How to create physical portfolios.

Many students still create physical portfolios that are A1 or A2 portfolio. With a limited number of pages, its important to get the message across simply and clearly.

Some interviewers will look through all the pages in a portfolio if there aren’t too many. While sketchbooks are invaluable to take to interviews, the time constraints for admissions teams will mean they wont be able to look at all of the sketchbooks a student has created.

Useful tips for creating physical portfolios:

What to use for pages?

Use medium heavy white card, not mount-board. Its a balance between weight and strength.

Plastic wallets?

Avoid putting pages in plastic wallets. They are very heavy and reduce the ability for interviewers to interact with anything you have that is textured or printed on special paper. The reflection also means that some of the image may get lost. They are also really expensive and many universities actually ask for work not to be presented this way.

Sketchbooks or portfolio pages?

Sketchbooks can show how a project is developed and give detailed insight into working practices. But portfolio selection is very time-constrained, so its important to go for impact and key areas of practice. If there are too many sketchbooks, consider leaving some out and putting the best parts on a worksheet instead. Its possible to record the best parts of a sketchbook on a portfolio page by scanning or photographing important aspects and laying them out in a narrative way.

Telling the story of a project

Interviewers will be really interested in how a project developed and unfolded. They want to know the challenges that were faced and how these were resolved. Its useful to develop a structure for pages in the portfolio, such as left to right, that make sense of the narrative and show stages. Take photographs of all the important stages of a project and put these on a worksheet with some writing to show its development.

Draw attention to key parts of projects

Use techniques for drawing attention to parts of projects that are important, such as valuable prototypes, experiments and outcomes. Its possible to draw attention through scale, text, lines or titles on a page.

Physical portfolios can be made digitally

Consider creating your sheets digitally and giving them a house style that follows through the portfolio. A house style could include titles all in the same place or everything organised with a similar grid structure, font or other design elements. Making a physical portfolio digitally means it can easily be updated at a later stage and the pages can be printed on different types of stock. Its also wonderful to see a combination of digital and physical work.

Actual work

If physical portfolios have been made digitally, its useful to take some real work also. These could be life drawings or small-scale outcomes, but many interviewers will appreciate seeing the real thing.

Core processes

Different disciplines will have specific techniques that students are expected to know and be able to use. For example, a fashion student will need to know how to pattern cut or a web design student should know how to manipulate CSS. What are the core processes of the course being applied for? Consider what they are and make sure these are demonstrated within the portfolio.

Pages need a logical order

Its worth thinking about how interviewers will engage with the portfolio. Its obvious that parts of the same project should be next to each other in pages, but how would the interviewer know which pages relate to which project. Consider having numbers of pages, such as Part 1 of 3, for example.

Portfolios need love

Its important to take care of portfolios and prevent them from getting damaged. They even need maintenance after interviews and giving them some attention, such as rubbing out marks on pages or remounting if necessary.

Design Boards for Portfolios

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Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Painter, Writer, Designer