WPDFD Issue #52 - July 01, 2002
The time comes in every designer's life when they have to get that first foot on the ladder. The ladder is, of course, their chosen career and that initial step is so very significant because it has, at last, committed them to a definite direction. This article is about selling yourself. Obviously, this can't be your first step because you have to have something to sell but it might well be your first encounter with 'business' and business is what it is all about - never forget that.
If you haven't already identified it in so many words, the purpose of the exercise is this: To demonstrate your skills and capabilities in the most concise way possible. There are a lot of things going on in this statement so I'm going to break them down into bite-sized chunks. Demonstrate Demonstrating is more than just saying, 'Here it is!' It requires you to 'convince' and 'prove'.
There was a time when presentations and interviews were all done in person. It still happens, but with the Web when you are looking for clients, the whole World is your marketplace and being 'local' hardly matters at all. If you are looking for a permanent employed position, you will most likely have to be physically present but you could still land that first interview from work you send in or show online.
It's amazing, but whether it's a small-time supplier of bathroom fixtures or the art-buyer of a major agency, they always look for the same thing. They want to see their job already done! What I mean by that is that the bathroom fixtures supplier will want to see half a dozen sites for other bathroom fixtures suppliers. Ad agency art-buyers that I've had dealings with seem to show a similar lack of imagination and take everything most literally.
Quite different from the client's cursory flick through your work, the employer will want to dig deeper. This is not a one-off job but a longer-term relationship and probably not just between two people. A potential employer will be looking for unique skills that you can add to his or her team and also how you will fit into that team at a personal level. Also, an employer will want to look behind-the-scenes of your Web pages.
Here is a short list of tips, some obvious and some not so. Try to keep them in mind when you present your work. Do's Try to control the situation and browsing environment. Finding out that your site doesn't work properly in the client's browser is too late - you've blown your chance! Remember, looking at your portfolio is an imposition on someone and they will almost certainly be seeing other people too.
To complement the article on portfolio presentation, I thought a review of a few inspirational references would be these two useful books. The sites linked-to from these references will help show you a wide range of design possibilities. Some of the sites are excellent examples of how things should be done. Some are more experimental in nature - but you can also learn from mistakes. Web Design Index, compiled by Günter Beer, is a fully illustrated listing of over 1000 Web sites taking the form of large thumbnail images, three to a page.
Often, you will want to show a small preview of a Web page to give a quick idea of what it looks like. If you have ever tried to do a screen-capture of a Web page and reduce in a graphics editor, you will be aware that can difficult to maintain quality. The process of reducing the screen down in size throws information away because the resampling averages adjacent pixels and they blur. Although there is no magic formula for maintaining information in reduced images, there are ways to cut your losses.