WEEK 1 | Welcome to The Portfolio

DISCUSSION: What is a Portfolio?

  • Not a discrete object; Solid/Liquid/Gas analogy
  • Portfolio can be (should be): PDF, website, book, reel, social media account, process book
  • Where does your portfolio live?
  • What do you really need to include in your portfolio?
  • What do you need a portfolio for?
  • Who do you send your portfolio to?
  • How do you know if your work is “portfolio-ready”?

What is/are your Disciplines?

  • Write your “About Me” or “Objective” statement – Who are you? What do you do, etc.
  • Your discipline(s) determine(s) the structure of their portfolio.
  • You will have to produce portfolios across multiple channels.
  • What are these multiple channels? What does that mean in today’s professional creative landscape?

Who is your audience and what is your career strategy?

  • Find a job.
  • Get a job.
  • Keep the job.
  • Do it again. (And again, and again.)


  • A = your portfolio is good enough to get into the show
  • B = by week 14 it is almost there and just needs some tweaking to get into the show
  • C/D = not there, not enough work, not polished, not coherent (no narrative)

Week 1 Homework (begin research, writing in class)

  • Create personal branding system that can be used across all channels
    • Logo/monogram
    • Avatars
    • Colors
    • Contextual system for framing work
    • A signature? Show Sienkiewicz/Simonson, etc.
  • Check LinkedIn – sign up if not already signed up
    • Take a deep dive, starting with links on site
    • Look at Job Titles and Respsonibilities
    • Look at how people write about themselves: What’s good and what’s not?
    • Find THREE people that really interest you and be prepared to explain why
  • Share links of agencies/studios for Ad/Design students, figure out for other disciplines
    • Look at their projects/case studies and ask these questions:
      • Who/what is the brand?
      • Who is the target audience
      • What is the channel (for distribution)

Can you make a living in comics?

Short answer: Yes

Long answer: Yes, but…

Graphic by Nate (The Goon) Powell

From Mike Cavallaro:

“I don’t normally post about this stuff but I find that people who don’t do this for a living or are engaged in more practical modes of employment are genuinely surprised by this information. For the rest of us, this is our normal reality. Let me assure anyone reading this that this isn’t a complaint. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel genuinely blessed to do what I do and to work alongside so many talented people, some of whom have been my personal heroes going back as far as when I was in high school. I consider myself lucky.

But as artists I think we internalize our difficulties and tend to chalk them up to some personal failure or shortcoming. Periodically, information like this comes along that at least shows “it’s not just me,” for whatever that’s worth.

Recently, the NYT reported:
“…the median pay for full-time writers was $20,300 in 2017, and that number decreased to $6,080 when part-time writers were considered.”

In response, bestselling graphic novelist Nate Powell, winner of the Ignatz, Eisner, Coretta Scott King, and National Book Awards, posted the graphic I’ve shared here.

The revelation for me was how concisely this all fits with my personal experience in publishing.

I think this is also useful reading for anyone interested in entering the graphic novel field. I don’t think it should be a deterrent. In fact, I don’t think it COULD deter anyone who has the drive necessary to make a 200-page book anyway. However, forewarned is forearmed.”


What to do while you’re working towards a career in comics, i.e. “how to break into comics”:

(Hint: make comics. Make A LOT of comics.)





A few more things for day 1

5 Do’s and Dont’s for Your Design Portfolio by Heather Phillips

And here is my writeup of a roundtable discussion with two creative recruiters at the One Club last year:

On resumes:

Your “about me” section should avoid clichés like, “hard-worker,” “self-starter,” “works well with others,” and more things that everyone always puts in that spot. It was noted that if you are writing something about yourself that every other person could write, or if you are writing something that is a basic assumption of a good employee, then you should cut it. Also, think about the opposite of some of these statements, “lazy”, for instance, and the fact that no one would ever write that.


Be uniquely yourself in this section, but not for the sake of being unique or different. Stand out by being who you really are, not standing behind boring platitudes.


Be a storyteller, and tell your own story. Who are you and what do you like to do? What are you good at? What else do you do? What else are you interested in?


On Portfolios:

If you have to explain a project on your website or in your portfolio, then take it out/off. You will not always be there to explain it and it also means that it doesn’t speak for itself, which means it is not successfully communicating what it needs to.


On Networks/Networking:

Do it! Build a network, stay in touch with people. Don’t be shy or afraid of talking to people or reaching out to them. Take advantage of the built-in network of school: peers, faculty, guest speakers, tours, etc. and build on that.

Build a network of like-minded people, people you actually are interested in. This is one area where you should not “fake it til you make it”


On Tooting your own horn:

“If you’re not going to blow your own horn, who is?” –Fifi Jacobs

“You need to be an expert about yourself.” –Christina Hines


This is truly one of the best things that they talked about. You need to be able to speak confidently and clearly about yourself and your work, because no one is going to do it for you. You need to be able to know your work better than anyone else and stand behind it.


If you aren’t comfortable with sharing your own website or portfolio with teachers or classmates then how are you going to send it to employers?


A few portfolio articles/links

Who is this portfolio for? Who is your audience?

Chris Do, How to calculate your rate:


Gail Anderson, being a designer of color:



Dave Rapoza, what I’ve learned so far:



Grants, Fellowships, and Residencies for Cartoonists!



Pricing your work:



Pricing resources – Laura Wood Illustration

This is a collection of links and resources that you can use in order to better understand the complex world of Illustration prices.

The Dark Art of Pricing

How much to charge for illustrations – by Heather Castle

Awesome video about pricing by children’s book illustrator Will Terry

Pricing your work – by Daniel Will-Harris

Getting paid – by Amanda Hall

A designer guide to pricing – by Go Media

How to charge for your graphic design work – by Go Media

Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines

The Illustrator’s Guide to Law and Business Practice

The Association Of Illustrators is a great organisation that provides the possibility to ask for advice when quoting for a job.
I’ve been a member for a year now and was a HUGE help for me… no more underpricing/overpricing dilemmas!
Also, they get back to you pretty must straight away.
I highly recommend joining them, for this and many other reasons.

Main things to take in consideration when quoting:
-size of the job
-size of the client
-complexity of the job
-use of the artwork
-geographic regions it will be used
-amount of time it will be used

Also, these are general prices based on my own experience and general industry standard.
However, please be aware every artwork should be priced on a job to job basis.
Prices are in Australian dollars.

Picture books
from $4000 to $5000 advance plus 3-5% royalties.

NOTE: Royalties should be calculated on the retail price (the price of the book on the shelves). If calculated on Net receipts then it should be higher, about 12-15%

Editorial illustrations
Spot $250 – 350
Quarter page $300 – 350
Half page $400 – 700
Full page $600 – 900
Double page $800 – 1000
Cover $1300 – 1500

Design Organizations You Should Know

In my opinion Twitter and Instagram are the best way to stay up to date with what all these organizations are doing. Even if Tweeting and Gramming are not for you I would recommend keeping an account to follow all these groups—use it like a news aggregator.

  • Type Director’s Club: A professional organization for type directors and type designers, but their membership also includes many graphic designers. This is an intimate, NYC only, single chapter club. A great place to network. For starters I highly recommend you attend one of their Type Thursday events. I would recommend entering your work in their annual competition.
  • AtypI: An international organization for Type designers.
  • AIGA/NY: A very active chapter of AIGA. AIGA is a national organization focused on uniting and supporting graphic designers. AIGA/NY hosts many talks, a great way to continue your education after school. It’s a little harder to network at their events because they’re bigger.
  • The One Club for Creativity/The Art Director’s Club: This is a group that’s primarily focused on the advertising side of the design world—it’s more expensive as a result. Not my favorite club, but I would recommend keeping an eye on and eventually applying for their “under 30” Young Guns competition.
  • D&AD: Basically the British version of One Club/ADC.
  • Society of Illustrators: If you’re an illustrator this club is for you. Like TDC this place is single chapter and NYC specific. They hold weekly life drawing meetings. And exhibitions in their two floor gallery. I would recommend entering your work in their annual competition.
  • American Illustration: another important annual illustration competition if illustration is your focus.
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum: This NYC-based museum is an amazing resource. I highly recommend that you stay on top of their programming and exhibitions and attend whenever possible.
  • Herb Lubalin Study Center: This is the archive of Herb Lubalin’s work at Cooper Union. There’s a TON of other amazing historical artifacts there and they are super friendly and accommodating. I would highly recommend reaching out and scheduling a visit.


Where to Find a Design Job

  • Design Observer: Go here to see design jobs from across the “Design Employment Network” which includes jobs posted to other orgs like TDC, Print, How, Brand New, The One Club/ADC, etc.
  • Society of Publication Designers: Go here to see, very specifically, design jobs in magazine publishing.
  • Publishers Weekly: Go here to see, very specifically, design jobs in book publishing.
  • Publisher’s Lunch Job Board: Go here to see, very specifically, design jobs in book publishing.
  • Dribbble Jobs: Go here for a lot of UI/UX jobs, there are some graphic design jobs mixed in there too.
  • LinkedIn JobsNote: your LinkedIn profile should be complete, remain up to date, and you should make an effort to connect with all of your real life academic and professional connections there. Regarding the job site, there’s a lot here, and some jobs will allow you to apply with your LinkedIn profile, another reason to keep it up to date. Also note: To my mind LinkedIn doesn’t count as a social platform—LinkedIn would disagree—don’t use it to post and engage, only as an online resume and as a way to manage professional connections. 


Articles and Books About Picking a Design Job & Keeping a Design Job


Design Podcasts

If you’re not a regular podcast listener I recommend downloading a podcast app—or use the one built into your OS. Subscribe to all of these podcasts and then listen to episodes when you have free time. While you’re cooking, while you’re on the train, whenever you have a moment. Many of the podcasts listed below feature guests who tell the stories of their careers. They describe step by step how they went from where you are now to where you want to be. The models these stories provide are incredibly valuable.

  • Design Matters: Hosted by Debbie Millman. Now that her podcast has become popular beyond the design industry she’s begun to host creative people from outside the design industry. I would recommend going back to her first season and listening forward from there. Back then she primarily interviewed graphic designers.
  • The Observatory: Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand are design leaders you should know. On this podcast you get to sit in on a weekly conversation between them.
  • The Design of Business | The Business of Design: This podcast is also by Michael Bierut and Jessica Helfand. In this podcast they interview people who’s job place them at the intersection of the business and design worlds.
  • Wireframe: This is brand new podcast from Khoi Vinh, Principal Designer at Adobe—he is also someone you should know. This podcast is about UI/UX design I believe.
  • Talking Practice: This is also a brand new podcast from Harvard’s Graduate School Design. Here they interview all kinds of designers from architects, to industrial designers, to graphic designers.
  • Scratching the Surface: This podcast is very specifically about the intersection of design theory and practice. Jarrett Fuller interviews (primarily graphic) designers who also have active writing practices.
  • Three Point Perspective: This is all about illustration. The job, the jobs, the work, the practice. If you want a career in illustration this a must-listen.


Additional Readings About Design Theory and Practice

  • Readings.Design: This is a one-of-kind listing of seminal texts about design theory and practice. The list includes, books and articles. In the case of the articles, the PDFs are made available straight from the site. Visit this site often. Read as many of these texts as you can. Reading should be an integral part of your design practice. Reading should be viewed as a practice in of itself.

Creative Staffing Agencies

This is great.

And this, too.

Formatting and Soft Skills

Jake Parker on why it is important for Illustrators to have a logo.


Business Cards

Understanding how color prints versus on-screen color is extremelyHere is a link to a very helpful set of printing guides:


Created by Dev Kimiko

Created by Dev Kimiko


Not all printers print the same. Do your research and see who has the best options for you and your project, based on:

  • Quality
  • Price
  • Speed
  • Customer Service
  • Options

Some Vendors:

PDF Presentation

  • Make sure it is properly sized to screen resolution. Standard screen resolution (for now) is 1920x1080p. Set your InDesign document to this size, so it fills the screen when someone is viewing it.
  • No PDFs should be larger than 10mb. Most company (large corporate and smaller companies) limit the size for multiple reasons. Security – DDOS attacks can shut down servers by overloading them. Storage – email servers are not file servers and most people don’t want to spend the money to store copious amounts of files on them. There are probably other reasons but just know that if your PDF is larger than 10mb it will likely bounce, and you don’t want that.
  • How to down sample your file when exporting from InDesign: Go to File > Adobe PDF Presets > [PDF/X-1a2001] > Then click on the COMPRESSION tab and change image settings to downsample as shown in this screenshot:

Time Management/Project Management

  • Plan Backwards – always begin every project by clearly defining what is due and when it is due. You can build a timeline backwards from that deadline by asking more questions: do you need to allow time for printing/shipping? Do you need to allow time for beta-testing a website/app? How many rounds of approval? Does the client respond with revisions/notes in a timely manner – i.e. are you managing the client or working in concert?
  • To clearly define the deliverable/what’s due, you need to ask as many questions as you possibly can. Don’t make assumptions about what they need or even what they think they need, because they have assumptions about what you are delivering. And those assumptions can drastically affect cost, so not talking about them can have disastrous results
  • Figure out who you are working with and who you will need to work with: who is giving your feedback? Will you have to subcontract any work, i.e. if you don’t do web implementation then you need to hire someone. Are you relying on anyone for assets? Figure all of this out by asking questions (see previous bullet) and communicating.

Soft Skills

  • Thank You notes – always always always ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS send a Thank You note. After an interview, after someone speaks to your class, after you’ve met someone at an event or talk…
  • CONFIDENCE. This is a lot more complicated than just writing or talking about. This is something that is very personal and specific to each of us, depending on whether we are an introvert or extrovert. The level of comfort one has with putting ourselves out there will affect our ability to build a network, get jobs, and more.
    • Your Portfolio is never done, and the pieces in it will never be perfect, so you will need to put yourself out there in spite of this. And you will need to be able to stand proudly by it, knowing it isn’t perfect!
    • Apply anyway. If you get rejected try to find out why you did.
  • Mike Monteiro’s workshop on Presenting with Confidence
  • Jake Parker’s vlog on Finished, Not Perfect
  • There are the soft skills you need as a student applying for jobs, and the soft skills that are valued in the workplace – there’s a lot of overlap, but here is a nice bit on workplace skills: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/top-soft-skills-2063721

“What Do I Charge?”

Whether it is knowing your rate for freelance work, negotiating your salary when offered a full-time job, or figuring out what to charge for commissions, talking about money can be an awkward and fumbling occasion. The more experience you have with this sort of thing, the easier it gets, but I think it is also helpful to demystify the process and expose it to the light of day. Below are some articles, quotes, and resources that I think can be very helpful navigating these murky waters.


Anytime I am approached about a freelance job, the first thing I do is ask three questions:

  • What do you need/how many do you need (scope of work/deliverables)?
  • How much time do I have/when do you need it by/when is it due?
  • What is your budget?

How many, how much, when. Ask these questions up front every single time and you will avoid confusion and so many of the pitfalls of freelance life and managing projects.

From Jessica Hische:


Choose two, you can’t have all three.

From a blog post by designers at the firm Mat Dolphin comes this excellent post on what is possible for our clients.

“Good, fast or cheap. Pick any two.

Far from an ultimatum, this simple message conveys a few important things. Our time is one of our most valuable commodities. Our creativity is one of the reasons people choose to work with us. There may be certain compromises which have to be made on both sides of the designer/client relationship. We have a number of clients who all deserve our attention and we need a reason to allow ‘queue jumping’. Much more than a witty soundbite that allows us to charge more money (because it certainly doesn’t do that), the phrase is an incredibly useful tool in explaining the value of what we’re selling.”


Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook

Open Letter to Young Freelancers

David Mack on Being a Pro

For Love or Money

We need to talk about money…

Mike Monteiro’s Creative Morning talk: F*%# YOU, Pay Me.

Creative Morning

A Book Apart

On getting your stuff out there:

“We writers are expert liars. Here are the top three lies we tell ourselves.

• Rejection is all powerful. You think rejection is proof that you have no talent or that the work is no good. Actually, the only thing a rejection proves is that you sent out your work. Good for you. I suggest you collect ten of these and then reward yourself.

• I will submit this story soon, when it feels finished. No you won’t. For most stories and essays there is no moment when it will feel good enough. Submit before you feel ready. Like, today.

• I’m afraid that my work will end up in a journal that’s not good enough. Right. Because keeping the work moldering in your hard drive for a few years is a much better fate for it. No one knows how prestigious a journal is or isn’t—except for those at the very top. So stop obsessing.”

— Michelle Seaton