The Secret Handshake is an online resource for student designers and young creatives (18-25) looking for insider insight, honest answers and solid solutions to help you go pro.
Don’t lie. I’m not even a fan of exaggerating or glossing over potential shortcomings. It’s ok to talk about challenging circumstances you’ve had with clients, bosses, or teachers, as long as you’re fair and truthful. Present them as learning experiences, and explain how that knowledge now informs your choices as a designer, an employee and what you believe will be a good fit with an employer.
Create something for yourself, by yourself. It shows craftsmanship—an ability to create something from a blueprint. If well-executed, it will land you a job. After all, it worked for me.
I suggest ten to twelve projects, maximum. If projects include multiple components, or fully designed books, eight to ten projects will be enough. One of the main parameters for a portfolio review is limited time. Presenting the work should take a maximum of thirty to thirty-five minutes.
Many designers show, and say, far too much, leaving little time for an authentic conversation to develop.
Keep it casual. At this point I’m more interested in the person than the work. Keenness, good ideas, great personality. Remember that you’re also bringing something to the table, it’s why they called you in. Don’t forget to ask questions, you’re also there to determine a fit.
Oh, and relax on the compliments! Nobody likes being praised too much.
Apply intelligently. There are no sure-things when it comes to getting a job, but everything you do RIGHT, puts you ahead of someone who did something WRONG.
You have 10 seconds to make a killer impression. Apply intelligently and don’t get weeded out for the wrong reasons.
I don’t give a fuck if you were a lifeguard in 2009. Unless you were the lifeguard at Pentagram, kill it off your resume. There has never been an instance of a design agency being like, “Oh my god, you we’re a lifeguard? Me too! You’re hired.”
I’m a huge believer in a portfolio that’s easy to change and edit. Like a web site, if it’s not easy to update, in the long run, you never will.You’d wind up starting over again in six months, when you have newer, and better, work.
I always try to include a few actual pieces, along with the portfolio—seeing and holding books or packaging inperson is different from seeing it printed out on paper.
We prefer an e-mail with a link to a web site, or sample printed materials. If we like either, we put you on the list of people we will see, so long as you bother to call and follow up. If we are not looking for help, we will try to give a half hour informational interview, followed by referrals.
We are generally honest and straightforward, and will try to help you with the process of finding a first job.
It’s better to show fewer great pieces, than a whole bunch of mediocre work. Show systems (i.e. logo, printed collateral, packaging, web, etc.), not one-offs: it’s about great ideas, and how they extend well beyond one singular expression. And show a variety of work: varying styles, varying industries, varying touch points. Again, it’s about showcasing your ideas, not your acumen for one kind of thing.
I’ve seen some amazing and intricate portfolios with crazy die-cut covers or hand-bound edges, but in the end you should try to create a portfolio that makes your work look best.
It’s not always the flashiest one that is best suited for the job.
Keep it to 1 page.
Keep the page feeling mostly full, students tend to have thin resumes, pad it with true things. Have a lot going on: organizations, design collectives, exhibitions, awards & scholarships, & work history. Focus on the typography and layout.
B&W is preferable, comes across as serious and doesn’t get fucked up by shitty B&W printers.
Print it on the nicest paper you can buy, appropriate weight and color, but it should feel nice. Have a plaintext version for online applications. Save it as a PDF, no other formats are acceptable.
BONUS: Have an html/css online version that’s responsive hosted at your domain.
A resume that is poorly designed tells us that you are not detail conscious, or that you are incapable of making sound judgments about something as marketing- specific as a resume when left to your own devices.
It is easy to overlook, and impossible to dismiss, since your resume, left on the interviewer’s desk, is the sole reflection of you once the interview is over and you have gone home.
People who talk too much and think you have unlimited time to spend.
Having said that, I’m very sympathetic to job seekers. It’s not easy, and a certain amount of pushiness is required. I like folks who are determined, and it’s a good sign when they happen to know something about my studio—it appeals to my vanity.
Anyone who has plucked your name out of a list without having done any research is committing a grave, and common, mistake.
Don’t mount your work on sheets of glass, or any other tricky presentation method. Just like your resume treat your portfolio like a design problem… The purpose of your portfolio should be to frame your work. Don’t let it overshadow the work inside.