Portfolio Standards 

What type of presentation do employers expect of student portfolios?

Local employers share their thoughts about what a student portfolio should be.


The presentation must be special. If it looks cheap you send the message you are a desktop publisher not a Graphic Designer

SPEND SOME MONEY AND DO IT RIGHT, that is what we tell our clients everyday. We are in the business of visual communication so it is very important to practice what you preach. It makes a difference in how an Art Director perceives you. 

I like pieces about 11"x16" mounted on black matte board with vinyl type pockets when appropriate in a special custom case. Your presentation is a direct signal to how bad you want the job. It is a chance to show how creative you are and if it is great will leave a lasting impression. 

Darin Klundt 
President/Senior Art Director 
Klundt | Hosmer 

(regarding small, plastic cover, pre-bound presentation books)

These types of portfolios can be fine as long as they still are done professionally. They may even be preferred for jobs that are on the production end. 

As a production manager at the Journal, I look for indications in the portfolio material that show a knowledge of the software, as well as a good grasp of different mediums. But I am looking for visual "experience" in the portfolio and not so much for the aesthetic presentation. 

In fact, I have offended some interviewees by not taking great interest in their marvelously created portfolios. 

I think type houses, other newspapers, print shops would all be in line with this thinking. We need someone who can come in and fill shoes and quickly adapt to our processes when we hire someone. 

I think the more expensive, more elaborate, traditional portfolios would be more suited for designer positions at ad agencies or design groups or higher end shops, magazines, that sort of thing. 

Basically it comes down to the fact that the portfolio may be the first or only impression the employer has of the applicant. If it looks like
a high school report, it won't get a second look.

Rob Herman
Production Manager
Journal of Business

Personally, I am not concerned that students get a certain type of portfolio, however, a professional quality portfolio should always be used. They don't need to buy a super expensive portfolio for it to be professional, but a small plastic binder doesn't really work that well.

Students should be aware that how they present their work strongly reflects on what kind of a designer they will be. As you know, a designer who cuts corners will never be a great designer.

I've seen a range of portfolios from students in the past years, and while I don't pay too much attention to the actual portfolio itself, if it is cheap or poorly put together, it reflects on the student. Of course the quality of the design work is always the true focus, but remind the students that design firms and ad agencies are looking for more than just great work.

They are looking for a great employee with a good work ethic and strong presentation skills. We have been known to spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours for a single presentation. We are looking for students who understand that going the extra mile isn't a bonus, it's a requirement.

Not to beat a dead horse, but the students should also understand that being in the design and advertising world means a lot of personal investment of time and money. 

They must pay for nicer clothes for presentations, a home computer for freelance work, magazine subscriptions to stay fresh, etc. etc. etc. It's not cheap, but that's the price you have to pay to get into one of the most competitive and rewarding careers they'll ever have.

So anyway, let them know that they need to buck up and pay the money. I know they are poor, but every designer I know was in that same place when they started out and we all had to pay our dues to land that first job.

Carl Heidle
Art Director
Quisenberry Marketing & Design

Imagine there are two identical portfolios. One of them is oversize, say 25x25, and the other one is undersize, say 7x7. (these sizes are just for the sake of argument)

If you were a potential employer, what kind of impact would the two portfolios have on you? 

How would you feel about the two sitting on your desk? 

What if you were like my Dad, who has to hold things a certain distance away, just to see them? (OK, he's a little old, but so might be a potential employer.) 

What if this was the eighth portfolio review this week?

I think that there ARE huge considerations when choosing a portfolio size.

What does the size say about the artist? 
Does size convey importance? 
Does it set the artist apart from the crowd? 
Does it lend itself to a dramatic presentation style? 
Is it able to show detail?
OK, now, just to confuse the issue COMPLETELY:
Is there a good reason you should choose a small portfolio? I believe there are a few:
1. Your portfolio is entirely electronic, and is presented on a CD-ROM.
2. You're going for a career illustrating bible scenes on coffee mugs.
3. You're a programmer, and all your book contains are url's.
4. You're a TV guy, your reel is on DVD.
5. Your portfolio IS a mass-produced leave behind.

Mike Emenegger
Art Director 
Hanna & Assoc / SteamPlant


I, too, appreciate how expensive portfolios can be. However, it's the nature of this business (and life) that presentation is everything. Not having seen the cheaper model yet, I'll reserve judgment. The work should speak for itself.

And then I wonder how many times we lost a job because someone else had just a little nicer presentation. Food for thought. Thanks for the very fine graphics program and the really qualified students you continue to send us. 

Toni Robideaux
ROBiDEAUX! marketing & design

Employer Expectations

What do employers expect most when choosing to hire new employees?

\6th Quarter design students carried out an e-mail survey in which they asked industry professionals the question:

"What five things do you look for in a potential employee?".

See the responses below.


5 things we look for?

Well, obviously they need to have a great body of work that they can point to that they've created/participated in. A design portfolio, bunch of web applications, etc., are a must. But there are zillions of people who can come up with that.

Below is a list of what sets a good employee apart from your standard web developer. Obviously, there are lots of different positions that are needed in a
web development process-- including sales, visual design, HTML, programming, database work, hosting and infrastructure...

1) Adaptability - Do they love technology? Do they love to noodle with it at night? While there are particular products that we want our people to know, it's really important that we can say "I know you've never done it before, but figure this technology out and get this project done." If you don't have this, you'll be obsolete in 5 years.

2) Work Ethic - a rarity among geeks and designers! A good work ethic means that an employee requires minimal supervision to do good things. They have attention to product quality, and really do care about the end product that we are creating. They can keep regular hours and don't spend the day instant messaging and surfing the web. If a project is stalled, they will make an effort to find something productive to do.

3) A focus on usability - whether the person is a web designer, project manager, or programmer, the most critical thing for a successful project is that the site or application is easy and pleasant to use for the target audience.

4) Software Skills - General skills with lots of software are important. In order of importance, Dreamweaver MX, PhotoShop, Illustrator, Flash MX, Microsoft Office. Must be able to work on Macs AND PCs. If they are a programmer, the following languages are important (in order): Cold Fusion, ASP/Visual Basic, PERL, PHP, JavaScript, Zope. Database knowledge is critical-- should be able to work with SQL Server, MySQL, as well as flat data/text files. Should be able to deploy sites and applications on Windows and Linux servers.

5) People/Communication Skills - Should be able to work dynamically with other developers, clients, project managers, etc. Should be able to write Scopes of Work, communicate effectively in e-mail, etc.

Hope this helps-- g'luck!

Tony Wright,
VP New Media Solutions


The top 5 things I look for in a potential designer are:

1. Enjoyable personality
2. Good verbal communication skills
3. Sharp sense of humor
4. Strong ability to convey thoughts and ideas through design (Good concepts)
5. Strong desire to try and learn new things

Rick Hosmer
Klundt | Hosmer



1. Commitment to culture - cultivating and contributing

2. Creative excellence

3. Personal integrity and professional maturity

4. Interest and ability to cognitively process client issues and articulate through design

5. Can work both independently and collaborative, with entrepreneurial energy


David C. Miller
Principal/Director of Brand Strategy



For a designer, I want:

1. A remarkable portfolio that has "no excuses"

2. A bright person who I can speak with

3. A demeanor that shows that the person is willing to learn, and doesn't know it all

4. As much relevant experiences as possible

5. A list of references I can call to get more background information

Patricia Belyea
BELYEA Strategy | Messaging | Design


The qualities that we are looking for in an employee:

1. Excellent and organized work

2. Good attitude and presentation

3. Friendly

4. Conscientious

5. Loyalty

Hope this helps.

Blake Barfuss
Image Ink Studio
Design Solutions


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