DT&G Magazine Editor's Column
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Continuing from the previous page, Fred Asks:
      . . . In your experience, what are the most frequent problems in getting print and traditional art into digital form?

Portfolio Problems & Solutions

from Cynthia L. Baron and Designing a Digital Portfolio

Cynthia:   One problem in preparing a digital portfolio is not all work is flat.
      If it has dimension, texture, substance and size, you may not want to just throw it on a little flatbed scanner. Traditional art usually needs to be shot with a camera, with good lighting and from several different angles. But even print work has its issues. Books can be difficult, because of the shadows in the gutter. Type and line art need to be scanned at a very high resolution to avoid nasty bitmapping, and usually will need to be cleaned up and scaled down.

DT&G   So, use the best reproduction techniques appropriate to the piece being included in the portfolio.

Cynthia:   Exactly. You have to be determined and creative. Pay an experienced photographer if you have to. You need great photos of your work. Enlist the help of the ISP or a web developer for your web site if you need to. The digital portfolio is your opportunity to shine.

DT&G   What about design and style?
      So many portfolios I see these days seem to be trying too hard to impress me with glitz and techno-craft. Are there concept blunders that can work against the portfolio?

Cynthia:   You bet!
      People sometimes forget that viewers are used to seeing impressive technology. We are all so technologically sophisticated now. So if technology is all you've got, it will wear thin pretty quickly.
      Most of the time, it doesn't pay to put a smoke screen over your work with super-intricate or experimental interfaces. If you make it hard for people to find your navigation, they'll never bother to look at your work!

DT&G   What about packaging? Many people send a naked CD in a standard envelope. Is it really that important to package the portfolio if you can't be there in person?

Cynthia:   Yes, having distinctive packaging is very important. It's the first impression! It is even more important if you can't present in person.
      A naked CD is generic, and calls into question your commitment and your craft. Is that what you want people to think when they look at your work?

DT&G   From experience, when I get a package for review or consideration it's often the very packaging that actually motivates me to open it and check it out.

Cynthia:   That's right. A CD that is designed to match the presentation on the disk will be recognized at a glance, and remembered. If it is really striking, it's that much more incentive for the prospective employer to bring your talents on board.
      The other thing about a designed CD package is that people are more likely to keep the CD protected in its packaging. So they might be more inclined to keep it. Naked CDs tend to get left around, scratched and soon discarded.

DT&G   You stressed a web presence earlier. What about portfolio sites on the web? How important is it to be listed in any of the dozens you list in your book?

Cynthia:   If you are looking for work, the more places you can afford to have your work and name appear, the better. That being said, not all portfolio sites are as effective for all types of creatives. Look at the quality and presentation of other work on the site before you spend time and money for a listing. In the book, I suggest different sites for different purposes.

DT&G   Wow, looks like our time is getting short. Cynthia, in closing, if there was a single bit of advice you would share with the creative who is just embarking on a new portfolio what would that advice be?

Cynthia:   Treat your portfolio the way you would a paying project -- in all ways -- and it's more likely to pay you back.

DT&G   Excellent! Now, I'm not going to let you get away from here without a plug for the book...

Cynthia:   Thank you Fred...
      I worked hard to create a good reference to help people produce their most professional portfolio ever. But I think that one of the book's important assets is the wisdom of its contributors. Some of the best and most experienced talents in the creative world have shared their knowledge in this book. And not just creatives -- the book has contributions from some top names in the recruiting and placement industry. Readers can expect solid advice and help.

DT&G   Outstanding!
      It's been wonderful, Cynthia! And I know there are many, many DTG readers soaking up your advice who can really benefit from a new, or renovated portfolio. Thank you so much for joining us today and for sharing with all our readers.

Cynthia:   The pleasure was mine.

DT&G   Folks, you can pick up Cynthia's Designing A Digital Portfolio right now at Amazon or where ever the best books are sold.

Design students will definitely want to check out the Visual Arts Department (www.art.neu.edu) and the Multimedia Studies program (www.mmstudies.neu.edu) at Northeastern University, where Cynthia teaches.
      Cynthia has co-authored several other books, most recently The Little Digital Camera Book, and the FileMaker Pro 6 Advanced: Visual QuickPro Guide with Dan Peck. She's also been an Editor for Rockport Publishers throughout their DesignWhys series including Designing Web Site Interface Elements and Designing Web Sites That Sell.

copyright 2004, DTG Magazine, All Rights Reserved.

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