#72 Know How to Set Up An Intro Portfolio
It is time for you to start thinking about submitting a portfolio to get into architecture school, but you have NO IDEA what to do!!
Don’t Panic. I’m here to help. :)
There are many different ways to make a portfolio, and I have already written about portfolios before in earlier posts, but I always like giving the same information in different ways, just in case you didn’t catch it the first time. ;) Keep in mind that there are many different ways to create a good portfolio, but if you need some help getting started this will be a great place to start!
Before we get started I would just like to say that you should schedule plenty of time to design and complete your portfolio. Just to give you some perspective, your timeframe from start to finish should take you anywhere from 3 to 6 months.
Yes, go ahead and insert a big “WTF?!?!” here. :)
With that being said, if you thought you were going to just throw this portfolio together in a week, this post will be pretty overwhelming. So make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your portfolio won’t be either.
WHERE TO BEGIN: The Process
:::: STEP ONE: Completion & Organization ::::
- Before you start developing your portfolio make sure all of your materials and projects are completed. If all of your projects are complete, you can focus on pulling together a stronger, more professional portfolio.
- Take pictures of all of your models and constructs. (There are many different ways to photograph your models, and that is a whole other can of worms I will write about in another tip, but make sure that you use a solid background with a sheet or some foam board to minimize the editing process in Photoshop or Lightroom later.)
- Get your images together. Go on your computer and make a master folder of all of your work including sub-folders for each class/project. (This includes the pictures of your models as well as the digital work.)
- Some people will have work from classes, some will have personal work, some will have work from group projects; as long as it is your work, it is all good to organize and get ready for the ‘selection process’.
- Once you have everything organized, go through and pick out your BEST work. I usually make a folder called ‘BEST’ within each project folder to place my best work. Make sure to add a good variety of work that showcases multiple skills. (Different drawing mediums/styles, models, a quilt you made one time by hand out of your grandmas old t-shirts, and more. In the end, this portfolio will be a reflection of yourself.
- Make a course list of the projects you want to include in your portfolio. Lay everything out by project.
:::: STEP TWO: Picking a Size & Theme ::::
- Pick a Size.
- No seriously, pick a size. Selecting the dimensions of your portfolio is one of the hardest things to do, but if you select your size early on, you will have a canvas to work within and it will make everything easier. Some schools require an 8.5”X11” portfolio, but if your portfolio is bad ass enough, it doesn’t matter. I used to always make my portfolios landscape @ 7.5”X6.5”, but over time I have been using a 7”X7” square. Really just look at your work and decide what size would showcase it the best.
- As a side note, remember that people will be holding this in their hands. You want it to be a size that is comfortable and manageable. Make reading through your portfolio something that feels good physically as well as visually.
- Pick a theme/layout: Honestly, going online and looking at portfolios is one of the best ways to get inspiration for your theme. You can also look at magazines, but portfolios will really help put things into perspective for you.
- You can alway just look through the ‘Architecture Portfolio’ tag on issuu.com, but here are some of my favorites:
:::: STEP THREE: Table of Content ::::
- Your cover design will most likely come much later in the design process, but mapping out your ‘Table of Content’ in the beginning will help guide you through the sections of your new book. It does not have to be finalized, in fact, it WILL change as you develop your portfolio, but having a guideline as you put your work together is very helpful.
** Remember, showcase ONLY your best work. You need to catch attention quickly and there is a lot of competition out there. In the first round of portfolio evaluations, the professors spend an average of 30 seconds looking through each portfolio to narrow them down. Usually programs have a limited acceptance roster and you gotta make it into one of those spots!
** It is better to have a smaller amount of your best work than a huge/thick portfolio of everything you have ever done. Imagine the sequence of your portfolio as a bridge: the beginning and end must be the strongest while the middle is filled with the remaining solid pieces of work.
:::: STEP FOUR: Content & Software ::::
- The portfolio and design of the entire book is up to you. Make sure that whatever you do, it all reads as one holistic package and make sure the work is displayed very clean and straightforward. Don’t try to get fancy with the graphic design, they want to see your work above all else.
- Before you begin with editing on the computer, navigate your way through the Adobe Software. Simply jumping into this expansive tool may become overwhelming, and it may take some time to learn how to utilize all of the features. If you need help, grab someone from your school or even a friend who is familiar with the software to assist you.
- It is good to know how to use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign.
- Adobe Photoshop :: This program allows you to basically do all of your editing. Cropping photos and creating layers are very important to working with your design. Also, remember to set up your colorspace as CMYK, not RGB. You are going to print these files out later and this will ensure a higher quality when printing.
- Adobe InDesign :: This program is great for creating multi-page documents and will allow you to piece together all your spreads into one professional package. (Plus it exports your document very easily into one large .PDF file for printing and sharing.)
- If you are having trouble with these programs, use your sketchbook or graph paper to sketch and map out page layouts and outlines. This can also save time to compare multiple ideas for layouts and sequencing.
- DON’T GET DISCOURAGED!! If these programs are new to you they can be very difficult to use at first. Honestly, trial and error is the best way to achieve the quickest results, so don’t feel frustrated when go through many different drafts.
- For more tips on content, read my earlier post HERE.
:::: STEP FIVE: Finalizing ::::
- As you begin to finalize your portfolio, seek outside opinions from anyone and everyone. Someone else’s eye may catch something that you missed and could lead you in a better direction. (But be careful not to take too many ideas at one time, sift through the criticism and make sure your portfolio stays clean and within YOUR theme.)
- Use minimal text in your portfolio. If your visual work clearly defines your decisions, text may not even be necessary. With text, less is more. (However, If there is a text requirement, make sure to follow it.)
- With the text you do use, make sure it is grammatically correct and free of errors. Such errors can lead the wrong impression and negatively impact how you are seen as a student.
- As your portfolio progresses, take a step back to review your work. What are you missing? What needs to be modified? Make a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything as you finalize your work and don’t be afraid to also remove things if they are getting in the way.
- Your portfolio should be consistent! Consistency is a very powerful tool in describing your work. Colors, placement of text, image scale, and theme attributes all play a role in the consistency of your work.
- Your portfolio should be readable and easy to understand. If an individual with no knowledge of architecture can follow your work, then you going in the right direction. (The Grandma Effect)
- Don’t be afraid of contributing creative work other than design projects. Personal artwork, photography, and sketches define you as more than just an architectural design student.
:::: Stepping away from the design of the portfolio, here are some Portfolio Logistics that you might find helpful ::::
:::: SUPPLIES ::::
Computer - 500$ and up
Printer/Scanner - $100-$200
Digital Camera - 100$ and up
Adobe Creative Suite (student edition) - See if your friends have it!!
Printing Expenses approx. - $100-$200
All of the above will help you tremendously in creating your portfolio, and even though these are not required, and may seem expensive, the benefit you will gain from utilizing these supplies will justify the savings and sacrifices needed to purchase each. (If you do not have access to these items, check your school computer lab or public library for rentals.)
:::: SUBMITTING ::::
When submitting your applications, be sure to pay attention to every detail, specifically in each of the requirements and deadlines with each. Applications, deadlines, transcripts, etc.. are all just as important to ensure that there is no bumps in the road.
Most universities require:
- Three letters of recomendation
- Standardized test scores
- A letter of intent
- A portfolio of works
Some may require more, some less, but it is up to you to look at the requirements of the schools you apply to.
* Don’t limit your options! Apply to more than two schools as architecture programs are very competitive.
:::: FINAL NOTE ::::
The most important thing that I can tell you is simply show your process. This is the most important thing they are looking for in your work. When you are given a project it is a problem, your process shows the steps you made to find a solution. This is one of the reasons architecture school is so demanding; it takes a lot of trial and error to find solutions to each problem through your design process. Sometimes this takes multiple variations of the same model or drawing before you even get to a final design, but with this struggle, you clearly show why your final design looks like it does. When you have a project, there is a visual storyline that shows how you got from point A to point B, and your process is the narrator. If it is easy to see the decisions you made in your design process, then you’re doing something right. :)
Remember, anything worth doing isn’t easy. Be prepared to make many sacrifices. A lot of long days will turn into long nights and then into long weeks. It is worth it I assure you, but the option to work at this is up to you and only you. It is one of the most competitive majors you will ever find, but worth every penny, every minute, hour, day, week and year you commit to achieving your goal. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and certainly remember to manage your time correctly with everything you do. Don’t forget to schedule in time for making mistakes either. Mistakes are all a part of the learning process, but take up much more time than if you did everything correct the first time. It can be quite stressful, but know that mistakes are good if you learn from them, and the stress can be relieved if you schedule that time to fail.
For the sake of giving you some ‘warm-fuzzies’, I wish you all the best of luck as you put your portfolio together, but remember that there is no such thing as luck.
Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so prepare yourself accordingly, and when opportunity strikes, you will succeed.
…and don’t worry there will be plenty of time to sleep when you turn this thing in!!
This post was written in part by Michael David Stallings, USF SA+CD.
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