Online vs Physical Portfolios – Still Hungry?

Published:  February 23, 2010
Online vs Physical Portfolios – Still Hungry?

If a resume is the ‘appetiser’ – or taster – of one’s skills and experience as a designer, the portfolio is the ‘main’ that follows. I’m not talking so much a supersized, expansive feast here. Rather, this ‘main’ is generous and appropriately-sized and aims to have the ‘diner’, once finished, feeling ‘pleasantly full’ but nevertheless still wanting dessert or, to end this metaphor, to see more of you.

The rise in popularity of and accessibility to online folios has made it easier – and faster – for designers to apply for positions. Sites like Carbonmade have made it possible for designers to showcase their work to the world – for free – but the relentless march into the digital age has seen some younger creatives question the relevance of having a physical portfolio.

Let’s get one thing straight: while online folios are an attractive and effective tool for creatives wanting to get their work in the hands (or inboxes) of potential employers fast, they will never replace physical folios.

Think of it a bit like books in the Amazon Kindle age.  A paperback is touchable, personal, real. A downloaded product, however, is not. For potential employers, there’s nothing quite like holding something tangible in one’s hands and hearing its creator articulate clearly and concisely his or her role in the piece.

Feeling the stock used for a certain printed piece, running one’s fingers across a spot varnish or watching the assembly of a packaging piece is just not possible with online folios. Furthermore, it’s easier within an interview to explain something physical as opposed to pointing to a computer screen.

It’s a no brainer, but regardless of whether a physical or online folio is being used, designers should be able to succinctly summarise their respective involvement in each folio piece.

We often hear designers say “I designed that” as they point to an impressive piece within their folio but, upon drilling down, we find all they really did was a bit of colour correction; be honest!

Above all, however, display passion in explaining your decision to use those colours, that logo and that typography. While the folio is extremely important, so too is attitude. A folio, regardless of whether it’s online or in physical form, is only one part – albeit an extremely important one – in the dining experience for the potential employer.

Done well, however, it will have them feeling satisfied but still hungry to learn more about you.

About Tim McNamara: As a fellow creative with a background in journalism and copywriting, Tim has been with Aquent Brisbane for two years. Specialising in print creative and digital new media freelance placements, Tim is a regular contributor to the Aquent Blog and writes regular columns for Desktop and Marketing Magazine. He can be contacted via

Image Copyright tangyauhoong

4 Responses

  1. Great food for thought! I agree, physical portfolios will never be replaced and invariably seal the deal with employers. But to flip your argument on its head I think it’s now also crucial to have an online portfolio.

    Historically, physical portfolios were a barrier to entry for many employment opportunities. Many companies (especially the smaller ones) found it difficult to manage recruitment & sift through the piles of portfolios. Consequently employers have relied on trusty Word Of Mouth. What online portfolio sites offer is an easy-to-manage, cost-effective way of hiring fresh blood resulting in more creative jobs being advertised than ever before.

    They are also great for creative professionals as they’re easy to update, are current, facilitate networking & give direct access to clients without production & distribution cost of sending out endless physical portfolios that might never be looked at. More jobs, more opportunities and less cost – win win I say!

    But hey I just launched an Australian online portfolio site called The Loop,, so I would say that! :)

  2. Great article Tim!

    Just like with a client pitch the printed work carries a lot of value in a portfolio. Design isn’t limited to the online arena therefore the presentation of the work should reflect the media the work is designed for.

    We are still a tactile race and like you say “there’s nothing like holding something tangible in one’s hands”.

  3. Thanks for the feedback Pip and Vanja!

    Pip, I couldn’t agree more; online portfolios are now essential and make the search for talent so much easier in today’s fast-paced world. Make sure you check out April’s print edition of Desk Top for my feature taking a more in-depth look at their importance in the digital age. Nice site as well!

    Vanja, we certainly ARE still a tactile race; I hope we always remain so! Any blog posts in the pipeline for you?

  4. Hi Tim – So happy you like the site. It took us nine months to develop and I must admit it’s been magic watching it spring to life. 2000+ amazing creatives profiled already and site traffic doubling week on week. If you ever want to use it to find great new talent let me know.

    We’ve been working closely closely with Rebecca Sinclair (Bex) & James Earnshaw at Aquent NSW, and actually off to a AGDA quiz night with them tonight. Really looking forward to it.

    Have a cracking day, and great full article by the way! Pip

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