Designer Branding and Portfolio Design?

Thanks to all the great discussions and portfolio reviews here at core + email I frequently get, I’ve been considering offering a new service in my business and would appreciate thoughts…

The idea is essentially a creative branding/design/marketing service for designers. That is, a designer would come to me who has a god base set of skills and experience, I would help create a personal brand/logo, story, graphic treatment for the portfolio, website, etc.

I’ve seen many designers who have great skills in design, but sometimes lack the graphics, marketing, branding awareness to package it. This would be a response to that.

Most likely I would expect that it would be designers with some experience, (students I would think don’t typically have $ to spend), but who find they need a better way to tell their story to prospective employers.

Ideally, I would be able to take a look at a designer’s portfolio, experience, personality and “market” them in such a way to stand out amongst the competition in a unique way, the same way a commercial brand or service is positioned to leverage points of differentiation.

Obviously I would not create anything for the designer’s portfolio, but in a way, “re-package” it. Good graphics, consistency, re-wording of the CV, positioning, etc.

I’d be happy to hear what others think of this… one issue I’ve thought of has been the moral one of designers having graphics/web/logo work they didn’t do personally. I see both sides of it- in one way, why should a designer be expected to do their own portfolio graphics, when other aspects are typically farmed out ie. webdesign, printing, etc. In another way, i realize that potential employers somewhat think that everything they see originated from the candidate… just a case of old world thinking vs. the new reality of marketing/branding?


I think its a sound idea. Just like a offering a graphic specialised design service to a niche market.

ya, it’s that, plus plus hopefully also would include my recommendations as someone experienced on both sides of the hiring process, and a more integrated, strategic branding/marketing perspective.


I can only answer this from the perspective of a student checking out coroflots, but if I saw a portfolio and the presentation wasn’t done by themselves I’d want to know.
Personally I feel this is an important part of being a designer, I really enjoy putting together my CV/portfolio and trying to find a format that works. And I think it also shows presentation skills that can be used when it comes to presenting ideas.

It’s a great idea though! I just think at the same time it shows a weakness, one that the person viewing the portfolio should know about. If not, I’d feel kind of cheated, but then I wouldn’t know anyway, so it wouldn’t even matter.

This sounds like a great approach.

I think presentation is everything to a portfolio, and while the work within it might be average, a well presented portfolio can really enhance the “apparent” quality of the design work within, which shows how valuable a service like this can bring.

But on the flip side, obviously there will come a point where you can only make a portfolio look so good, without having to redo some of the work, i.e. jazzing up an average portolio. And what happens when a client comes back to you saying “why aren’t I getting these jobs?”. As my now employers told me, when they were interviewing candidiates for my role, there are some portfolios which really contrast the presentation (i.e. graphics, layout, text etc…) against the actual design work.
Average or sub-standard work can stand out if presented against nice portfolio graphic design which makes them think things like “is this really all their work?” (as mentioned in your original post).

But, saying all this, I think a service like this will really help alot of designers. Are you thinking of specialising within one field of design, or branching out?

i think this could be a touchy subject. How is this different from the kid that pays someone to do his model in a car design studio class? He did all the designs, but just not the model. My friends hate that guy.

presentation is part of a designer’s skillset. if he cant make something harmonize and illustrate an idea in a simple and understandable way that is pleasing to the eye, maybe he needs to work on it. Would you go pay someone to present your ideas to a client because you’re not a good presenter?

just my 2c

now, if you have a portfolio presentation “crash course”, thats totally commendable. You teach them how and why to present the portfolio in a more effective way, thus passing on the skillset.

I heard on NPR the other day a similar discussion based around an expensive service tailored to students applying to Ivy League schools. The service would basically interview the students, edit and rewrite their work to increase their chance of getting in. Their argument was that kids were smart and great, they just hadnt visualized the subjects for their papers properly, or couldnt express their ideas completely. I dont agree with this mindset.

I think it’s a good idea, but I like the idea of the designer being responsible for everything. As an ID student, I pride myself on my developing graphics and type sensitivity and showing my versatility as a designer. I also think that the portfolio itself is a difficult design project and that the better you design your portfolio and your story, the better designer it proves you are.

I can totally see how there are some that are awesome product designers but who just don’t do graphics well…

I think it’s a fantastic idea. While I believe I possess some talent and experience at developing product and marketing it, I am the worst at marketing and selling myself. Culturally, upbringing, humility, or otherwise, it does seem that there are a lot of people who bumble at this type of task. I don’t have a problem acknowledging the portfolio itself is not my work. My work focus isn’t on portfolio building. If I was more involved on the graphic design/branding definition side of things then maybe it would be more of a problem not doing it myself…

Perhaps a rkuchinsky logo at the end of the portfolio similar to how “blurb” does its books might be a good solution, so that no-one gets the wrong idea. Graphic design is a really key part of our skillset. I think that a good designer needs should have a good graphic sense. Graphic design starts to wind its way into how logos are placed on products and how lines flow. So in this regard graphic design is different for instance from spreadsheet design because of how integrated it is into the form of a product.

I think that it would be a valuable service, but ID students are not really the richest of clientele and is that what you really want to do with a good chunk of your time? Perhaps workshops might be a better route.

Personally my friend Ben and I do sketch workshops because we want to see the level of work in our local area go up. Individually talking to students would be a big drain on our energy, so we get a bunch of kids together and teach then all at once. We charge a small amount to make sure that we sift out the slackers. This kind of project tends to have the same core principles repeated often which lends itself to a workshop of some sort online or offline.

I like the idea in that it helps designers who may be struggling, but it does not help them by doing work that they should know how to do for them. Perhaps portfolio consulting would be more appropriate?

I think the idea of a portfolio service is good, but perhaps not as a whole package. You show them the way, they follow. Maybe a short course (one day?) on portfolio development that does not require enrolment at a school or college. Or tuition, like therapy or soemthing.

Haha, you could have a couch and everything!

“doctor, i’m not sure about my portfolio…”

“i see. And how does that make you feel?”

…just a thought.

I think the idea of a portfolio service is good, but perhaps not as a whole package. You show them the way, they follow. Maybe a short course (one day?) on portfolio development that does not require enrolment at a school or college. Or tuition, like therapy or soemthing.

Haha, you could have a couch and everything!

“doctor, i’m not sure about my portfolio…”

“i see. And how does that make you feel?”

…just a thought.

tsk tsk tsk. So much naiveté.

  1. I’m not 100% responsible for anything in my portfolio. Between the first sketch and production, someone, somewhere changed my design. I never mention this in interviews. It’s understood. Why should the portfolio itself be different?

  2. Graphic design is part of an IDers ability (or should be), but this isn’t our profession. In industry, when we need a specialist, we hire them. Whether that is model making, research, engineering, whatever. I think the portfolio is the same way. Actually, if I was hiring and the person told me they hired a designer to do their layout, it would win a point (maybe half a point). Hey, they just told me they are smart enough to hire out stuff instead of wasting their own time struggling to do it half-assed.

Like Richard, I’m assuming someone with experience. Seeing as this candidate is busting their butt actually working, I don’t expect them to burn billable hours on their portfolio. Nor would I want them to at my company.

  1. Richard: awesome idea. I’ve been meaning to make some calls to graphic designers to redo my own portfolio, but a specialized service seems even better. Although, it all depends on the pricing and what I get to keep. Do I get the InDesign file so that I can keep adding and tweaking my layout?

Moreover, what are the deliverables? As others suggested, maybe just a direction is enough for some people. Others may want the whole thing in a PDF, ready to email. There is some more thinking here.

  1. The guy that was smart enough to hire out his model making in school works at HLB now and still doesn’t make models. His employer could see the quality of his design, because they didn’t get distracted by the quality of his model making.

There is a pecking order here. Just look at income. 1. ID, 2. GD, 3. Model maker. If you want to be a model maker or GDer, spend your time refining those skills. If you want to ID, spend your time there.

Lastly, I found this all out the hard way. I busted my butt on GD and model making when I was in school. I had to catch up once I was on the market with guys who had been smart enough to work another way. Although, maybe in the long run it made me a more well-rounded interesting person. Who knows…I’m happy now.

hmm…good point. I’m a student still, so that’s how i’m looking at things. I guess rk isn’t targeting us though…

Thanks for all the feedback and comment. Mr. 914, you’re on the right track. I guess perhaps that is one difference in perspective from a professional to a student (it seems the rest of the responses may be students).

Much like your comments here’s how I see it-

  1. Treating yourself as a brand/company is the mature perspective for an established designer looking to progress. If it works for the big name guys (the Karims, Newsons, etc.) why couldn’t it work for others. We all know that these guys have agents, PR people, etc. to manage their personal brand, and surely don’t design their own website, portfolio, logos, etc.

  2. This consideration of branding and positioning is key, as I see it to the exercise. It’s a lot more than just redoing the graphic layout of a portfolio. Although I would expect that different clients (designers) may have different needs, and certainly the service would be custom tailored to the individual, ideally I would look at everything holistically. The personal brand, personal logo, portfolio, website, positioning within their market/industry, etc. To answer your question 914, yes, at the end of the process of course everything is available to the client (InDesign source files, web source, etc.).

  3. While some IDers do have a graphic sense, I actually don’t think this is “part of the skillset of ID”. This would be like an engineer saying they also have the skills to do design (in the ID sense). While I am not academically trained in GD, I’ve been practicing GD for many years, and currently my business is actually about 50% graphics work. IDers of course should have an understanding of graphics, but to assume that it’s a part of their skillset i think would be pretty insulting to most graphic designers (and I do consider myself one as well as an Industrial Designer). What % of Iders do you think even know of basic things like tracking and kerning?

  4. In the professional world, you hire experts. Having an appreciation for this I think reflects positively on the designer who I would assume would like to think they are also an expert. A company will hire a designer for design expertise, a business guy for the accounting, a lawyer, an engineer, etc. The same I still believe is true in the personal world. Most would go to a doctor for an operation not DIY-it with an exacto, so why should portfolio design or personal marketing be any different.


It sounds like a great service to me. I’d second all of Mr. 914’s points.

thanks. so…any takers :slight_smile:


How much? How soon? What do you need?


Adding branding and graphic design to your companies offering makes a lot of sense. In viewing your websites it is fairly obvious that you have the skill set to teach this or add it to your service offering.

However, I feel that doing this for students is not the right approach. When you are a student your portfolio should reflect your skills. Designing a logo, website, layout etc… allows you the designer another avenue to prove your skills and let the potential employer know that you are a well rounded designer and have an eye for good design.

I would feel cheated if I was interviewing someone and they didn’t mention that they didn’t do the graphic design for their book. And if they did mention it, I would wonder why they were unable to execute the graphic design or other design related tasks as they are a large part of industrial design.

A lot of good points here such as, "If you want to be a model maker or GDer, spend your time refining those skills. If you want to ID, spend your time there. "I get your point but feel designing someones portfolio for them would be misleading to a potential employer.