Below is the introduction as it appears in Flaunt — perhaps handy if you are undecided whether this book is for you or not, or simply if you are curious about our approach and goals.

Back to storefront.
Been There, Done That
One of the strongest reasons we had for doing this book was that we have been in your position before. We know what it’s like to be stumped by the question of where to begin a portfolio. Still, one way or another, we managed to create a handful of portfolios that served their intended purpose. Below are some highlights (and some not so high).

Bryony’s Graduation Portfolio
When I graduated from Portfolio Center in December of 2000, I left armed with the Big Box portfolio the school is famous for: a custom-made wood box covered in a dark blue textured fabric, with stacked trays that held a single item in each compartment, and an oversized screw-post book.

Photographic DetailPhotographic Detail Photographic DetailPhotographic Detail

I also produced ten small versions of the main book to use as leave-behinds.

Photographic DetailPhotographic Detail

This portfolio helped me secure my first job in Chicago, Illinois at Bagby & Co. in 2001.

Armin’s Graduation Portfolio
When I graduated in 1999 from Anahuac University in Mexico City, no one told me what a portfolio was supposed to be. I wrapped a badly constructed cardboard box and poorly glued envelopes (which held items by categories, like identity and packaging) with alarmingly weird three-dimensional renderings.

Photographic DetailPhotographic Detail
Photographic DetailPhotographic Detail

Strange as it was, it did help me get a job in Atlanta, Georgia at USWebCKS in 1999.

Plus his Second Portfolio
It was clear I needed a new, more mature portfolio in order to search for my second job. I decided on a book that Bryony helped me bind with a complicated Japanese 4-hole binding method that I would carry in a Pina Zangaro metallic case.

Photographic DetailPhotographic Detail

I liked the idea of Bryony’s leave-behind and created ten small versions of the book to be sent in trendy metallic bags.

Photographic DetailPhotographic Detail

A Joint Effort
In 2004, when we set out to move to New York, we decided to make the structure of our next portfolio identical — a perfect-bound, cloth-covered book with heavy, cream-colored paper, vellum and inkjet prints — each with its own visual language.

Photographic DetailPhotographic Detail

Both portfolios performed as desired, getting us jobs in New York at Addison (for Bryony) and Decker Design, followed by Pentagram (for Armin).

Photographic DetailPhotographic Detail
Photographic DetailPhotographic Detail

No further portfolios have been created since.
Flaunt is Available Exclusively from UnderConsideration
When we told our friends and peers about our latest project — a book that discussed the mechanics, passions, and disappointments concerning the proverbial portfolio — there were two reactions, on the whole. The first, and most encouraging, was a generous approval of the endeavor, joined with a warm smile and a sigh of relief, that a topic so rarely broached in design literature was to be our point of departure. The second, and least encouraging, was a hostile questioning, usually accompanied by a pained expression and arched brow, as if we had taken an egregious misstep and trod into unfashionable territory, placing our efforts into an ancient practice that bears no relevance to today’s web-enabled marketplace. To the first set of respondents, we further confirmed that the book would be full of practical, technical, philosophical and even emotional advice that would allow others to create the best and most appropriate portfolio possible. The second group — typically seasoned designers who don’t have a pressing need to produce a portfolio, and possibly benefit from trusted employees who review incoming portfolios for them — was harder to convince.

We assured this latter group that there were hundreds of anxious graduating students and young designers that were still dependent upon this decades-old tradition to secure them full-time employment and/or freelance assignments. In fact, any doubts we may have had about this book’s relevance were recently assuaged: out of the 1,500 designers in attendance at Make/Think — the 2009 AIGA Design Conference — 150 of them signed up for the Student Portfolio Review, and all of them had a physical portfolio (complemented, of course, with business cards pointing to their web site). We both participated as reviewers and, even though we saw only a small fraction of them, we were once again amazed by the breadth of quality, style and approaches possible in portfolio presentations. Flaunt is an effort to showcase a variety of alternatives within this very intimidating range of options, through painstaking case studies, various points of view, and nonscientific surveys, each of which will hopefully ease the anxiety and burden of creating a portfolio — perhaps, even help demystify the process of putting it together, and the expectations of presenting it.

In the last ten years, both of us have been in the position you are in right now. We labored over various portfolios (see “Been there, Done that” to your left) at different stages of our professional life: as naïve graduates looking for our first job; as not-so-junior designers in search of the next step; as brooding senior designers-in-the-making hungry for bigger responsibilities; and, most recently, as principals of our own design firm aiming to secure clientele. At all these junctures, the challenge and objective of the portfolio has remained the same — to act as a delivery mechanism that not only showcases our work and accrued experience in the most accessible, effective, and attractive manner, but also manages to communicate the subjective subtleties of who we are as both designers and individuals. The portfolio irrevocably becomes an object brimming with potential, yet burdened with hope; it acts as intermediary between our work, personality, and the possible, always uncertain, future.

“It’s all about the work” is a common response to the portfolio conundrum, implying that if you have good work, you never need to worry about how it is presented — a Survival of the Fittest design theory. For a few extra-talented designers, this might hold true; but for the rest of us, we still need to find a way to cohesively, succinctly, and creatively display our work. This work is so typically disparate in medium and scope that it challenges us to develop a visual and editorial strategy that can accommodate any given combination of logos, identity systems, music and video packaging, book covers, magazine covers and spreads, environmental design and signage, web sites, and more. Presenting this medley of work can take on a number of forms, from groovy bags to sophisticated cases with loose samples of the work; perfect-bound books of flawlessly photographed work; custom-made boxes with work mounted on neatly-trimmed boards; off-the-shelf ring binders with the work stuffed in them; and more. To make matters more complicated, there is no right or wrong, nor better or worse, solution. The only way to discover what works for each of us is to assess the work we want to show, define the logistics of how we want to show it, and acknowledge the abilities and resources we have to make it happen.

At the core of Flaunt is a collection of 41 case studies of diverse portfolios. Through concise interviews they reveal the need, motivation, process, and eventual solution that each of their owners discovered. The detailed breakdowns of price, materials, and resources provide numerous ideas that can be adapted to any kind of portfolio. Generously illustrated with photographs of the portfolios, the case studies bring to life the lessons learned, and demonstrate a bevy of possible visual strategies that best showcase and explain the work. The selected portfolios aim to represent both the most common approaches as well as some offbeat executions that may strike sparks of inspiration for you.

Complementing the case studies are interviews we conducted by e-mail with seventeen professional designers and educators. All of them have been in the industry for a decade or more, and have had plenty of experience reviewing portfolios and conducting interviews. We posited various useful questions, about their expectations of students’ and young designers’ portfolios; common mistakes made; the most memorable portfolios they’ve seen; and even thoughts about their own first portfolios. The results of these interviews have been grouped by question, so that you may see what different designers, in different industries and parts of the world, think of the same issue — they are spread throughout the book under the title of “Speaking from Experience.”

Additionally, over the course of two weeks, we conducted two parallel surveys online: one targeted at designers showing their portfolios in interviews, and the other at designers who are reviewing the portfolios of prospective employees. We asked the same questions of each group, slightly modified to fit each of their roles, so that we could compare what an interviewee thinks are the best practices against what an interviewer does. For example, a modest amount of interviewees think it’s appropriate to make first contact with a potential interviewer in person, but responses from interviewers demonstrate that only a very small amount of them think this is appropriate. The surveys are far from what would be considered rigorous research but, with 637 interviewee and 186 interviewer responses, we feel this is moderately representative of the larger constituency of the design profession. The results of the interviews are charted throughout the book under the title of “Census of Portfolio Etiquette.”

We hope that the book’s components provide a useful resource, and will serve as a springboard to as many designers as possible, from students on the brink of graduation, to young designers questing toward their first or second jobs, to more experienced designers on their way up the title ranks, to freelance and independent designers in their search for clients, and to any other creative individuals — photographers, illustrators, product designers, architects, and more — as they strive for the best possible way to present their work. To make it as accessible and affordable as possible, Flaunt is self-published and delivered mainly as a PDF, keeping production costs down and pricing options low. Without any monetary advance, or any assurance on the return on investment of our time and expenses (shipping portfolios back and forth around the U.S. alone cost us more than one thousand dollars), we are delighted to be able to offer a product that fills a small void in our profession, and are eager to see if this semi-calculated gamble pays off… Not just for us, but for you as well.

Best of luck,

Bryony Gomez-Palacio + Armin Vit
Principals, UnderConsideration