Once you start receiving portfolios instead of obsessing over your own, you know you've made it. (Take a look at katemanos.com. Pathetic, right? That's because I've put all attention towards verynice.co, which you should go check out right now.) Reading through applications, I can only cringe and wonder what mine were like—was I as impressive? Did I unknowingly mortify myself by addressing the company by the wrong name? Was my resume riddled with typos? It's a harsh reality that unless you're talented at your craft and articulate, someone like me who gets buckets of emails just like yours, might not even get through your email. If you write one, that is. Here's a free lesson: never, ever, under any circumstances, send an agency an email with nothing in the body. Or without a link to your portfolio. Just don’t do it.
Not to startle those who applied for our Junior Designer position this last round, but we received so many applications that y'all have a 3% of getting your very own semi-comfortable IKEA desk chair in our little office. That means we read through a huge amount of emails, clicked around gorgeous and mediocre portfolios, skimmed your About pages, and judged you purely by your website and your email introduction. Nerve-wracking, right? I can just about guarantee that if you didn't write much (or anything...) in your email, we were much more likely to move past you, even if you're the star of your class, a wiz at Illustrator, and the valedictorian.
Your words are your chance to reach through our computer screens and make us pay attention to you. They explain your work for you, while you're vegging out, watching Netflix. Otherwise, how are we supposed to know that your senior project was more than just you painting the wall with your body? Or that you redesigned your favorite museum's collateral just for the hell of it? You leave us no choice but to guess, and most of the time we guess wrong. Some may disagree: "But my work speaks for itself!"—I hate to break it to you, but it just doesn't. Even Jackson Pollock gets a little explainer plaque next to his masterpiece in the New York MoMA. Just remember: don’t go crazy— no one wants to read your life’s story or the next Magna Carta. Keep it short and sweet, and to the point.
Here are some tips, for those crafting their first (third? Tenth?) online portfolio and identity.
One of the hardest branding projects you'll ever do is branding yourself.
Step back and ask yourself questions.
Treat yourself like you would treat a client.
Make a list of projects that you want to display on your site.
What words convey you?
Your voice is the most valuable element of your portfolio.
With no context, the most beautiful project means nothing.
And vice versa—perhaps the best project you have isn't the most visually stunning—the story behind it will make that project shine.
Now, get typing!