Answer: A portfolio of your best work is the key to success in today's competitive market. I cannot stress enough the importance of a portfolio of your work as an interior designer, window fashions design professional, architect or salesperson.
There are two important keys to putting together a successful portfolio:
• Personal Style: Your personal style and image should be reflected in every page of your portfolio, and the examples you showcase should reflect the very cutting edge of design. For example, when you target a specific technique or appearance, show off your best work while still presenting a broad enough range of subjects so as not to exclude potential customers.
And remember, no matter what the subject, there should be consistency throughout the portfolio.
• Photography: Direction for developing a strong portfolio also can come from targeting a specific subject such as furniture, window covering product or fabric in your selection of photographs. Whether the prints are laminated or mounted, keep the outside dimensions of each portfolio board the same size.
It is extremely important, when developing your design direction and target market, that you set up specific enough targets within a broad client base in order to ensure getting enough work.
Building a Strong Portfolio
In this high-tech age, many designers are opting to use technology to create digital portfolios. A page in an on-line portfolio, however, does not replace a traditional printed portfolio. A printed portfolio is cost effective and can be viewed easily by all clients. It makes sense as an additional tool to reach them.
Actual, paid jobs may or may not reflect your best work. In the real world, budgets often place constraints on particular jobs. If there is any doubt about whether a particular job deserves to be included in your portfolio, do not show it. Never include a piece just because you were paid to do it!
Your portfolio must show your work, but it doesn't have to show projects you've actually completed for a client. People hire you as a creative professional because of what you can do, not what you have done. So show them. Show examples of your highest level of creativity and technical ability regardless if they were ever actually completed or not. Pull out any photos of work that do not meet this high-creativity criteria and set them aside to use as backups or supporting materials.
How to Show It
Because clients get an immediate image of you from a first glance make sure your portfolio case is an extension of yourself, not something you just picked up on sale. Hint: Don't overlook luggage store outlets that offer a wide variety.
Look for a case that has some personal distinction. Be choosy in selecting the size, color and materials along with how your name or logo is added to the outside of the case.
How Much to Show
A complete body of work is not a portfolio. The entire collection of your designs, rooms or pieces could be several dozen. Any given portfolio should be a selection of between 10 and 15 boards or laminations selected for a particular client presentation. It must be manageable. You could divide your portfolio into categories by project, room design, interior style, color, etc.
To sum it all up, the interior design profession is much too competitive to overlook the advantages of presenting clients with a strong design direction and a professionally mounted and presented portfolio.
Editor's note: This is a continuing series of articles written by Sharon L. Anderson that will answer some of the many questions we receive at Draperies & Window Coverings as well as questions Anderson has encountered in her own business.
Sharon L. Anderson has more than 20 years
experience as a professional interior designer in both commercial and residential design. She has taught at numerous colleges throughout California and currently is an educator
at Moorpark college in southern California.
She is a published author and frequent public speaker.