Last time I attended the SCBWI conference was three years ago. I was a new grad at the time - and I mean new. I gave my final presentation at my last art class, then rushed to the airport to catch my flight to LA. The conference started the next morning.
This year, I was thinking of just using my old portfolio book, which is one of those generic plastic ones you can find at any art store. I knew this was kind of a cheap move, but, I mean, the book is going to be open, right? Who cares if it's a little beaten up, a little blah? All that matters is the art, right? Maybe I can pass it off as some sort of commentary on the depersonalization of our consumer culture?
Then I listened to a One Fantastic Week episode about context and branding, and was shamed. I remembered a time an artist friend asked to see my portfolio book. When I handed it to him, he said, "oh," flipped through it like a flipbook, then gave it right back to me. "Geez, thanks a lot," I laughed. "Well, I just wanted to see if you did anything special with it." He said.
"It's a commentary on the depersonalization of our consumer culture," I said.
Clearly the generic portfolio was passable as a beginner, but now I'm a professional. If there was ever a time to present a beautifully designed book, it's at a conference full of book nerds. It's time to level up.
Problems with the old portfolio
Random white borders around each image. Because much of my art has slightly different proportions, when I centered them on each page, the white margins were a little different each time. This bothered me.
The orientation of landscape images. I had my double-page spreads printed on single pages, which meant you had to turn the portfolio sideways to see them correctly. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but from what I've heard, art directors don't like this. They just don't.
I found an Etsy shop called Sleek Portfolios that sells custom portfolios with cool laser cutouts for a reasonable price. I got my logo cut out on a glossy black acrylic cover.
Next I worked on re-printing my artwork. I used my home printer for this, which despite being a cheap HP all-in-one printer, does a surprisingly good job. I selected the pieces I thought best for the SCBWI conference and laid them all out on the floor so I could see them as a collection.
New custom-made cover! Ooooh, so shiny!
No more clear plastic sleeves! I printed my artwork onto semi-gloss paper and placed the pages directly into the book. This reduces the glare and lets the colors be seen more clearly.
Landscape-oriented images are now glorious double-page spreads! I am so excited about this. No more rotating the book or tilting your head, no more awkward white margins.
The only drawbacks with this new portfolio are 1.) the shiny cover is very, very fingerprint-prone 2.) I used double-sided tape to tape my pages together, and I imagine quite a few people are going to try and separate them, thinking they're stuck. Oh well. We'll see how it all holds up at the portfolio showcase this weekend! Wish me luck!