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30 Dec 2013

What Artists Need to Know About Building a Portfolio

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The dreaded portfolio; it’s the bane of many artists trying to find a decent job at an indie studio. While you probably have a ton of samples you could include in your portfolio, how do you know which samples to include and which ones to leave out? Most importantly, what are the best ways for creating a portfolio that can actually land you that dream gig at an awesome indie game studio? Never fear my dear artist, for you’re going to learn the basics of building an awesome portfolio.

Even if you are not an artist, many of these tactics can be used in building your own personal portfolio to ensure you have a fighting chance to land that dream job. Whether you are a writer, a musician, or something else entirely, use the following advice to build the best portfolio possible. Your future career in the indie game industry could depend on it (seriously).


Which samples are ‘jaw droppers?’

You may be biased to the work you have done, but you need to learn the value of self-critiquing. You may have a plethora of awesome samples, but let’s face it: even Michelangelo’s portfolio didn’t consist of completely perfect work. Yours doesn’t either, so you need to know which samples to include into your portfolio and which ones to keep out.

Thus, you need to identify the ‘jaw droppers’ of your portfolio, and this is easier said than done. A good way to identify the best samples you have is by asking yourself the following question when browsing through your samples:


“Would someone pay me for this sample?”


If your answer isn’t an astounding ‘yes’ (i.e. a jaw dropper), then leave it out of your portfolio. Every sample you include in your portfolio should be production quality, because if it isn’t? Your potential employers are going to believe that your final work will not be production quality either.

You may want a second opinion on which samples are ideal to include in your portfolio. This is completely understandable. While you can learn to self-critique yourself, there is nothing quite like a colleague putting a second set of eyes on your samples and providing you with unapologetic criticism. If you can find a fellow artist (or someone that understands your craft) to provide honest feedback to your samples, ask them to please critique them for you. And if possible, get a third opinion to have a well-rounded idea regarding which samples are awesome and which ones stink.


Showcase how varied your work can be

Another important factor you need to consider is how varied your portfolio is. Sure, you may be able to draw fantasy worlds that look absolutely stunning, but what if an indie developer that is hiring primarily developers sci-fi games? Do you think they are going to consider hiring you? Probably not.

Therefore, it pays to have as much variety in your portfolio as possible. Even if some of the samples do not look interesting. Did you have to draw a football scene that looks awesome yet you could care less about football? Include it – you never know when an indie developer is going to want to develop a science fiction game that blends aliens, space, and football (it probably will never happen, but you get the idea).

Most importantly, showing how varied your work can be showcases your versatility and depth as an artist, writer, etc. This will certainly impress your potential employers when they look at your portfolio, as it tells them that when it comes to creating compelling work, you are flexible and have the skills required to accomplish nearly any task.


Create less paperwork for potential employers

As great as your portfolio may be after following the advice above, nobody wants to have to look through a physical portfolio (at least not most people). Instead of sending a physical copy to your potential employers, upload your portfolio to your own personal website. Thus, potential employers can visit your website and view the portfolio themselves without having to deal with a physical portfolio.

When creating your portfolio online, ensure that it is easy to navigate. Always use a simple yet clean user interface for your portfolio, thus allowing your work to truly speak for itself. You never want portfolio formatting to get into the way of your work, as that could spell disaster for your chances of obtaining that dream job.

Do you have any tips on creating that compelling portfolio? Once again readers, we would like to hear from you. Provide any tips you may have in the comments below!

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