Sampler portfolio do's and dont's.

I want to send out samplers in my area and others and wanted peoples opinions on what is the best way to do this? I have alot of 3D work and sketchs, how much shoud I show? What is the best format good and bad? Is it cool to crop images so people see a detail and not the whole project?


well, you want your mailer to be a teaser. Just enough to convince them to have you in to show them more. It’s a gentle ballence.

I would err this way:

only the very best example of each of your skills

don’t over design it, let the work have room to breath and speak. You want to show you are a great product designer, not a great mailer designer

don’t under design it. keep it neat and clean, consider everything.

That’s just me though.

How much do you think may be needed, I’ve got allot of stuff? I think you work for Nike so when you look over work what gets your attention first, what is the best format to keep you looking? Is it a good idea to show details of a product with not a complete background, I know this would be a teaser but how much should I tease?


I would mimic Yo’s comments and say to keep it clean and simple. Again, you want to reveal just enough to entice the viewer. I’d think maybe a sample of 2-3 projects, tops.

Understand that you’re an industrial designer, not a graphic designer. Keep the graphic design to a minimum, but don’t neglect it. Put some time and effort in coming up with a effective layout that will showcase your work. Maybe each project is represented on one page?

And, whatever you do, don’t overdesign the damn thing and come up with some contrived, origami-esque container for this thing. I’ve seen this one a million times…just let the work speak for itself!

Bearcat, Yo, or anyone else:

If I only put in two or three projects should these be complete (full pictures and sketches? This is what I’m thinking.

Container: Clear plastic clamshell (simple 5x7x1 and cheap 89 cents) with a printed name and logo in a adheasive strip offset to the side of the container. This will allow for a mailing address and postage, along with holding everything together.

work: On 4 1/2 x 6 1/2 cover paper with detail shot on the front taking up 3/4 of the card. With a small decription on the blank area with the name of the project.

On the back: a ton of sketches mostly pen and ink.

also in the box would be using the same type of paper and color 1. personal quote, a objective of why I want to work for the company, and a resume.

How does this sound to all.

I wouldn’t make it complete, save the complete descriptions for the interview. Just a pop shot and a sketch of a detail. Just like movie trailers, enough to get the jist but not enough so that they completely know each project. Then you won’t be able to raise up the level at the interview if you give too much info.

I take it that there are people out there reading this that are in the positions of going through portfolios and samplers.

What would you like to see and in what formt? Also what would really drive you crazy? Allot of people would like this information, most in my program are scratching there heads.

I agree with YO, Skinny, and Bearcat. I am also the head of this ID department.

I like to see mailers/teasers that are like they said reminiscent of movie trailers. Brief yet catching…Clean and well thoughtout…and most importantly leaves me wanting more. My bigest pet peave is when I recieve only a CD and buisness card, usually if I have something going on when the office manager delivers the mail I put it off to the side and then never get around to looking at the CD. Another is the mailers that are small 4"x4" book bound samplers, mainly from one specific school. Though I have seen some I called in to meet with, generally speaking they are too small to really illustrate your skills in an adiquate way.

The best ones I see are full page sheets with 2-3 projects. Each project contains a money shot and one will have a collage of process sketches, another will have a collage of sketch mockup/bread board models, and another with exploded view and/or detail drawings. But never show the full project start to finish, or the entire portfolio as you will need to present new material during the interview, as well as expand upon the ones you presented.

Just remember, keep it simple, relatively inexpensive ( I sent out more than 600 B4 getting first job), and easily modified to target the specific company/job oppening you are targeting.


Thanks for the new post. Wow 600 send outs before you got the first job…People here are starting to redo there idea of a sampler.

Being in your position what kind of projects get you excited to interview a person, what in the details says to you this person is what we want? Do you want a person to have a website? Should the porfolio have a CD attached with the samples?
Can you tell us how many portfolios you recive on a weekly basis, and what seperates the decision to look and not to?


I recently switched Jobs, like well beginning of this week actually. My last firm was a small 10 yr old firm with only regional recognition so I receved on average 5-10 resumes and samplers a month.

To tell you the truth, no individual project made the sampler stick out more than another, just me though others may feel differently. For instance if you are sending to a company or firm that specializes in play groung equipment, Burke, Little Tykes Commercial, etc., then you need to include some form of comertial playsystem, If you are applying to Thompson Consumer Electronics then you need to include consumer electronics, if you are sending to Brook Stevens then you need to include cutting edge innovative solutions to everyday problems, if you are sending to Metaphase you need to include highly researched user interface projects, if you are applying to IDEO you need to include bluesky highly styled concepts with clean and top notch hand sketches and renderings. Mainly just know the company/firm you are sending the sampler to, research their main focus and niche in the design industry. Then tailor the sampler to address their specific company, goals, and interests…while most importantly showcasing your strengths.

What does get me excited is a clean sampler with a consistant and thought out flow to it. The are designed and layed out in such a way that the page layout simply disapears and the product designs are really all that you notice unless you look closer. I am a strickler for the details, none are too small to worry about, a sort of perfectionist you may say, atleast when it comes to design…spelling that is another especially when rapidly typing these replys.

Most important mailer tips in my opinion:

  1. Clean, non-distracting, yet somewhat uniform page layout. (Personal Branding)

  2. Clearly illustrated high quality “money shots” or eye candy final images supported by samples of the various designer skills you have begun to master. ie sketching, rendering, materials and processes, basic assembly diagrams, model making, etc.

  3. Just enough information to show me that I will not waistt my time meeting with this person, yet not too much to make me think I have seen everthing they have to offer.

  4. Teaser book ends with the final page being a resumer overview and contact information.

  5. Teaser packer includes a sepporate resume, cover letter, and buisness card that are all “Branded” to tie into the sampler/teaser book.

    Everyone has different strengths, and weeknesses. What are yours? this is what you need to ask yourself. Then refine your projects, never use them as they were when you handed them in for class. They were most likely rushed, so clean them up, and select your strongest 6-8 for your portfolio. If you do not have 6 very strong projects then do some independent projects to build upon your port. Practice will only make you stronger. Then select 3-4 of these as your sample works.

If you want post some of the teaser images here for critique.

I would look at all that came in in printed form, usually right away…as long as I was not running behind on a deadline.

The CD format was different, as it takes time to put in the CD and start the slide show. Oftentimes people simply do not know how to properly put a cd based port together and you simply have a cd with images on it so you have to go through and look at each individual image. If sending a CD I would definatly use a program such as flash, director, etc. that will create a selfexecuting file that runs the slideshow.

I have also run into CDs were the file was composed in Director and/or flash on a mac, then when oppened on a PC the links for the buttons and other multimedia actions no longer worked. But when opened on a mac they worked fine. Personally the CD thing is too risky that it will not work as smoothly as it needs to, and it is more likely not to be looked at.

I think a lot of people fall victim to the “too tiny portoflio” at some point…so I caution you all to avoid it…the page size should be large enough to show your product, a little process, and some WHITE SPACE…can’t stress that enough…

When in doubt, follow the time-tested KISS method…


I’d go with all of the above! Simple, paper and inexpensive and you’ll be on the right track!

Hi everyone.
Thanks for posting the information everyone was thrilled!

Anymore stuff anyone could add just go for it.

ML thanks for the long and informative post.


html on a cd also works fine due to crossplatforming.

In a large studio, samplers and resumes are color copied and sent to various design directors, or some times edited in mass by a group of decision makers and then spread out and ranked. A CD puts you at a disadvantage at place that gets 100’s of applicants in my opinion. You want to stand out, but be conveinient and well designed, so if you have video research or something you want to show or something, make it a supplement to the print piece.

Thanks for all that information. I’ve found it all very valuable. Unfortunately, it means i’ve got more work to do in re-doing my sampler, resume, branding, folio, and all… but it’s probably worth it.