20 Tips for starting a creative portfolio

This is an exciting and challenging time to be entering the advertising business. Nike FuelBand, a digital platform and utility just won the Grand Prix at Cannes. Yet Apple still puts a huge hunk of its budget into billboards.  Brand events that no one sees in real life find millions of views on YouTube. But paid TV advertising budgets don’t seem to be diminishing. Ad agencies still hire creatives who can conceive the basic print or poster idea made out of words and pictures. But the newest most exciting work is built using  HTML5, accelerometers and the hacking of social media platforms.

So, what does a young creative or college student just learning about the industry — work, agencies, strategies, teams, processes, decision making — put in a portfolio?  Print ads? Yes.  Video or TV spots? Yes. Social media ideas? Yes.Utility and apps that leverage new consumer behaviors? Yes.

Now that we have that down, let’s move onto an equally important question. What skills should someone learn?  Copywriting? Art direction? Programming? User experience design? Animation?

Well, if you were to ask me, and perhaps any good, forward thinking creative director, the answer might still be idea-generation. The ability to come up with an original, relevant, useful, worthy idea — be it an ad, an app, an experience, a video or a digital platform — that solves a problem. Even if the problem itself isn’t overtly obvious. 

This fall, I teach Portfolio Development to students at Boston University’s College of Communication. I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to guide and coach students to think creatively and to discover their own creative talents. While believing that everyone is creative, and anyone can develop the muscle, I’m also pretty sure that I can’t actually teach anyone to be creative. I hope, however, that I can inspire them.

To that end I worked up this E-Book, 20 Tips for Creating Your First Portfolio. It is by no means complete. But it should offer some guidelines and reminders and criteria for how to think and what to include.

I welcome any additional thoughts or suggestions that you might have, and of course, invite you to use it yourself should you find it of value. If you want more, you can check my syllabus at Lore.com, as well.

As always, thanks for reading, engaging and offering your support.