outsource your logo project, you’ll still need to provide a minimum level of guidance to the design firm. In light of this, here is a concise set of design tips written to ensure your logo perfectly suits your needs.

1. Keep it Simple!

These are probably the best words of advice, and it ties into almost all of our upcoming tips. A complicated design will not only make your logo difficult to reproduce and maintain, but you will also fail to engage your audience. The logo is the ultimate ‘elevator’ pitch to your potential clients and business partners. You don’t have time to recite your entire business plan in an elevator pitch, and the same concept applies to corporate logo design.

Sometimes when a design isn’t working out right, there will be an inclination to add elements and complexity. Often times, it’s better to start over with a new concept or remove distracting elements rather than add them.

Simplicity isn’t always an easy thing to ahieve, as you don’t want your logo to appear too boring or conservative. This is why at the end of the day it’s best to leave it to logo design professionals.

2. Engage your Audience

The good logo should above everything entertain and engage your audience. Your design should not be so literal that the message is spelt out for them. They should be given the opportunity to discover the meaning and intention of your logo themselves. If people are able to discover the ‘trick’ of your logo within a reasonable amount of time, this will help to create a memorable and entertaining experience between you and your audience.

Too much abstraction will on the other hand work against you. If the logo is too obscure, the message that you are attempting to communicate will be lost, and so will your potential client. Remember, today’s consumer culture is accustomed to very intense and stimulating media, and therefore you cannot be too demanding on your audience.

3. Logo Longevity – Think Ahead!

The durability and longevity of a logo is worth considering. Although it’s impossible to see into the future, it is useful to picture your company 10-15 years down the road, and think about what kind of products and services it will offer, if any at all! Even the strongest companies update their logo every 15 years or so, but often the changes will be subtle in nature. Very seldom will they take on a radical re-design.

For small start-up companies, it may not be the end of the earth if you decide to change your logo after even a few years, depending on what transpires with your company. But it’s always nice when a logo design is able to stand the test of time.

4. Vector is Better

Although it’s tempting to use detailed illustrations and complex 3d effects in a logo, chances are that it will not serve you well. Clean, crisp lines with very limited colors are almost always more effective than an illustration or complex 3d rendering. A well-drawn vector-based logo will provide you with the contrast and balance that is so important in logo design. New capabilities in vector based programs can now give you the illusion of a 3d effect without losing contrast, using tricks such as the canter effect.

5. Adaptability - Be Ready for Change

Your logo should be flexible enough to adapt to every business situation. If a logo is too literal or specific, you may have a hard time using it when catering to different markets.

Generally speaking, the best thing for small business start-ups is to have an icon and logo-type designed at the same time. This will allow you to use the logo as a stand-alone image, or use it along with the type-font name as well. Often times, companies will use only the icon on its products and packaging materials. This is a common practice among software companies and book publishers.

6. Make it Memorable

A great logo design will imbed itself into ones sub-consciousness. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but for a logo to be memorable it needs to use simple lines and be very easy to recall from memory. A good test to ensure that your logo design is memorable is to show it to a friend and ask him/her to retrace it a week later. A good design should use a recognizable shape or element for it to be easily remembered.

7. Relevance – Keep your Products and Services in Mind

A memorable logo is great, but it should also get your customers to start thinking about the products or services that you offer. You should ensure that the logo relates to your business in some shape or form. Yes, the monkey can sell just about anything from cigarettes to cell phones, but there’s a limit! Isn’t there?

8. Choose your Colors Wisely

Colors can play a very important role in logo design as they can illicit different feelings and emotions from us. Interpretations of color may vary depending on age, gender, and cultural demographics. Your choices of color should therefore be considered carefully depending on your target market. Also, colors tend to follow trends, just like in fashion. A new, vibrant company may want to follow the current trends, whereas a bank may want to stay with a more conservative color set that will serve then well for them over a long period of time.

Try to keep your selection of colors down to two or three. Too many colors will increase your cost of production and make it more difficult to reproduce.

One interesting idea that we’ve seen used is to change the color of the logo on things like business cards and stationery depending on the market segmentations of the clientele.

9. Uniqueness is Key

This should be straightforward. You want to be sure that your company is easily identified among your industry and competitors. Be sure to carefully research your industry and target market before embarking on a logo design. You need to know and understand the common styles of your industry, but you also need to make sure that you don’t infringe on anyone else’s trademarked logo.

10. Versatility Pays Dividends

One of the most important attributes of a good logo design is versatility. You want to portray a consistent image across all of your marketing materials, including signs, letterhead, business cards, products lines, and web sites. Often times, a complicated logo design will work fine on a website or billboard, but when you shrink it down to fit on a pen or coffee cup, the illustration or lettering will become illegible. Your logo should also work well in black and white.

You may often find that many start-up companies and even well-established law firms will not consistently brand their logo across all their marketing materials. They may have their logo on the front door of their office, but will end up using something different (or nothing at all!) on their website. In order to build brand recognition you need to market your logo and image as consistently as possible. Be sure that when you’re having your logo designed that you receive all the file formats necessary for use in your various marketing channels.

Russell Arsenault is the Marketing Director and Editor at LogoBee.com. LogoBee has been in logo design industry for over six years, providing custom logos and stationery to businesses around the globe.