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Portfolio Workshop

Work Samples & Keepsake

When submitting your resume for a job application, you may not want to send a whole portfolio,
depending on the situation. You may want to entice the employer though, by sending a work
sample of your work. Work samples consist of a few sample images from one or a few projects.
You may print these on note cards, with one project per card (double-sided), and slip these in the
envelope along with your resume and cover letter. You can explore different sizes with the work
sample pages, depending on how you are mailing/sending your application. You may also send
online work samples, which are basically condensed versions of your portfolio. Then if you get the
call-back, you bring your real portfolio to the interview.


Always keep in mind that your portfolio is one among many. What you put into your portfolio
should distinguish you from the crowd and be the best representation of yourself, your interests, and
your abilities.

Use attention grabbing images that make the viewer stop and slow down. Place your best work at
critical places throughout the book, at the front and at the end of the portfolio and several times in
between. If organizing your book into “sections” or “signatures,” use an interesting graphic as the
opening and closing pages. Every image and graphic element that you use, however, should have a

An internship portfolio typically includes theoretical design projects, and coursework such as
photographs or artwork. Professional portfolios can include finished images and built work:
the former stresses process and ability to think/design; the latter reveals your ability to produce
presentation quality graphics. Gauge how much work to show from each category based on where
you are applying. As you gain professional experience, include one or two examples of work in your


Decide early how you want to present your work. Making use of a simple grid saves time when
formatting pages and also establishes a recognizable pattern to the way that you present information
in your portfolio. With a flexible document grid, layouts can be adjusted per project, providing
consistency and flexibility at the same time. Consider whether your portfolio will be viewed on a
computer screen (single-page layout) versus print (two-page “spread”).

Locate repetitive elements, such as titles, text, page numbers, and diagrams consistently on each
page and from section to section. Establish hierarchy by using a single, large image supported by 1-3
smaller images or diagrams. Don’t overcrowd the page and don’t be afraid of white space.

We recommend starting out by using a template grid that can be adjusted according to your specific
guidelines. Here we are using the Brockman System to set up our structure. You can download
InDesign templates from under the ‘Templates’ section.

Refer to grid templates and sample pages below.

Once you have downloaded a template you can then adjust the Baseline and Document Grids. You
might prefer a larger or a smaller grid than what is given, in order to create the graphic layout you
are seeking. The document units are set in points, so that images and text can align in the grid.

Grid Template from

To adjust the Document Grid (turquoise lines):
Layout > Create Guides
The document grid should be set up on a master page so it can be applied as an underlay to the
document as necessary. You can set up rows and columns of guides and it can be fit to the page or
the margins (you will have to decide what is best for your printing and binding structure. You can
also adjust the gutter

To adjust Baseline Grid (grey lines):
Edit > Preferences > Grids and Guides
You can adjust the spacing and color of your baseline grid. Working in units of points, the baseline
grid can be adjusted to work with the document grid as well as type. Work with increments that
work with the Document Grid.

To adjust type:
Create a text box and then right-click > Text Frame Options
Under ‘Baseline Options’ change the offset to Leading, and change your font spacing to an
increment that works with the Baseline Grid. Now your type and type boxes will adjust according to
the document grid you have set up. As you change the size of fonts they should adjust automatically
to your grid.


  • Make a record of your design work quickly and often in order to avoid degradation of your models and hand drawings. Consider setting up a portfolio folder on an external drive that contains images that are always ready to be placed in a portfolio or submitted for a competition or exhibition.

  • Photograph models on a black or white background in order to extract the model from the photograph for placement on a neutral page. Keep in mind that a photograph of a model with a black background may interfere with its presentation and placement on the page. Make sure there is plenty of natural or artificial light when you photograph your model, but try not to mix the two. Overcast days provide good, even lighting when photographing outside.
  • As a rule of thumb, never include original work in your portfolio.


  • Many designers like to arrange work as one would a resume in reverse chronological order. Others like to begin with an older project in order to show progression and improvement. If you organize your portfolio this way, however, you run the risk of the viewer not making it to the end! Place your best and most complex work at the beginning of the portfolio and close with something simple, yet powerful.
  • Use 1-4 pages for each project depending on the size and complexity of each project, the kind of representation that you have, and the audience. Be extremely selective of the images that you use.

Other helpful tips:

  • Use color sparingly and purposefully. Learn appropriate color combinations and make sure any color you use does not detract from the presentation of your work.
  • Don’t make the person reviewing your portfolio do extra work. Use a simple cover and maintain consistent page orientation.


The size of your portfolio is a personal preference, but is something you should decide on at the beginning of the process, to make things easier on yourself. There is some difference between a professional portfolio and an academic portfolio that you should also be aware of. These days it seems that 8 ½” x 11” portrait or landscape is preferred among professionals. It is no-fuss, does not require trimming, and is a standard size that is easy to handle.

For academic portfolios when applying to schools you can be more creative with the size and layout of your book. However most schools have restrictions on the size of portfolio you can submit, because they too do not want to deal with something fussy. Clarity and organization is extremely important in a portfolio. It is best if you can be artistic but still clear in your representation.

Be concise with the material and the projects you include. You want to show your best work, quality over quantity. Make sure your images are not too small and your text is legible. 10-12 pt font for text is good, and titles can range from 12-30pt.


It is useful to set up a master format when starting your portfolio, so you can place material according to the system you have set up, so the projects flow from one to each other. Even if the projects are very different, having a clear graphic style will tie the projects together.

Text boxes, as a rule of thumb, should not be wider than they are tall. Split your text boxes into multiple columns if necessary. Don’t use more than two or three fonts throughout your portfolio, more than that is unnecessary. Simple changes in font size or by using bold or italics can clearly differentiate different types of text.

Project Name
Project Location
Student Name


Covers are an important part of your portfolio, it’s the first impression reviewers have, and it will either intrigue them to look further or not. You want to entice the viewer with your cover and give a layout or image that reveals something about you, your work or your style. If you are binding your portfolio by hand, the cover should be made of a sturdy, high-quality material, thicker than the rest of your pages. There are guidelines to follow when laying out your cover, but it depends on the method you are using. If you are spiral-binding, the cover should be slightly larger than the rest of your pages, 1/8” to 1/4”. But if you are perfect-binding, the cover might be flush with the rest of the book. Covers and signatures are not only a beautiful addition to any book, but they are also a useful tool for keeping the book together. The cover will be glued to the spine of the book, keeping all the parts together.

Printing & Publishing

It is economical yet tedious to print and bind your portfolios yourself. If you want to have them printed professionally, there are many local printing companies as well as online publishers. Here is a list of a few to start.

Local Printers:

Online Publishers:

Bookbinding Techniques

This section is devoted to different binding techniques, that you can do a home or professionally. Something to remember when deciding how to bind your book: make sure you make it durable. Your portfolio might go through many peoples’ hands, so you want it to last and look professional.

Perfect Binding

Perfect binding is one of the simplest ways to bind your own book. If you are a beginner then use this method because it requires simple steps and you can also do it quickly (if you have the signatures ready). Perfect binding is technique in which a paper cover is attached to a stack of signatures with the help of glue. Using a thick paper for the cover will be better. You may have heard some terms like paperback binding, lay-flat bind and Euro bind. All these refer to the perfect binding only.

Before writing the steps it would be better to have a material checklist. You should have

some signatures
a cover (thicker than the papers)
bookbinding glue (White or Gorilla glue, Hot glue, PVA glue etc.)
brush for spreading the glue


  • Arrange all the signatures together. See that all the four sides are even. If any side is out of order then just cut it.
  • To keep the entire thing in perfect order, clamp it along the spine edge. For thin books you can use strong paperclips. Just use your imagination and use some clamps which will hold all the papers together. For thick books it helps to divide the book into sections, glue those first and then glue them together and press down with clamps.
  • Using a sand paper you can roughen up the side along the spine end. It will help to bind the signatures strongly when you apply the glue.
  • Now take some glue and spread it on the spine edge completely. Let this thing dry and apply the glue one more time. It will ensure that the signatures are connected strongly. Hold this together by using clamps on the spine edge.
  • Lastly it is time for applying the cover. When the glue has dried completely, take the cover and fold it to match the spine. Now apply the glue again on the spine and attach the cover. Keep this strongly held till it dries completely.

Spiral Binding

When you're looking for a quick way to present a proposal or a galley of a book to someone, whether it be a business contact or reviewer, you should spiral bound your work. The spiral binding is quick, cheap, and creates a professional presentation that allows the other party to easily flip through the pages. You need to first find a spiral binding machine-if you don't want to buy one (you can find one used or new for about $100) you can take your printed book pages and binding supplies to a local copy shop.


Things you'll need:

  • Spiral Binding Machine (available at Kinkos or your local copy shop)
  • Spiral binding materials (spiral coils, plastic covers, etc)
-Buy a spiral comb, clear front cover, and a colored opaque back cover. These will help protect your
spiral bound book.

-Put your printed book pages together and line up the edges so that everything is even.

-Insert the book (left side in) into the spiral binding machine. Be sure that it is all the way in and then pull the lever down to create perforations. If it is a very thick book, you will have to take a few pages at a time and then line everything back up again.

-Insert the spiral binding comb into the top of the spiral binding machine (with the side that opens up facing upwards) and then pull the lever back to open the comb.

-Insert your opaque back cover into the combs first. Then the printed book pages, and finally the top clear cover.

-Pull the lever back up and close the combs to create your completed spiral bound book.

Japanese Binding

You don't have to buy new copies. It's easy to repair paperback books using Japanese bookbinding techniques. Just punch four holes through the book near the spine and lash it together with needle and thread. You can make sketch books, scrapbooks or blank books this way, too. To make smaller books, fold several sheets of paper carefully into halves or quarters, clamp the stack together and punch and bind it, then slit the pages apart with a sharp knife afterwards, being careful not to cut the binding threads. For a scrapbook or blank book cut covers from card stock or a file folder.

Here's what you do:
1. Using a ruler, draw a line from top to bottom of the front cover, about 1/4"from the spine. Make two marks on this line, one 1/4' down from the top of the book, the other 1/4" up from the bottom. Now divide the distance between these marks into thirds and mark the two middle points.

2. Even up the pages and clamp the book together with binder clips, or weight down the front edge to keep the pages from moving. Protect your work surface with a piece of scrap wood or an old phone book as you punch a hole at each of the marked points using the awl or wire brads.

Making these holes should not damage the text in the book. Most paperback books have an inner margin of 1/2" to 3/4", leaving plenty

3. Thread the needle and tie the ends together with an overhand knot. Open the book a few pages and, next to the lower middle hole, push the needle through about twenty pages. Pull the thread through until the knot is snug against the pages. Go back out to the front cover by pushing the needle up through the awl hole. This step anchors the thread.

4. Now sew the rest of the book as shown in the accompanying illustrations. Pull the thread tight each time you go through a hole.

Go around the back and back up through the starting hole, then down through the other middle hole. Pull the thread tight after going through each hole.

Around the back again, then up through the top hole.
Around the back, then...
...around the top of the spine and up through the top hole again. Keep going, down through one middle hole, back up through the next, and down through the bottom hole.
Keep the thread tight.
Around the back again and...
...around the bottom of the spine and back through the bottom hole. Go up through the starting hole again.
To finish, tie off the thread so the binding won't come loose. Do this by slipping the needle under two of the top threads coming out of starting hole and back through the loop to form a tight knot.
Run the needle back down through the starting hole and cut the leftover thread flush with the back of the book.

Saddle Stitching

Saddle stitched binding is one of the easiest and most common ways to bind a booklet. Many
smaller magazines or "zines" use this technique. Typically, saddle stitching works best for booklets
that don't have a lot of pages. The number of pages you can have will depend on the strength of
the stapler and staples you use. Most booklets will have a limit of 56 to 64 folded pages that can be
bound using the saddle stitch method.


Things you'll need:
  • Booklet pages
  • Long arm stapler and staples
-Prepare a booklet that has a multiple of four pages. Typically, booklets are prepared on 8 1/2-by-11 inch size sheets and then folded in half. However, you can experiment with using other sizes if you want to make a smaller or larger booklet.

-If you aren't using blank pages, make sure to put your pages in proper order. Keep in mind that when you fold the pages, the left side will be at the front of the book and the right side will be at the back.

-Stack your pages so that your cover is at the bottom with the front facing downward. The center of your booklet should be facing up.

-Fold the booklet in half so that your cover is now on top. Check through the page numbers to be sure they are in the proper order.

-Press the crease of the booklet as flat as possible, and then open the booklet to the middle.

-Measure 1/2-inch from the top of your crease in the center of the page. Slide your long-arm stapler to that point, and press down. Make sure the center of the book is still facing up when you do this so that the rough edges of the staple are on the inside of your booklet.

-Measure 1/2-inch from the bottom of the crease, and use your long-arm stapler to bind your booklet at that point, as well. Close your finished booklet.

Read more: How to Saddle Stitch a Booklet |

Additional Web References:

Creating a Webpage

Since firms receive thousands of applications every year, creating a personal webpage can be an additional way to get your work viewed. It is an opportunity to get your work viewed more than once, if you send a website to view, and follow up with a physical copy. It could also see it as a way to same time and money by focusing your physical portfolio to firms that are interested in seeing more of what is included on your webpage. Some firms even request to see work solely digitally. OMA for example has an entirely digital application process.

Designing a simple, graphic webpage is just as important as making a beautiful, legible portfolio. Many free website creation sites, such as, come with a domain name attachment, and often become complicated when new information needs to be added.

Please reference these two simple sites for more specific information. The technical aspects of creating a webpage are much better explained from these locations.

1. Register a domain name

The first step to creating a webpage is registering a domain name. Choosing a simple, but clear domain name is also very crucial. This name is how your website will be remembered and accessed from search engines.

-The most popular domain name site is These sites often also provide hosting services, but it is not always recommended to do both with the same company.

2. Set up a web host account

When it comes to host accounts, cheaper is not always better. You need to make sure that your account is adequately secure and that the host website has wordpress plug-in capabilities. This will make things much easier for later.

-Listed below are a few popular hosting websites

3. Point your domain to your web host
-Sometimes this step is skipped if you go through the same company for both your domain name and host account. Check the above sources for specifically how to do this.

4. Install Wordpress

- This is done through the host site cpanel which is typically found at

5. Design your webpage

Using free wordpress templates, you can begin to customize a layout for your webpage. This is done in the wordpress dashboard which can be found at The
dashboard can take a while to get used to, but the most important element is choosing a theme.

It is important to know that when using a free template, there are usually certain things that are copyrighted and are to remain on the page. Although the html information can be accessed from the wordpress dashboard, it should not be tampered with because it can cause your site to be flagged and automatic scripts are built in to keep your website from working.

Please refer to the above online references. The most important thing when designing your webpage is to keep things clear and simple. The purpose of a webpage is not to dazzle the viewer with complicated web graphics, but to display your portfolio and credentials clearly.

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