The “Professional” Struggle

For me, the most daunting part of making a portfolio is the fine line between representing yourself as a designer – your personal aesthetic, the fonts you like, the things you think are totally awesome (giraffes, coffee, the color green) vs. what is “acceptable” and “professional” and generally appealing to other people. When I try to make a portoflio, presentation, collection or whatever of work – I get really overwhelming and usually give up because I force myself down some road of “they’ll love this ______ font! and it’ all black and white!” and whatever it is that I’m working on isn’t “me” so I lose interest and can’t do it well because I don’t know what I’m doing! Like, oh hey, I found this cool thing this person did and it looks like this and the font they have is really great, so I’m going to try and incorporate it….but the grid system doesn’t match the things I’m working with and I’ve somehow forgotten that almost all of my designs are photographed horizontally, and what have you.

I’ve tossed around the idea of a pop up book several times, but let’s be honest, I can’t walk into an office and show someone a pop up book and read it to them. It isn’t story time, and I want whatever job I’m applying for. And why can’t I just figure this out?! I mean! I was the IDSA president! I did 23504235092-5 portfolio workshops! But I’m not, or I refuse not to be, an average, run-of the-mill designer with a crappy 11×17 layout and what have you. I refuse. Not because I think I’m better than that, but because I want to push myself beyond that to really think about things. At the first portfolio workshop thing, I invited the instructor from my typography module and she said that I would do something beyond the traditional business card and it shocked me — like, what, really? Me? I’ve impressed you so much in the 4, 2.5 hour sessions from that one month of teaching me something that you know, you know that I would have to do something different? It’s a curse and a gift, because after hearing that I HAVE to make something different because this woman I barely know thinks that that’s who I am because what if she’s right and knows me better than I do because I am overly critical and she’s just a super dooper great judge of character?

So if my business card is meant to be so different, so beyond a “business card” (perhaps the anti-business card, a sticker, and iron-on patch, who KNOWS! I AM SO INVENTIVE!) my portfolio also has to be. Has to be.

And welcome to my dilemma of having to do something that I care about, that is true to me, but also get a job and appeal to anyone and everyone I ever show it to. Because that’s how I am.

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