The Print Producer's Portfolio

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Like a broadcast producer, a print producer doesn't make his living by creating advertising concepts. It's his job to make sure that print ads, outdoor boards, brochures, and other kinds of print advertising look as good when they're finished as they were expected to look when they were conceived. This translates into having an almost expert knowledge of all the things it takes to produce a printed piece: printing, ink, paper, typography, and photo-retouching. It follows that a print producer's portfolio should give evidence of knowledge in those areas.

If you've produced any printed pieces that you like, and that show knowledge of one or more of those areas, put them in your book.

What if you don't have any job experience in print production? After all, you don't just wake up one morning an expert print producer. How do you put a portfolio together if you're just starting out?

Maybe you did some print production in college. Terrific. Put your samples in your book. Maybe you had a job in a related field. For example, perhaps you worked for a printer or a type shop. Or maybe you worked for a paper company or a photo-engraver. If you have anything from that job which would show at least a working knowledge of that craft, put it in your book.

Whether you have any samples or not, be sure to include on your resume any jobs you held in any related field. That will open up a discussion which will let you explain just what kind of experience you do have.

If you don't have any experience at all, there's still no call for concern. You won't be competing against print producers with twenty years of experience; you'll be competing against other beginners. And most of those beginners won't have anything to offer but a brain and lots of desire.

As far as creating a speculative print producer's portfolio goes, unless your family owns a diamond mine, I'm afraid you're out of luck. It costs lots and lots of money to produce something. There's photography to be shot, printed, and retouched, color separations to be made, paper to be bought, type to be set, and mechanicals to be done. All of that costs bags of money.

If you don't have any printed pieces in your portfolio, the sad fact is that you don't have a print producer's portfolio. So if you don't have any experience in print production, if you don't have any print production in school, and if you're left to find a job without a portfolio, go to it anyway. Peddle your brain, your energy, and your willingness to learn. Regardless of how good someone's portfolio is, they'll never get a job if they don't have those three ingredients to go along with it.

If you want to spend a little more money but stay under twenty dollars, you can use a portfolio made of two pieces of cardboard connected by a cloth strip at the bottom, and closed with cloth ties at the top and sides. These cases also come in a variety of sizes and colors, so no matter what size case you need, you can probably find one that you can use.

There are some drawbacks to using this type of case. For one thing, in no way could you call them professional-looking. Aside from cosmetics, the most negative feature about this type of case is that it doesn't afford your work much protection against the elements. If you opt for this kind of case, handle it with care. It serves the purpose, but that's all.

Your next step would be an art director's case, and contrary to what the name implies, anybody, not just an art director, can use one. They're made of plastic, simulated leather, or genuine leather, and they have a zipper to keep your work completely protected. They come in all sizes. No matter what size you need, you can feel confident that you'll have a handsome, professional-looking portfolio that will keep the rain outside where it belongs. You'll give the impression that you care a great deal about the work you've done, and you'll look like you're serious about wanting to get a job.

I've been using the same art director's case ever since my first day in art school, and it has always served me well. Which makes another point about art director's cases: buy one now, take care of it, and it will probably last longer than you will.

You can find them in a couple of different colors almost anywhere art supplies are sold-art stores, department stores, hobby shops-all over the place, and they can cost as little as ten dollars or as much as one hundred.

There is one other way to get a case for your book. Create one.

Start out with a concept, then take it from there. The obvious place to begin your thinking is with what your portfolio is supposed to be. Maybe you could tie it in somehow with just what it is you want to be-an art director, copywriter, or print or broadcast producer.

That's as far as I'm taking it. After all, this is for your portfolio, not mine. And that's one of the real advantages in making a portfolio case for yourself.

You can make it totally unique.

Another advantage it offers is the chance to show your interviewer you can think before he ever starts to look at your stuff.

As for the cost, it's whatever you decide. The same goes for your materials.

This concludes not only the subject of portfolio cases, it also sums up the subject of portfolios for everyone who needs one.

When you start working on yours, just remember to take your time and do the best job you possibly can on every piece in your book.

Work as though your job depends on your portfolio.

Because it does.
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