Non-major related things in portfolios?

Hi, I have a question that has been getting mixed responses from friends and teachers.

The question is, is it ok to have non-major related projects or sketches in your portfolio?
For example, I am a product design student, but I love to draw cartoons for fun and like to practice drawing cars. Is it a good or bad idea to include these things in my portfolio? Does the inclusion of these items differ if it was a printed or web portfolio? And what might the inclusion of these items communicate to a future employer?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, thank you.

Only if your core ID skills are awesome, and these periphery examples are also awesome. Awesome, the gauge of portfolio inclusion…

I think it depends on the subject matter and the quality like Yo mentioned. A REALLY GOOD car rendering is probably appropriate, your favorite Anime character most likely isn’t. The same goes with a more traditional “fine art style” sketch, a photography project, a painting, etc. I’d consider sculpture though because it could be a good demonstration of your skills in a shop which could translate to model making ability. I would think as a general rule though you have to ask yourself if what you’re showing is applicable to an ID skill you are going to utilize for an employer. I’m an avid landscape oil painter, but I wouldn’t include that in my portfolio.

Wow, great feedback both yo and JLdesign. I appreciate the detailed responses as it helps me to better understand the reasoning behind such an inclusion and how it can be perceived.

"A REALLY GOOD car rendering is probably appropriate, your favorite Anime character most likely isn’t. "
I think this was a great example, thank you, because I actually was thinking of adding some “Anime” -like sketches in there.

So basically, if you are an ID student then show it and prove it, and then if the ID content alone is in a sense “complete” then feel free to show off your other skills, right?

Any other feedback that hasn’t been covered by yo and JLdesign or can be further explained would be appreciated.

It comes down to what you want to be perceived as. There’s nothing wrong with including cartoon character sketches if, for example, you are looking to get into the toy industry. However, if your projects are full of research oriented minimalist product designs, and suddenly you have a page full of anime, it’ll probably affect their view of you as a designer. I’m going to guess for the majority of people: showing anime will lower their respect for you. Just because your ID skills are complete doesn’t mean you should feel like you can dump anything on there and it wont affect your image.

The only exception to that is if you’re an accomplished anime/manga artist, with published work. Otherwise you come off as a weird nerd weeaboo.

I think that is a good barometer tarngerine.

One thing I have tried to teach students in my professional practices classes is to not think that you have to have only one portfolio.

Have a main portfolio that covers your projects and skills so that you can have someone look at in ten minutes or less. This is especially important when non-designers in a company are interviewing you. Have notebook of more detail in your bag and gauge from your interviewer where more detail may be needed. For example for a Design Manager they may want to see more sketching or research. Have a notebook of a lot of sketching and a separate notebook of more detailed research that you can pull out for this person. The same can be said for your cartoon characters. A separate notebook may be very interesting if the position you are applying for might include character sketching, such as the toy industry.

During the interview, gauge by the questions you are being asked, if more detail is needed and offer to show more detail from your notebooks. This not only shows you have more skills or knowledge than a portfolio can show, it also lets the interviewer know that a) you are prepared for the unexpected and b) you understand the value of time by not trying to show everyone all of the detail.

Hope this helps.

Going off Tim, and regarding OP’s question about web vs print, I think this is something that warrants a lot of thought. With a web portfolio, most people tend to throw as many projects as they can up there because, hey, they can. While I agree with Tim’s advice for a live interview, the portfolio that’s going to get you that interview is probably your web portfolio or a PDF mailer. A PDF is easier because you can customize based on who you’re sending it to. However, with a website, that becomes harder, and is something that I personally struggle with, too. Because I call myself an interaction and industrial designer, I never really know who’s looking at my website and what they’re looking for, so I end up having a mash of both, which may not be optimal. Do any veterans have advice on this?

What if you have a really awesome banana bread recipe?

What if you have a bunch of tastefully shot nudes that some art students took of you back Freshmen year when you needed the extra cash? :laughing:

I thought that’s what they meant by “Teaser” :wink:

It’s always worth bringing a sketchbook or separate book with you, but on your main portfolio avoid loading it up with unrelated things that make it seem like you’re giving those projects as much priority.

Cartoons can be a little iffy depending on their content. You want to make sure your employer isn’t seeing busty anime girls or something that they might find inappropriate.