Below is the introduction as it appears in Flaunt — perhaps handy if you are undecided whether this book is for you or not, or simply if you are curious about our approach and goals.

Back to storefront.
Been There, Done That
One of the strongest reasons we had for doing this book was that we have been in your position before. We know what it’s like to be stumped by the question of where to begin a portfolio. Still, one way or another, we managed to create a handful of portfolios that served their intended purpose. Below are some highlights (and some not so high).

Bryony’s Graduation Portfolio
When I graduated from Portfolio Center in December of 2000, I left armed with the Big Box portfolio the school is famous for: a custom-made wood box covered in a dark blue textured fabric, with stacked trays that held a single item in each compartment, and an oversized screw-post book.

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I also produced ten small versions of the main book to use as leave-behinds.

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This portfolio helped me secure my first job in Chicago, Illinois at Bagby & Co. in 2001.

Armin’s Graduation Portfolio
When I graduated in 1999 from Anahuac University in Mexico City, no one told me what a portfolio was supposed to be. I wrapped a badly constructed cardboard box and poorly glued envelopes (which held items by categories, like identity and packaging) with alarmingly weird three-dimensional renderings.

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Strange as it was, it did help me get a job in Atlanta, Georgia at USWebCKS in 1999.

Plus his Second Portfolio
It was clear I needed a new, more mature portfolio in order to search for my second job. I decided on a book that Bryony helped me bind with a complicated Japanese 4-hole binding method that I would carry in a Pina Zangaro metallic case.

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I liked the idea of Bryony’s leave-behind and created ten small versions of the book to be sent in trendy metallic bags.

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A Joint Effort
In 2004, when we set out to move to New York, we decided to make the structure of our next portfolio identical — a perfect-bound, cloth-covered book with heavy, cream-colored paper, vellum and inkjet prints — each with its own visual language.

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Both portfolios performed as desired, getting us jobs in New York at Addison (for Bryony) and Decker Design, followed by Pentagram (for Armin).

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No further portfolios have been created since.
Flaunt is Available Exclusively from UnderConsideration
In 2009 we set out to compile a book that covered the basics, mechanics, passions, and disappointments concerning the building and presentation of a designer’s portfolio — despite a then-nascent adoption of digital portfolios that made binders, boxes, cases, and other physical objects used as a delivery method to present work, obsolete. Not knowing what to expect, we printed 2,000 copies and hoped to break even on our hard costs one year later. To our surprise, we reached that goal before we even had the book in stock, selling over 400 copies in pre-orders soon after announcing it in 2010. Five years later, we’ve sold 4,000 copies in book form and over 3,300 downloadable PDFs. Any doubt that physical portfolios were still relevant has been eased by the enthused reception of the first edition of Flaunt.

Although digital portfolios — not online websites but presentations loaded on tablets or laptops shown by an individual during an interview — have become more common, the physical portfolio is still expected and preferred by a large constituency of graphic designers in hiring positions. Graduating students and young designers benefit the most from a physical portfolio, allowing them an opportunity to package disparate, arguably unripe work in a cohesive way that has the potential to showcase other skills like editing, pacing, and hand-crafting skills. After debating whether the second edition should focus more on digital presentations we decided to keep the focus on what made this book successful in the first place: broaching a subject seldom covered by other mediums and the continued acknowledgment of the breadth of quality, style, and approaches possible in portfolio presentations. Flaunt is an effort to showcase a variety of alternatives within this very intimidating range of options, through detailed case studies, various points of view, and nonscientific surveys, each of which will hopefully ease the anxiety and burden of creating a portfolio — perhaps, even help demystify the process of putting it together, and the expectations of presenting it.

The challenge and objective of a portfolio has remained the same all these years: to act as a delivery mechanism that not only showcases our work and accrued experience in the most accessible, effective, and attractive manner, but also manages to communicate the subjective subtleties of who we are as both designers and individuals. The portfolio irrevocably becomes an object brimming with potential, yet burdened with hope; it acts as intermediary between our work, personality, and the possible, always uncertain, future.

"It’s all about the work” is a common response to the portfolio conundrum, implying that if you have good work, you never need to worry about how it is presented — a Survival of the Fittest design theory. For a few extra-talented designers, this might hold true; but for the rest of us, we still need to find a way to cohesively, succinctly, and creatively display our work. This work is so typically disparate in medium and scope that it challenges us to develop a visual and editorial strategy that can accommodate any given combination of logos, identity systems, music and video packaging, book covers, magazine covers and spreads, environmental design and signage, websites, and more. Presenting this medley of work can take on a number of forms, from groovy bags to sophisticated cases with loose samples of the work; perfect-bound books of flawlessly photographed work; custom-made boxes with work mounted on neatly-trimmed boards; off-the-shelf ring binders with the work stuffed in them; and more. To make matters more complicated, there is no right or wrong, nor better or worse, solution. The only way to discover what works for each of us is to assess the work we want to show, define the logistics of how we want to show it, and acknowledge the abilities and resources we have to make it happen.

At the core of Flaunt is a collection of 41 case studies of diverse portfolios. Through concise interviews they reveal the need, motivation, process, and eventual solution that each of their owners discovered. The detailed breakdowns of price, materials, and resources provide numerous ideas that can be adapted to any kind of portfolio. Generously illustrated with photographs of the portfolios, the case studies bring to life the lessons learned, and demonstrate a bevy of possible visual strategies that best showcase and explain the work. The selected portfolios aim to represent both the most common approaches as well as some offbeat executions that may strike sparks of inspiration for you. While the total number of case studies is exactly the same as the first edition, there are 23 new portfolios showcased that, combined with the previous inclusions, provide a wider spectrum of approaches. We contacted all the returning designers to ask them what has happened to their portfolios and them (professionally) in the six years since we first did.

Complementing the case studies are interviews we conducted by email with 25 professional designers and educators — eight of them new additions from the first edition. All of them have been in the industry for a decade or more, and have had plenty of experience reviewing portfolios and conducting interviews. We posited various useful questions, about their expectations of students’ and young designers’ portfolios; common mistakes made; the most memorable portfolios they’ve seen; and even thoughts about their own first portfolios. The results of these interviews have been grouped by question, so that you may see what different designers, in different industries and parts of the world, think of the same issue — they are grouped towards the end of the book under the title of “interviews with the interviewers.”

Additionally, over the course of two weeks, we conducted two parallel surveys online: one targeted at designers showing their portfolios in interviews, and the other at designers who are reviewing the portfolios of prospective employees. We asked the same questions of each group, slightly modified to fit each of their roles, so that we could compare what an interviewee thinks are the best practices against what an interviewer does. For example, a modest amount of interviewees think it’s appropriate to make first contact with a potential interviewer in person, but responses from interviewers demonstrate that only a very small amount of them think this is appropriate. The surveys are far from what would be considered rigorous research but, with 550 interviewee and 270 interviewer responses, we feel this is moderately representative of the larger constituency of the design profession. The results of the interviews are charted under the title of “census of portfolio etiquette."

A new section in this edition focuses on a sampling of 18 self-promos — mailers, leave-behinds, handouts, etc. — that designers use to get potential employers’ or clients’ attention. A wide range of self-promos are included to show the multiple approaches possible, from a highly targeted mini-portfolio teaser to a mock hamburger box.

Lastly, another new section, “photographing your own work,” goes in sometimes painstaking detail about how designers do the best job they can to photograph their work consistently, handsomely, or at the very least convincingly. We share our own tips and have recruited four other designers to reveal how they capture their work and the post-production process they go through.

We hope that the book’s components provide a useful resource, and will serve as a springboard to as many designers as possible, from students on the brink of graduation, to young designers questing toward their first or second jobs, to more experienced designers on their way up the title ranks, to freelance and independent designers in their search for clients, and to any other creative individuals — photographers, illustrators, product designers, architects, and more — as they strive for the best possible way to present their work.

Best of luck,

Bryony Gomez-Palacio + Armin Vit
Principals, UnderConsideration