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My Portfolio is the bomb.

In 2002 I graduated from the Portfolio Center in Atlanta.

I wanted to show my work to Sagmeister, Bierut and Bielenberg.

I never thought I would get a chance to show it to the NYPD as well.

One of the many perks from being an alumni of the Portfolio Center is the unique portfolio you enter the job market with. Weighing in at anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds, and with dimensions like 16” X 14” X 6”, it is less a presentation aid then the monolith from the film 2001.

But let’s talk about the real 2001—the year it all changed. The year an object like I just described strapped to the back of an unemployed-starting-to-grow-a-beard-sort-of-fella could cause a few worried glances on a metropolitan subway system. And so it was, me late on Tuesday morning, taking steps down into the subway stop. I have twenty pounds of solid gold on my shoulder, ready to be released on the eyes of a creative director.

“Sir, can I take a look at your bag.”

It wasn’t a question. It was a statement.


I nod. They are very seriously dressed for the cold weather. No polite smiles either.

“Sure. It’s my portfolio” I sling the heavy thing on a table. It lets out a thud.

Usually when I present my book, I have to do all the work. The creative director will sit back, maybe massage a chin, definitely look to me with an ‘impress me, I’m hungry’ sort of look. This time was much easier. They took the reigns.

They opened my bag, and they peered in.

They were faced not with the bag of sleep-over clothes, or the korean takeout they were hoping for, but an entirely other thing.

It was the monolith. It was my portfolio. And it was tightly fit into the biggest Timbuk 3 bag on the market (‘El Gordo’ I think it is called).

“Let me help you,” I said, “there is a bit of a trick to it.”

So they let me. I shimmied out the monolith the way I had many times before, on all those stainless steel DWR tables in design conference rooms from coast to coast. And my bag gave birth to the well worn thing. I opened the box. They peered in again and began to probe the trays. Now that I had her out, good training took over. I had an urge to share all of it with New York’s finest. All the logos, the posters, the Sharp as Toast shirts. I mean, what good is design when it is only shared with designers? I suddenly wanted an outsider perspective. These two police officers would be perfect. Design is for them, isn’t it? Design is for the rest of us. Good design works because of the benefits it creates in the everyday lives of real people, not in the ego stroking of the magazine annuals.

But I never got the chance.

The two officers took a quick look through the trays that held my work.

They said nothing about my everything.

Well, almost nothing.

“Is this wood?”

“Yes.” I nodded. “it is wood.”

They were as disinterested as could be.

With a ‘thank you’ it was all over. As soon as they said it, their eyes were now focused on other big parcels entering the subway. And I was left with my monolith. And an interview in thirty minutes in midtown. I redressed her quickly for the next show and caught the next train.

To make the experience even odder, I arrived at the big brand agency with whom I had made an appointment with one week prior, inform me that the creative director was in Chicago on a press check.

Very sorry. Our mistake.

My monolith and I smiled gracefully and then boarded the elevator. Down.

As it turned out our only performance of the day would be for the police. Maybe it was for the best.

At least they thought I had a dynamite portfolio.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ARCHIVE ID 2470 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON Nov.11.2005 BY Jimm Lasser
christina’s comment is:

When I read this, the only thing I wanted was to see it. Include that story on a cover letter and I think any creative director would call you in just to find out where the wood fits in.

On Nov.11.2005 at 05:02 PM
Gpin’s comment is:

Very nice story. I burst out laughing.

On Nov.11.2005 at 06:34 PM
Colleen Miller’s comment is:

Your reference to your portfolio as a "monolith" is hilarious to me. In a recent move from Philadelphia to NY, it was time for me to change jobs and update the ol' book. Previous iterations have included the student black box, the online dot.com portfolio, and recently, in Philadelphia tradition, I mount my best printed pieces and screen shots onto boards and handmake pockets inside a custom box made of bookcloth to showcase the goods. The general consensus on interviews was, nice work but your box is too hefty, like you are just out of school! The preferred book in NY seems to be the thin post-bound book with work printed/photographed on a small scale. It seems to me that portfolio preferences are very different regionally.

Now, after a year in NY at a small studio, I will change my format again if I were to look for another job, for fear of being perceived as a student after 5 years in the business. When I have turned the table and conducted interviews for designers here in our studio, the Epson printouts just don't always cut it. I want to see type sensitivity, I want to feel your paper choices, and I want to see, or at least know, the real size of things.

And how is it perceived outside of the design world? My clients have always appreciated and been impressed by a tight presentation, clean black boards, and impeccable comps. In a world of PDF proofs and approvals, am I alone in thinking that well-crafted presentation is still key?

On Nov.11.2005 at 06:57 PM
feelicks sockwl jr’s comment is:

Aw snap.

I can top it tho:

In 1994, I was escorted

off a plane in Dallas

for this very (bomb in book)

scenario. Only I spent nearly

2 days in jail. Luckily

my father is an oil man

in Houston, knew the judge

and they quickly thru out the

charge. Worst part was

the cattle call- bending over

naked and spreading eagle

so uncle sam could peep

the fam jewels.

Not pretty.

btw- if youre in NY and are

showing the book pls stop on

by the studio at 320 W 37th #9D

and we'll take a looksee... some

times we have bones to thro.

On Nov.11.2005 at 08:58 PM
Jimm Lasser’s comment is:



Can't beat the spread eagle in Texas.

On Nov.12.2005 at 12:41 PM
RandomBoy’s comment is:

Hehe, lottsa laughs with that story -

An a totally different tip - and I know this is way off topic and no reference to toast - but I just found this and cant contain myself...

type failure intto google -

go on


yup you get Mr G. Bush's Bio at the white house!

tee hee.....

just goes to show Karma really does have a collective here on the internet....

good luck with the ol' boys in blue in the future tho.



On Nov.13.2005 at 04:22 PM
Ravenone’s comment is:


But I'd like to see pictures of this monolith!


On Nov.16.2005 at 01:46 PM
Ginger M’s comment is:

"At least they thought I had a dynamite portfolio."

Literary gold.

On Nov.18.2005 at 10:05 AM
Brian E. Smith’s comment is:

In response to Colleen's post, I must say that I have struggled with the form of my portfolio time and time again. And I've settled on the book, for various reasons.

When putting my book together, I sometimes wonder if a piece is better seen "in the flesh" and have a moment where I second guess my book portfolio. However, in my situation, many of the pieces aren't "real." I'm a MFA student here in NYC and my projects are mostly mocked up and just look better photographed. I have t-shirt designs, monument ideas, web-sites, animated type videos, dinnerware patterns, objects of all sizes and forms. So, at the end of the day, to get a real good cohesive feel for what kind of designer I am (in the 20 minutes any interviewer gives you), the book works best for me. It allows me to put all those different projects into one form, rather than jumping from printed piece, to the computer, to unfolding t-shirts, etc.

I do have a few pieces like letter-pressed greeting cards, a book of Polaroid photographs and short stories that I created, that I do drag along to show in case I get the feeling that the interviewer is interested. But all in all I like the way that I can customize how my work is seen, and how I can build a narrative about what kind of designer I am. I've never had any complaints (at least not to my face).

BTW, I've seen one of those Portfolio Center portfolios. They are HUGE! I sympathize with anyone who totes that around the city. At least you won't need to go to the gym!

On Nov.20.2005 at 08:35 AM
Hal S.’s comment is:

That's a great story T-bone!! I had my PC portfolio searched in the Chicago airport one time. When I tried to help the "lady" with taking my trays out she said that she'd lock me up if I put my hand anywhere near her side of the table again. Also, I actually sewed some contraband on the underside of your midle tray a couple of years ago. Luckily I did a good job and they weren't able to find it. Just kidding!!

On Jan.19.2006 at 03:30 PM