Close-Up: Live issue - Bringing the creative portfolio right up to date

Creative grads are now showcasing their work on the web. Creative chiefs review four online portfolios.

As VHS recorders, Polaroid cameras and Steve McClaren have all found out, there's always something or someone out there that can do a job more efficiently than you can.

Increasingly, it's a statement that can also be applied to those large, sleek, much-tended portfolios, long established as the de rigueur accessory of any advertising creative.

"I'd say that about two-thirds of portfolios I look at now are websites," one executive creative director says. "Graduates are so used to working with digital now that when they're creating their portfolios, they're thinking: 'Well, why wouldn't you do it online?' It's so much more effective."

Lucy-Anne Ronayne recently graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and landed herself a job at Work Club. She identifies her digital portfolio as a key reason why the agency was keen to take her on, and urges other graduates to do the same.

"I think any junior who doesn't have one is putting themselves at a massive disadvantage. Even if you don't have the means to build a '.com', the web is full of free blogs, so there's no excuse," Ronayne says.

The purpose of a digital portfolio is no different to its hard-copy counterpart. It simply allows for more creativity, gives greater technological scope and makes things a darn sight more manageable for the people you're trying to impress.

What's the harm in an employer keeping a digital file on their desktop, or a link to a graduate's website? It's a hell of a lot easier than storing a great big portfolio book on an already overcrowded desk. From a graduate's point of view, it also means the portfolio will be easier to manage and edit, and any new work created can be added at the drop of a hat.

The digital expertise that graduates claim to possess can now be proved (or, of course, disproved) simply by sending the interviewer a link to their website. With the idea of showcasing talent online no longer a novelty, graduates are being put under even more pressure to shine in the digital space. This, in turn, means a greater need for candidates to get their creative juices flowing in order for their portfolio to impress.

Here, we ask four creative directors to critique a selection of online porfolios, some of which have already played a part in landing graduates jobs at agencies, and give us their views on the benefits and pitfalls of the increasingly dominant format.


Appraised by Darren Bailes creative director, VCCP

My, how times have changed. Before computers, there was no other way to get your work seen by the right people than by plucking up the courage and calling someone who actually worked in advertising. Those were always nervous calls. I once spoke to a lovely team at FCB and ended up asking them if they'd like to show me their book. They kindly declined, but suggested we show them ours. Errrr ... yes please.

What followed was an equally nerve-wracking wait in a glamorous agency reception. People milled around looking cool. You felt like a tramp. All part of the process of getting your work seen.

Now all you do is build a website, like this one, which got the people involved a job. There's some great work on there. I love the attitude of the Colgate campaign. It basically says: fuck it, eat what you want and lace every dish with a dumper truck of sugar. The toothpaste will take care of the damage later. "Funny", as Mark Waites would say.

This digital portfolio worked for me. It's clean and simple to view, and the images play from a Flickr folder - so there wasn't a single pube, filthy sleeve or bust ring-binder to put me off.

My partner Steve and I see most creatives this way now - it's so easy to store the URLS in a folder for a rainy day.

They said computers would never catch on. They were wrong. The digital portfolio - soon we'll all have one.



Appraised by Philip Keevill creative director, Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw

I arrive at the homepage of "Helen and Kate curly and straight". Cute. It's hosted on a site run by Coroflot, with portfolios from around the world, in sectors from advertising to architecture. It's split into sections for those seeking jobs (106,126) and those with jobs to offer (719). Nothing new about the level of competition, then.

The site is clear and functional, with nothing getting in the way of the work; just what a busy creative director wants. Click on an image and it opens up bigger, with a short description, and (nice touch) a space for comments. In addition, there's a standard CV or profile section, plus a "contact" facility.

The plus side of using a third-party site is that you can have an online presence for free, and it looks like it would be easy to upload work, and to keep it up to date, which is critical.

The downside is that the site does not allow for any individual personality to come through, and when looking for a team online, I like to see them putting their communication skills into practice, and, well, showing off a bit. Plus, it's easy to be distracted by all the other talent on offer. Finally, you can't have a unique and easy-to-remember URL.

As the trend for online portfolios continues, teams will seize the creative possibilities the medium offers more

and more. The creative team that understands it has to have a brand personality and demonstrates how to portray it will be the team that beats the competition. But I believe that the need for a real, physical portfolio you can look at together and discuss face to face with the people who created it will never disappear.



Appraised by Marc Giusti creative partner, GT

It seems that for graduate teams in particular, their single purpose must be to sell themselves and their ambitions.

So, do I think online portfolios are good in doing that? Well, I love them if they're fabulous digitised books, a feast of the many things the team wants to say. They're also great if they allow me to very quickly gain an opinion as to whether I can reject or accept them instantaneously.

Yet I know that if I only see the work and not the people that made it, I could miss out on someone very special. I met an art director once who's one of the craziest fuckers I've ever known. His work was shit, but his thinking was inspiring. He's now a very good planner. If I'd only looked at his online book, I'd never have gained the benefits of his random thoughts and he'd never have got my help in turning him to planning.

So, as always, it depends on how you use an online book. One worry I have is that they are used too often as simple calling cards, rather than as backdrops to a crit or interview. This might be because a great digitised book needs huge amounts of time to make it live. Scanned scamps and small windows of film don't really help with the impact of the work and, for the most part, teams just make their conventional flat books into conventional flat online books.

But what do I think of these guys? I'm a bit confused, but I think I like them.

The Blacks work is smart, the Halifax a little obvious and the Fiat work? Well, I really hate that. Their presentation is dutifully polite, they're young, but clearly very confident, and there are a few quirks to these two that I really think I might like.



Apprasied by Will Awdry creative partner, Ogilvy

Among legions of toads, Joe and James' oeuvre is a real prince. Granted, they don't leave a phone number and the telly wasn't loaded in when I saw it, but their stall is positively groaning. Some of the ideas are clever, some dangerous and some, well, plain demented.

There's a parody of the Coke "11.30am" spot for the Dairy Council. It's a little extreme. They have tucked into a British Library brief using offal as their medium. A Photoshop, stop-frame dancing cat fronts an estate agent. There are nice ideas for Ted Baker window displays, an exquisite homage to Eric Gill for Leeds University's visual identity and an approach to possible cottaging locations that balances serious intent with understandable provocation.

The team posts snapshots of themselves, like strange refugees from Wet Wet Wet, but they're deeply ironic, so that's alright. There's a Flickr section, a blog, some great YouTube picks and a shed-load of other stuff. The site is copyrighted and they even run a shop from it.

The assembly evidences great craft and wit. I don't like all of it and some ideas are naively gauche, others a little familiar. I'm not really sure whether they know if they are designers or ad people. They clearly don't give a toss about what sort of media channel they operate in. I was able to absorb all of this in five minutes.

Of course, I'm now eager to meet them. They've used the medium du jour to get themselves across to their audience - creative directors - in a smartly digestible way. As it stands, their "portfolio" doesn't guarantee them a job, nor would I give up on hard-copy cousins as a result. But it does put them out there in a highly seductive competitive set.


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