Portfolios and the cutting room floor…

Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in illustration

Recently, I was talking with an old boss…well, he’s not really OLD. Maybe I should call him boss-from-my-past, when I was a lonely in-house creative in big a non-creative organization. (…and if he’s reading this…he was one of my FAVORITE and most supportive bosses—despite the fact that me made me cry every day for the first two weeks I worked for him—true story.)

But I digress.

He asked me why I didn’t feature any of the “great work” (his term, not mine) I had done for him. The answer: It was a long time ago. I’ve changed, personally and artistically. Growth is a good thing and happens to creative people. Look at David Bowie (he kissed Ziggy Stardust goodbye a long time ago) or Madonna (she’s not the material girl anymore) or Keith Richards (Who knew he’d make such a great pirate?).

One of the realities of being a designer is not all your work really makes the portfolio. (especially if you are a busy, prolific worker.)

A good portfolio should show your best work. A rule of thumb is 10 – 12 pieces that best represent you as a designer/illustrator/creative-professional-whatever. But it’s better to have only 8 pieces of ´•.¸AMAZING¸.•´ than 15 pieces of ~meh~.

I illustrate this point with a nod to the acerbic television chef, Gordon Ramsay. On his show, Kitchen Nightmares, he often overhauls a struggling restaurant’s menu. In effect, he takes their offerings from a bloated, disorganized nightmare of many, ill-prepared dishes to an elegant, one-page menu of fresh, well-crafted fare that attracts and entices customers instead of confusing or scaring them away. (I’m going to cover this Chef Ramsay parallel further in a later post…because he’s taught me so much about business. Seriously!)

Don’t get me wrong, I always give clients my best effort. However, I may occasionally take a job outside the scope of my usual work. Or perhaps what the client LOVES isn’t really floating my boat. (this happens…see Mad Men.) Showing that work in my portfolio might get me more work along those lines…BUT I DO NOT want to market that style or type of project or attract clients that seek similar stuff.

Said work just isn’t part of the story I want to tell about my work, so it lands on the cutting room floor.

Case in point, I’ve recently finished four design projects, but I haven’t posted them all to my portfolio. I’m going to tell you about them here…


Clockwise starting top left…

Fish Fry Invitation: I did this for an annual picnic for a friend…it was a quick job, with a little pen and ink illustration. The client loved it, but it’s just not something I feel belongs in my book.

Full Circle Athletics and Full Coverage Fundamentals Logo and business cards: Both entities are under the same umbrella company, but one is a Non-Profit and one is not. Both advocate fitness for at-risk youth. The client and her board loved the logos, but I haven’t included it in the book for my own reasons.

TRAK’D Logo and business card:

Donnelly Leather Goods: The exception—I actually used this one in my portfolio. You can read the details about this project here.

So, not everything merits a place in the book…and the book gets a good housecleaning every six months or so. Which might explain why many of the pieces I did when I was younger aren’t in there anymore. It’s not that I didn’t love my clients or I thought the work was bad, it’s just housekeeping. I still love you all…well some of you. The others know who they are.



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