Business Rants

Your Portfolio: to Print or Not to Print?

  • January 26, 2014

In this “digital age” I see a common question pop up on social media: should I have traditional printed items for my portfolio, or show it digitally?

For the more traditional arts and design fields this is an interesting question. Some people have reported that an interviewer or potential client described a printed portfolio as “quaint,” while others assert that the tactile experience of handling demo pieces on carefully-selected stock is unmatched. On the digital side, being able to display your portfolio via a multimedia presentation on a laptop (or even a tablet) can be eye-catching, hip, and much less expensive.

For your purposes, I think you need to do some homework on your target audience. Are you interviewing for a job, or for a gig with a potential client? What is their “corporate culture?” Are they “Old Skool” or new and trendy? What kind of material are you presenting? Would a product package be more striking as an actual sample, or would the digital flat do it justice? If you’re primarily pitching logo designs, digital would probably be just fine but, if you’re hawking business card design, maybe allowing them to handle real world examples would be a better sell. Do you design posters? Maybe a dual-pronged approach: have digital examples of your whole portfolio, but bring an actual poster or two to drive the experience home.

In my particular case the situation is more easily cut and dried: I present digital animation, everything is in motion. Although it might be interesting to have printed media of selected stills taken from some of my work, in general my stuff has to be moving to get the message across, so digital media is a must.

So, if you’re going to go the digital route, what about leave-behinds? It’s often very effective to leave the prospective employer or client with something striking to remember you by. How do you do that if you’re presenting on a laptop or tablet? My solution is to have on hand a supply of small (in my case 2GB) thumb drives, branded with my company’s logo.

Spinland Thumb Drive

Spinland Thumb Drive

They are fairly inexpensive (just a few dollars each in bulk), something they don’t see every day, and cool: who doesn’t like free tech swag? By selecting the 2GB variety I’ve now also given them something that they might actually use themselves–and every time they touch it they see my logo. Before any significant meeting I pre-load a few of these drives with my latest demo reel, any demo animations I created specifically for that meeting, and a digital copy of my business card. I decide whether to produce and distribute them based on my impression of how the meeting went.

I realize there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question I posed at the start of this post, but hopefully I’ve provided enough food for thought to help you make a solid decision for your own presentations.

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