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Portfolio tips for young designers – Part 1: What to do
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Portfolio tips for young designers – Part 1: What to do

Article by Studio Ground Floor

In conversation with PORTO ROCHA, O Street and Justified, we discuss the DOs of portfolio-making for young designers from the eyes of seniors in the industry.

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One of the most universally daunting tasks for creatives is actually getting your work together. No matter if you went to university or are self-taught, making a portfolio, website, Instagram, or email (or really anything self-referential) is always tricky – especially if you’re a young creative, junior designer or someone just starting out.

Often it’s hard to know where to start, and putting your portfolio together can be an isolating, demoralising task. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes you just need a tip or two to get going.

So, with that in mind, we’ve turned to some fascinating, insightful folk who know a thing or two about the creative industry. Speaking with NYC-based design studio PORTO ROCHA, Glasgow’s O Street creative practice and London-based design, technology and design studio Justified, we’ve got together our top tips from our industry experts on what to keep in mind when getting your portfolio together.

Welcome to part one, the DOs.

“Designing with intention is super important for us,” PORTO ROCHA’s senior designer Gabriela Carnabuci tells us, “we like to understand the thinking behind the work, the decisions made, and especially why they were made,” highlighting the importance of being clear, concise and considerate to both the work you’re presenting and who you’re presenting it to. “No matter the type of project showcased,” Carnabuci adds, “we look for candidates that can articulate their intent, their critical thinking, and their design choices.”

Continuing her wise words, Carnabuci stresses the importance of being on top of your work and how it’s brought together. “Being able to organise and present projects in a way that best represents the work is a huge plus,” she explains, suggesting the benefit that easy mockup and website resources can bring to a portfolio. Additionally, the detailing and crediting around a curated project are also essential. “Always ensure proper credits are given,” Carnabuci continues, “it really helps to understand the candidate’s role in the project and what the overall team structure was.”

Discussing what they look for most as a studio, George Creese, Mid-Weight Designer at O Street, explains, “exciting work with interesting ideas mostly!” citing the importance of general creative enthusiasm. “We love to see work that gets us excited, and (most importantly) that the person showing us is excited about,” Creese continues, expanding on how young designers and students are in a position unique to the scene. “Students have a unique opportunity to make work that is unbound by clients,” he suggests, “so it’s always wonderful to see work that takes full advantage of that and doesn’t play it safe,” caveating, “you’ve got the whole rest of your career to do that!”

Feeling the same, Carnabuci stressed the experimental tools readily available today to young creatives. “Whether it be motion, 3D, or programming, we are looking for designers with a sense of curiosity,” she explains, “and that can bring new perspectives to our team,” a sentiment similarly shared with Justified. “We are always drawn more to something we haven’t seen before over a super well-executed piece of design,” Creative Director Josh Ogden tells us, suggesting there is plenty of time to learn more and polish as time goes on. “At such an early stage in a creative’s career, we don’t expect you to have all the answers,” he tells us, “we think having the ambition to create change and impact through their ideas is most important from any candidate.”

Continuing his optimistic streak, Ogden continues, “you should be excited about the industry you are venturing into,” citing the variety and scale of projects, clients and opportunities, globally, locally, commercial and culturally, that the job can offer. “We are SO lucky (IMO) to work in an industry that has the potential to keep you intrigued and curious,” he explains, “beyond the work, however, we are always looking for someone who is culturally aware of the world around them,” Ogden clearly states, “who can draw references from different places as this creates iconic, unexpected design outcomes.”

“From a junior, we really try to look for curiosity and originality,” Ogden suggests, “we often see the same type work, trends and ideas,” he continues – something shared by Creese too. “Try to be as authentic and honest to yourself as possible, so that a studio can get a real idea of who you are,” Creese remarks, giving the studio a greater understanding of the individual and, therefore, allowing them to make a better decision on whether to bring them on board or not. “At a junior level, we are often hiring for attitude as much as for aptitude,” he continues, as Odgen equally mirrors, concluding, “you don’t need to be able to do it all already, be humble, be honest, and, most of all, be willing to learn.”