Designing a Digital Portfolio
Placing your portfolio on the Web allows you to link your pages to related information, which helps to situate your work within a broader context of your choosing. More and more professional organizations, corporations, and individuals are establishing Web sites.
However, it is important to realize that the medium is dictating new organization methods for how you present your work — the screen pages are no longer equivalent to each other the way those in a physical portfolio are, but they need to remain graphically consistent to work.
When preparing images for Web applications, one goal is to keep image file size small by reducing resolution and limiting color range and values. This is characteristic of the GIF file format used by many Web pages. Typical images for Web publishing are created with a resolution of not more than 72 dpi because that is the resolution of the monitor.
Web pages can be created with Microsoft FrontPage, Adobe PageMill, PowerPoint, eZediaMX, Anark Studio, and several other inexpensive programs. Putting your portfolio on the Internet makes it universally and instantaneously accessible and gives you the opportunity to receive a positive and/or critical response.
Archimation, a computer graphics and architectural imaging company headquartered in Berlin, demonstrates an easy-to-use, content-focused Web site. Thumbnail images of projects are shown collectively and the viewer is invited to select them to view a larger, more detailed version.
San Francisco architect Frederick Gibson presents his Web portfolio by digitizing his work and digitally creating parts of it directly on the computer. His portfolio includes sample pages, architectural project designs, and even flythroughs.
Gibson says: "One of the fascinating aspects of publishing on the Web is the ability to enrich and expand content with no concerns for print costs. The only limitation is time itself. I now have most of my portfolio, including photos, images, plans, sketches, construction photos, writings, and additional VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language), on the Web. My current vision is to use the World Wide Web as the complete archive of my past and current work with as much detail as the visitor would like to see throughout my career."
Gibson continues: "With VRML, a visitor can 'virtually' walk and fly through a computer-generated 3D environment. Although not as good as an actual site visit, VRML lets anyone on the Web explore the environments I design — an incredibly powerful way to experience my design portfolio."
Rossetti Architects in Birmingham, Michigan, designed a corporate Web site that demonstrates an easy-to-navigate portfolio of general information about the firm. The main page provides information about the company and its philosophy and mission, and the portfolio of office projects is subdivided into four categories: sports, corporate, community, and education. By moving the cursor, project images change from black and white to color, inviting you to click and view a larger, more detailed image with a text description of the design project and program.
Will It Get You the Job?
Margo Hutcheson, career coordinator for the College of Design at Iowa State University, conducted a small research project in which she asked architecture firms about their reaction to receiving digital portfolios.
She was told that print portfolios are still an essential element of an architecture job search and are preferred in interviews. Web portfolios are an accepted method of introduction, especially when conducting a long-distance job search.
In a way, Web pages function like the samples of work you traditionally might send with your cover letter and resume before submitting your full portfolio, to pique a firm's interest. The commentary supports the role of the traditional print portfolio but also recognizes the growing interest in digital portfolio, especially in the early and less formal stages of the job search.
Hutcheson's survey results, however, also underscore the need for well written documents to introduce, accompany, and integrate with a well designed print portfolio.
Stephen A. Kliment's book, Writing for Design Professionals, offers a wealth of advice on writing successful proposals, letters, brochures, portfolios, reports, presentations, and job applications. It provides instruction for the organization of good written communication to complement the visual research and design work necessary for unified visual organization in the portfolio, a combination that's hard to beat.
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Harold Linton is chair of the Department of Art at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois and former assistant dean of architecture at the College of Architecture and Design at Lawrence Technological University. He has taught courses on portfolio design for over two decades.
This article is excerpted from Portfolio Design, Third Edition, copyright 2003, available from W.W. Norton & Company and at at Amazon.com. Note: Most images in the book are in black and white.
Steve Valenta's architectural design Web portfolio offers introductory pages of interactive sequences and basic animation to pique the viewer's curiosity.
Image: Steve Valenta
A page from Steve Valenta's architectural design Web portfolio.
Image: Steve Valenta
In Archimation's Web portfolio, digital renderings are contrasted against a deep blue background for easy viewing and high legibility.
Archimation's Web portfolio.
Archimation's Web portfolio.
Portfolio Design, by Harold Linton, from W.W. Norton & Company.
Image: Bryan S. Ridley; W.W. Norton & Company
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