Computer ArtsFeature

10 tips for a stunning print portfolio

As the vehicle for getting your work under the right noses, your portfolio has to be perfect. We count down the 10 musts for any self-respecting printed portfolio.

If there's one thing designers fetishize more than anything, it's print options. Foil blocks, special varnishes and finishes, weird and wonderful new papers and handsome binding techniques all give print its fascinating mystique.

All this, though, leads to a slew of conflicting desires and mind-boggling choices for the typical designer putting together a print portfolio. Alongside the need to show creative flair, there's the question of technical competency - and print can be very expensive. Should you throw money at it and go for the 'designer porn' approach, or make a case for the clever use of resources? Do you leave samples? What format should you present your work? Which way is 'up'?

We count down the top 10 pieces of advice to help you get a grip of your rampant design libido and develop a print-led folio that represents who you are and what you do in the best possible light. You can satisfy your craving for letterpress type and heavy cotton stock on your own time.

10 Embrace photography
For many jobs you won't have samples available, or it might be impractical to bring them along to every meeting. In these cases, photography is an essential part of a good print folio. Make sure you photograph work in a clean, ambient space with excellent light (a few reflections can work wonders), and ensure the angles highlight the finishes you'll want to talk about.

9 Consider timescale and size
Given the expense involved in creating a good print portfolio, it's a worthwhile exercise to consider how many copies you're going to have made early on. This depends on whether you're going to be distributing them or just showing them off. A digital or offset print run of around 100 copies covering maybe 10 projects is a good general starting point, with these projects being updated every year or so.

8 Make your budget work for you
It would be wonderful if you had a merchant bank funding your folio, but since you probably don't it makes sense to turn the financial constraints to your advantage. See sticking to your budget as a challenge rather than as a hindrance, by creating something that plays on the lo-fi aesthetic.

7 Befriend your printer
Printers are the experts, so make friends with yours. They'll be able to recommend the most suitable (and best value) stocks and print techniques, and will be able to send you samples of particular processes. Having access to cutting-edge input and advice will give your folio a genuine edge.

6 To bind or not to bind
Keeping your folio unbound so you can switch out elements and change their running order is a good idea. This folio should be of a good size, perhaps A3, and can form the basis of your presentations. A bound folio or brochure is a nice reminder to leave with your client. Backing this up with a disc also helps.

5 Be a cover star
There's nothing wrong with pressing a few buttons and, as far as print goes, a well-judged foil stamp, screen print or special varnish will rarely miss the mark when it comes to making people slobber over your folio. Drafting these elements in to give the cover of your folio a bit of prestige is a good way to show off without overcooking it.

4 Size (and shape) matters
Innovative formats are always effective. Even just an usual choice of dimension for book can make it stand out. There's a multitude of ways to present a print portfolio, including in a box, as a book or even as a folded poster. Just use your imagination to choose which shape, size, colours and graphic elements best suit your work.

3 Taking stock
Choose the paper you use carefully. Print is designed to be held and admired close up, so make the most of the support you choose for your work. Weight, finish, colour - all these things will have an effect on the client's perception of your folio. But bear in mind that handling inexpensive materials well is as much a skill as turning out luxury items.

2 Keep it clean
Let the work itself do the talking. Sure, you want to show how well you can put together a folio, but that means letting the pieces you're most proud of reveal themselves to your potential clients. Unnecessary graphic elements will only distract from what's really important - your work.

1 Plan for your life!
As with so many things in life, if you want your portfolio to be a hit, you've got to have a plan. Have a clear idea of how the finished product's going to be stitched, its paper stocks and formats before you set any wheels in motion, so you can use this to inform your layouts from the very start.

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