Tips for your folio

Your portfolio is your ever-evolving visual CV. It’s never finished – even when you’re in the industry. These tips are not exhaustive and aim to shape a book. They’re deliberately open-ended too, so that if everyone reads this, all your folios will still hopefully be different.

Take your viewer on a journey

Flicking through a good portfolio is like watching a top-notch TV show. It hooks you in within the first 5 minutes. You spend the next 45 minutes enjoying the story. Then the last 5 minutes leave you with a cliffhanger – so that you want to see what happens next.

A portfolio should be the same. Start with something great. Keep them entertained with a range of cool, fun and exciting ideas, then finish with a banger.

4/5 campaigns

Keep it killer, with no filler. People want to see quality over quantity. Putting 4 or 5 campaigns in your book is a happy medium of showing you’re not a one-trick pony, but also that you can think differently.

Each campaign should have a mixture of media – press, poster, outdoor, social, experiential, radio, app, TV/film – but it shouldn’t have everything in it.

Each execution in your campaign should showcase your ‘big idea’ and utilise the media space. Basically if you’re showing social, it shouldn’t just be a print ad or a still from the TV. Make it do more.

Opinions differ on whether you should show print first – as it’s the most distilled version of your idea – or not. We think the first thing should be whatever explains your idea best.

Plus a few one-offs

These are great to show your problem-solving skills. Perhaps it’s an app. Maybe you’ve designed some trainers. Or you’ve got a Valentines day event for a department store. Don’t be afraid to put these in. But don’t go crazy. You’ll often find people want you to turn these one-offs into campaigns too. That’s a good thing.

Think big

Give your ideas legs. Try and create ‘big idea’ campaigns that have multiple touch points. If your campaign is about putting stickers on things. How does anyone else other than the person that picks it up, know about it? Those stickers are just one element. How does someone in a different town or city know about it? If it’s got as many legs as an octopus, that’s when you know you’re on to something.

Make it full of you

So often at degree shows we see the same brands and briefs. That’s fine for trying to get a good grade. But it won’t get you the job you really want. Pick brands and create ideas that you want to do. If you like funny stuff, make people laugh at your folio. Like the digital world? Put more social/film and content ideas in there.

Don’t put awards briefs in there

Things like D&AD and YCN briefs ARE great to do – especially if you win one. But keeping work in your folio that hasn’t won, only highlights someone is better.

Pick the right brands

A tricky, but important rule to follow. Don’t choose brands that are doing great advertising – unless you’ve got something that is totally left field. Work is about bettering what’s come before. So picking a brand that’s just cleaned up at Cannes won’t do you any favours. Pick well-known brands that aren’t doing good stuff currently. There are loads. Start simply by grabbing the newspaper and flicking through. Or go to a shopping centre or a supermarket.

When choosing your brands it’s good to find ones that offer a USP. The last thing you want is someone saying “if I cover the logo, it could be for X, Y or Z”. Classic difficult sectors for briefs are things like chewing gum or bread. At least in things like aviation, you can differentiate between EasyJet, Ryanair and Wizz – even though they all pride themselves on low prices.

Create work you could actually put in front of that client

That does not mean it has to be boring. Or have a giant logo on it. Or slap a price across it.

It means that if the marketing director of a company saw your ad, and liked the strategy and angle, they could run it. Basically that means knob gags, and anything Hitler related are out. You should still have fun. Just don’t take it to the wrong extremes.