Portfolios – Part 3b: A Living Document

Last week I attended a talk on portfolio development and presentation. It included a lot of useful information and the discussion kept me thinking afterwards. I am sharing some of those thoughts over several posts.

Making Customization of Your Portfolio Easy

Maybe this is common in other design fields, but it didn’t come up in the conversation, so I will offer it here. When I worked in architecture and was involved marketing, it was common to use a system of cut sheets. Every project had a one-page layout with 1-3 images and a short paragraph describing it. The layout included elements of company letterhead and was a recognizable part of our brand. Printed copies were kept ready in files and PDFs were ready for digital presentations. When responding to requests for qualifications or proposals or other inquiries, we simply pulled the cut sheets of relevant projects and assembled them as appropriate, along with other necessary information. If the projects needed to be presented in a format other than the one-page layout, the images and copy were easily transferred to other layouts.

Of course, this only worked well as long as we stayed on top of creating cut sheets as projects were finished, and took the time to organize them properly so we could find what we needed quickly. So a system of categorizing projects is also necessary. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A simple list will do – your resume or CV will work, too – although I’d go for a sortable spreadsheet. If you are prolific, a database is an option to consider. Keep your categories big general buckets. If there is overlap, don’t place a project in more than two categories. However you sort or categorize your master project list should match how you file project information both physically and digitally – don’t confuse yourself with two or three different systems.

I know this is a lot of organizing to ask of all you creative right-brainers, but it will serve you well if you keep it simple. Use the part of your right brain that is good at seeing patterns and ask it to play nicely with the part of your left brain that helps you organize. BTW, unless you’ve had a serious head injury, you DO have a whole mind – just because one half isn’t dominant doesn’t mean it’s not there. So be kind and invite your left-brain to the party once in awhile – it’ll be glad to have something fun to do instead of nagging you all the time. However, do not invite the imaginative and non-linear parts of you to join in this task, unless you can keep them in a supporting role – this is not the time for a lot of odd associations or jumping around. Think of yourself as a project manager and all the different traits you embody as your team – and put the right ones in the right jobs.

By preparing each project individually then grouping like with like, you will end up with a library of up-to-date work examples you can quickly and easily pull from in preparing for a proposal or interview. One of my favorite quotes is, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” If you want to get lucky, this is one way you can be prepared.

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Want to learn more about developing and documenting systems like this one? Please join me for my upcoming workshop Your Business Manual. The 3-week teleclass begins Tuesday, August 5 at 7pm PT – register now.

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