Portfolio Preparation – for design colleges

After you have decided to join a design school, it is advisable to start preparing visuals that you can show during the admission interview. Actually speaking this should not be called a ‘portfolio’ but for the sake of simplicity lets use this term for whatever material you will use to be shown at the time of interviews.

The aim of this portfolio will be to showcase your best works. It should be made with an intention of conveying the interview panel that you have the inclination for the course you have applied for. Also, it will show your skill set which the design course will further hone. Keeping this in mind, the following tips are compiled for making such portfolio. These tips are based on my experiences working with students applying to different design colleges across India and abroad

1.Keep it as simple as possible.

Remember you are showcasing your interest in design here and not selling the project to the potential customer. Focus your work on the design process rather than the product itself. For example, you have done a project of designing logo of a company, then you should explain why you chose a particular font, why that colour, etc. You may even want to show the ideas or the thumbnails you might have done. But don’t overdo it! Restrict yourself to about 2-3 pre-finals, and a big final logo. This will prove to the jury that you have done design thinking!

2. Show your best work first, First impression- the best impression

When you are compiling your work together, make it a point to arrange your initial pages at the beginning. This will give you good edge in the interview and you can focus more on your best and favorite

3.10-15 pages are best.

Restrict your portfolio to about 10 to 15 pages. Don’t overburden the jury with too many pages. Also weed out your not-so-best work. If possible cover one project on one page. This automatically separates the projects and you can show one at a time.

  1. Include a one-line introduction to each project.

Restrict yourself to one line only! This should be the goal that executed this project for. For example it can be ‘Posters designed for paper presentation competition at your school or college’. Follow this up with visuals.

  1. Label your figures and put captions to visuals.

Just don’t assume that your visual is self-explanatory. Well-labeled figures explain a lot more. If it is a single part, like an innovative table fork, you may want to explain functions using labels, like ‘Wide handle for good grip’ or ‘Bend for ease of use’

6. Focus on the process and tools you used.

You are showing this portfolio to the jury to present your skill set. Explain verbally what decisions you took at various points and how you executed it. For example, you can show a sketch of a pen stand. Then explain various functions and why you designed it so. Then you can show a rendering done in Photoshop, which will prove to the jury that you know Photoshop as well as have good visualization ability. This can be followed by a mockup or prototype made using aluminum sheet, which further showcases your skills.

  1. Models, mockups and prototypes are always appropriate

Many times a finished product best shows your skills. This is especially true if you have a good skill at making models. Models maybe made of paper, clay, foam, etc. or you can even present a finished product. Like one of my friend had executed an innovative package for a bottle of eye-drops. It was already in production when he got the interview call. He presented the off-the-shelf product, and the jury appreciated it.


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