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Updating the Portfolio

One of the most maddening career tasks for any creative type is maintaining the portfolio.

The portfolio is an act of communication: it’s marketing, it’s a performance piece, and it exposes all of your strengths and weaknesses in one easy-to-consume package. It’s terrifying.

And we procrastinate and defer because the choices involved are often excruciating. What to include and what to leave out? Should we focus narrowly or broadly? And crucially, what would a disinterested third party – untroubled by the emotional baggage bolted to each piece, like a Volkswagen Beetle hauling a grand piano on its roof – make of it all?

The photo above is a good example, and I debated whether this image even belongs in a work portfolio. This was a personal project, a model of the Starship Enterprise that I built, textured, and rendered all from scratch. While not work-related, I think it fits in. It certainly draws the eye.

I banned any written material from my new portfolio; it features only my graphical work. I figured my blog itself would be the written sample. Besides, who wants to read a stale procedural text when they can look at pretty pictures?

Portfolios embody the same yin and yang as do résumés. The need to focus on our goals is balanced and countered by the need to illustrate the breadth and depth of our accomplishments. Before web sites, creatives might have produced multiple printed portfolios, each tailored for different potential employers. Today, the web-based portfolio threatens to become a tackle trunk of miscellany that needs an emptying out now and then.

The only way forward is to keep in mind that you’re doing a sales job. The audience is a prospective customer who looks at your random assortment of wares, looking to buy something that fits their needs. Your job is to present something they want to buy.

Check out my updated portfolio here. Any bouquets or brickbats are welcome in the comments.

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