Your design portfolio: how to use your portfolio before you apply
Portfolios are important in several professions, and a wide range of students also keep one. As well as showing off your best work, taking a critical look at your portfolio can help you make important decisions. On our blog we’ll look at how that might work for a Design student about to enter a Fashion program.
Your portfolio – your work – your process
A portfolio – or folio – is a rich resource when used well. Your portfolio of work will showcase what you do, whether you are about to apply to university, apply for a job or meet potential business clients. Getting a folio of your work ready when you apply to study in Australia is also an essential way to prepare yourself.
What is a portfolio?
A portfolio is a way to present visual documentation of ideas you have or work you have done. Much like a CV/resume, students and professionals choose to show different things in their folios depending on each situation and the specific results they want.
Who keeps a portfolio?
Anyone who does work that can be presented visually can have a portfolio… so that’s a wide range of professionals and students! Do you want to work as a Product Designer? Your folio of design work will probably include technical drawings plus information on how your objects can be constructed. Advertising and Marketing professionals bring portfolios of work to meetings with their clients. Or perhaps you’re a Graphic Artist who loves the Batman illustrations that made DC Comics famous? If so, your folio will present how you illustrate different scenes and characters with a developing narrative; a Film Maker will do the same with a portfolio of their story-boards. So you don’t have to be an artist to keep a portfolio, but if you work visually then you are more likely to use your portfolio regularly.
We have been talking about Fashion Design courses in Australia, so let’s take that as our example…
What could go in my fashion portfolio?
This depends. For example, Fashion Designers without a lot of work experience might include ‘mood boards’ to focus on the look they want to create. Mood boards could include colours and fabrics, style and influences. Designers often create mood boards using images they find and cut-out from magazines.
Or your portfolio might present your own original drawings, showcasing your flat sketches of original clothing designs and helping your viewer understand how each design should be worn. Do you have the knowledge to go even further? Your folio could present more technical drawings, indicating how your garments can be constructed, showing detail about types of stitching to use.
And if you helped create a runway show, your portfolio could offer a collection of photographs from any fashion shows you have been closely involved in, whether you were a designer, a production assistant, or you had another kind of involvement.
Do I need a portfolio?
For some programs the answer is yes, you will need a portfolio. Many other courses don’t ask to see your portfolio before you start. Some of our clients find this surprising!
Isn’t it important to show a university my work before I start a course?
You might think so! But it isn’t always possible – international students living a long way from Australia would find that very difficult. When universities don’t ask to see your portfolio, your written personal statement will be even more important, deciding whether or not you are offered a place on the course.
For more advice on that, come see us at YEC!
So why isn’t it always necessary to show a portfolio?
The answer reflects the many different kinds of people you’ll meet in one of Australia’s large and vibrant Fashion Schools.
Fashion courses typically have different entry points. The different pre-requisites for entry reflect the diverse kinds of work, the varied skill-sets you need to succeed in the profession, and the many different ways you can specialise within the fashion industry later on. Keep in mind that candidates for Fashion-related courses can have quite different backgrounds, entering fashion study with different kinds of experience. Also, the industries linked to fashion are enormously diverse and students might intend to specialise in one area after they graduate. For these reasons people qualify in different ways to study within a School of Fashion and Textiles. This may also be the case for you!
How about when I arrive in Australia – should I show my work then?
Presenting your work when you arrive will certainly help your tutors to understand what kind of work you do and how accomplished you are. Being ready for this can help you feel confident and more fully understood, particularly when images can explain your creative work better than words – however good your English may be!
In this blog, we are also saying that just by reviewing your portfolio in the right way you can make the process of choosing a course much easier, benefitting you now and later.
So how can I use my portfolio?
Here’s our advice. Begin by paying attention to the detail when you examine specific requirements for entry to different courses. If you need to demonstrate your ability in a portfolio, treat this as an opportunity to shine. You must show your work plus your presentation skills at their very best. Present clean and well-organised work, selected to display your creative and technical skills in the best possible light. Do focus on your strengths but if possible, think about how your portfolio will demonstrate you have what it takes to tackle a variety of different challenges. Choose work your have done for a range of design briefs and different styles so that your ability comes forward in the broadest way.
This is a careful process, but you get a really great sense of satisfaction when it’s done!
Should I still prepare a portfolio if the college doesn’t ask to see one?
Well, this is the crucial question, because everyone can benefit from the process of deciding how best to show their work. And organising portfolios can help you make some important decisions about which design course to choose.
First of all, the process sharpens your awareness of what truly interests you. When you reflect on your finished and unfinished work, it becomes easier to see what most stimulates your creativity and imagination. Your strengths and weaknesses are clearer – areas where your skills are more and less developed. But you also feel where those sparks of interest lie, in areas that could be developed even if at present you lack what you need. Where do you want to take your work in future?
So it is a revealing and positive step towards clearer study and career goals, whether you are compiling a portfolio for the first time or critically reviewing a finished collection of your professional work.
Now push the exercise even further. Can you bring your portfolio into touch with your future studies in Fashion?
So how can I relate my own work and ambitions to the study options in Australia?
For each university that offers a course in your field, study the detailed course information very carefully. Ask yourself how your experience connects with what the college plans to teach you on their specially-designed and resourced program. Look at the core courses (the ones you have to do) and electives (courses you can choose). Breaking each course into separate elements, you have the perfect opportunity to assess college facilities, the specific expertise of teaching staff, plus opportunities to get industry experience that’ll benefit you even after your course is complete.
And make a sketch of your study pathway through the whole degree – do that even if you’re not ready to make final choices just yet.
Actually, it feels too early to decide!
Even at this stage, some decisions are necessary – you just want to make sure they are informed decisions, not guesswork. And don’t refer to university rankings as your only guide. This is too general (and lazy!) and you can easily miss out on opportunities that suit you best as an individual.
When you focus on your own work, and examine course components in detail, you will be able to sense links between your work and what is on offer. And when a program connects strongly with your work, being conscious of what your own priorities are will help both your application and your success on the program… but this could also help match courses to your priorities, helping identify the specific courses of study that would really suit you.
If there is no connection with fashion work you have done so far, consider how strongly you feel about a type of study that will lead you in new directions. Ask yourself: how specialised have you already become in your fashion career?
Can YEC help?
Yes we can – if you have a portfolio of work you can bring it to us for discussion. It helps us see how you view the work that you do, and how you would like your creative work to progress in future.
Our counsellors have professional experience teaching in creative arts at well-known universities overseas, helping us to know what questions to ask and how to listen to your answers. With your creative work in view, we can offer advice on the most suitable courses – the best match for you as an individual – as well as all other aspects of your application.
However you choose to do it, the exercise can be worth it’s weight in gold!