Person showing print work mounted on black boards

AIGA SF Portfolio Day – A Portfolio is Your First Impression

We’ve all been there. Time to show your portfolio to the world and land your first design job. Jen and Nate share their portfolios from back in the day. (Before iPads. Gasp!)

by Meagan Riley-Grant

At Elixir, we believe in the power of first impressions. We are often charged with creating first impressions for our clients through design assignments — websites, business collateral, packaging and invitations. This is why strategy is so critical to our process. What does that first impression convey and is it a proper set up for communicating what you intend? Needless to say, we think about presentation and that initial connection – a lot.

For a designer starting out, there is no first impression like your portfolio. Two to three years of late nights, sweat, possibly some tears, maybe even a little blood invested in what comes down to just 10 to 12 pieces that show off your best work. It gets to the heart of who you are and what’s inside you. Like career speed dating, you are hoping for that critical connection to continue the conversation and ultimately land your first design job.

As AIGA SF’s Portfolio Day approaches and new designers head out with their work in hand, we have been talking in the office about what stands out. At Elixir, we love physical portfolio pieces! Digital portfolios are de rigueur now which has it’s place in the modern world but the physical pieces grab your attention because they are rare. We also admit to being font savants and are partial to a refined typographic sensibility. Designers, especially at compact firms, are asked be be quite versatile these days so it’s also important to see how a designer works in a variety of mediums, both interactive and print.

In the spirit of we’ve all been there, Nick, our newest addition to Elixir and freshest from design school, asked our two most senior designers, Jen and Nate, to pull out their portfolios to share. Though created 23 years ago, their work displays craftsmanship and timeless design. Even though iPads weren’t an option, Jen highlighted the physical experience of looking at a portfolio as she presented her work on slides. Not slides to be projected but slides to be held and viewed in the light. Her portfolio was a design piece in and of itself. Pretty things are always nice, but the experience of design is part of the DNA of Elixir.

People looking at dark transparency slides at wooden table

And to illustrate the first impressions of portfolios, the bicycle image that Jen is pointing to is the image that got Nate hired 18 years ago and was turned into a logo for Grundig / UCI Mountain Bike World Cup on the spot

Someone pointing at cyclist logo on a sheet of logo options

Portfolio Day is a great event and we’ve discovered great talent there. Good luck to everyone!