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Your portfolio repels jobs


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Nice article written by Jon Jones. Use these as guidelines when designing your portfolio and applying for jobs. After having looked at art portfolios nearly every day for about a year now I couldn't agree more with what Jon has written up here.

Direct link: http://www.jonjones.us/2005/10/your-por ... -jobs.html

Your Portfolio Repels Jobs

I look at game artists' portfolios on a regular basis. These websites are usually designed so poorly that I close my browser out of disgust. They're even bad enough to turn away potential employers, regardless of the quality of the artwork. Tragic!

Most artists make mistakes like these, but fortunately, they're very simple to understand and correct. I've come up with a quick and easy way to help artists think about how to improve their chances of employment by building a better website.

The core truth here is this:

Usability is just as important as content.

A portfolio website should be a simple, effective, uncluttered experience from start to finish that leaves a lasting impression on the visitor. An incredible number of websites fail to do this. And it's always for silly, completely avoidable reasons.

Your website should be focused on one purpose, be easy to use, and offer a clear line of action. Here are three simple questions to ask yourself:

1) What's my website's focus?

Your website exists to get you a job. Its only purpose is to showcase your art and present your contact information for potential employers. You should make your art and contact information so fantastically easy to see that someone find it accidentally. If someone wants to talk to you about a job, don't be hard to find.

Include your name and contact information at the top of every page of your site.

For example, any visitor should understand clearly that you are an environment artist and you intend to get a job as an environment artist. Anything else is confusing. Silly MS Paint drawings, photos from trips you've taken or a blog about your daily life have nothing to do with that, and should be removed. These things are not added value. A portfolio is not a personality test! That's what an interview is for.

The second common mistake is making a website that's difficult to navigate. So ask yourself this:

2) Is my website easy to use?

You might be thinking "but I'm an artist, not a web designer!" This is a poor but common excuse for making a bad website. On the other side of the coin, many artists that are web designers make their website so flamboyantly artsy that it's practically impossible to use.

The first thing a visitor should see on your website is your art. First impressions are formed in an instant. Attention spans can be shut off in an instant. Your top priority should be to make that first instant be compelling enough to keep the viewer looking and to give them what they're looking for. Don't tease... satisfy.

After all, did I go to your website to look at a splash page, or art? The faster I can see your content, the better.

Forget splash pages and news pages or any other starting page that isn't putting art directly in my face.

Your portfolio's highest purpose is to show off your art quickly, easily, and with the minimum of hassle. A good portfolio should be so easy to navigate that someone could view your work accidentally.

Anything that doesn't support that basic goal breaks your focus and should be removed or relocated. Make another website for your personal stuff if you have to, but keep your portfolio clean and relevant. More isn't better.

If it doesn't help show your art faster or sell you as an artist, it shouldn't be there.

Here's a quick list of aggravating features that are common in portfolio websites:

[*] No image branding - Every image on the entire website should have your name, email address and website URL on it. People save images off of portfolios and forget where they got them. If one of your pieces of art finds its way to a studio, how will they find you? Make each image stand on its own, removed from context.

[*] Vague thumbnails - A thumbnail exists to offer a relevant preview of a larger image. Yet I see thumbnails of random parts of a model that give me no indication of what I'm about to see. If I'm looking for medieval characters, how does a grainy thumbnail of the bottom of his foot help me find it?

[*] Multiple layers - It's as if bad portfolios follow a common navigation pattern:

Splash page -> News page -> Portfolio page -> 3D Art -> Characters -> Man with Axe thumbnail -> Man with Axe enlarged.

Do you expect me not to hate clicking through seven pages just to see your art? Flatten your site. Put the art in my face and show me the quickest, simplest possible way of navigating. One page full of art is better than any of the multiple layers shown above.

[*] Multiple popups - A splash page shouldn't even exist, much less stay open when you click on it to enter the website. Neither should a thumbnail opening an image in a new window that I have to manually close. I've been to websites that open as many as FIVE WINDOWS. That's inconvenient, wasteful, and downright hostile toward the visitor. Be a courteous host.

[*] Poor navigation - Every page should offer buttons to go to the next image, to the previous image, and to return to the main page. They don't pop up new windows unless it's for an enlarged image, which should be extremely easy to close to return to the thumbnails. It's convenient, it's considerate, and it's easy to implement. It also encourages them to keep looking forward at more art instead of accidentally closing your site altogether. Keep guiding them along a path.

[*] Small images - Small images convey nothing. Keep it large enough to be easily seen and understood. Also keep in mind that the average screen resolution is usually around 1024x768, so make it reasonable from that standpoint. Also, remove as much dead space as possible. Nothing irritates me more than loading an enormous image that you only used ten percent of.

[*] Bad lighting - Why would I hire you if your work is so badly lit for me that I can't even see it?

[*] Obscure web plugins - Don't make someone download a plugin to view your website. This will ruffle some feathers but I find Flash websites to be obnoxious and unnecessary, and most aren't worth the time to navigate. There are a lot of people that don't even have Flash. Do you want to risk losing a great job opportunity over that? Just keep it as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Hiring managers look through dozens of portfolios every day. All the portfolios they see blend together. It's just a job. You are either on the "Portfolios To Review" list, or you're not. A poorly designed website makes this poor hiring manager's job a little more annoying. Accordingly, he is less likely to invest the time into looking at your entire portfolio. And he certainly won't read your blog. Is he hiring a Metallica fan or a level designer?

Imagine that your target visitor is a tired, indifferent hiring manager whose only desire is to find the shortest path possible to looking at your art. Nothing else matters. So design your website for him. Give him what he wants. Remove what he doesn't care about. The clearer your message, the better.

For example: "I am Phineas Fogbottom, environment artist. This is my art. Email me at mastapimp420@yahoo.com"

That's all he needs to know. Keep it simple.

3) Do I provide a clear line of action?

This is also important. Sadly, good art doesn't sell itself. It's one thing to present art, and it's quite another to funnel them toward offering you a job. First you serve up the art, and then you show them that they should offer you a job, and here's how to contact you. The easier this is, the better.

Here are two huge mistakes people often make along these lines:

[*] No stated desired position - The desired position usually isn't obvious. Most artists feel the need to put all their 2D art, 3D art, animation, illustration, paintings and even poetry on their website. That makes it impossible to divine what kind of position you're looking for! Be specific. Companies do not set out to hire generalists, they hire specialists. (Whether or not they ultimately USE them as specialists is another matter entirely.)

If they're hiring a character artist, seeing you say "I do everything!" isn't going to make them think of you for the job. It's easy: Be the guy they're looking for by being specific. If they're looking for a character artist, the more ways you can match the pattern they're looking for, the better. A good place to start is by saying "Hey, I'm a character artist." :)

[*] No contact information - If I like your work, how am I supposed to contact you? Keep it visible at all times and don't make them hunt for it. If you're concerned about spambots farming your favorite email address to add to spam lists, make a new email address solely for job solicitations and just deal with the spam.

That's all there is to it, really. It's simple enough if you think about it, but that's the problem: Most people don't. If you start thinking about it, you're already ahead of the game!

Thanks again to Jon Jones for the excellent article.

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Yes it is. I have seen some of our HR people not having DivX installed to look at reels and me having to walk all the way up there and setting them up. You'd be surprised.

Avoid any difficulties that you can avoid.

I personally don't see the point of a portfolio site made in Flash to be honest. All you need for your portfolio is a page with clickable thumbnails of your work and contact information. That's it. When I'm hiring an artist I don't want to wait for flash animations to finish playing nor do I care about a button animation when I hover my mouse over it. The content is what counts and I need to be able to reach it easily.

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But it still holds truth: don't do things you like simply because you like them, do things that work. Which in this case it keeping things simple.

Good read. Makes me think about my portfolio: right now it's not aimed for getting a job simply because I'm still a student. But there's some things to change in the future, methinks.

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Flash has the ability to enhance any page, portfolio or not. A welldone Flash page can easily top any other page usability and presentation wise. The problem is a lot of designers have the idea that more is better, and add every bell and whistle even when it doesn't make sense.

There is a reason every large company launches uses Flash at least a tiny bit. Flash can be used to create an unforgettable website, but more often than not its used to create useless things. Content can be MORE easily accessible in Flash sites that are done well.

PS- DivX and Flash are completely different monsters. Its likely that a person who doesn't have at least one version of the Flash player installed isn't involved any rich- or interactive-media wise.

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I didn't have Flash installed when I got my work computer. So there. The whole point is that it's an unnecessary risk to take. It's for the individual to decide what he's gonna do with his portfolio but to me personally it's a risk I wouldn't be willing to take.

Personally for me Flash sites are a turn-off. The point of a portfolio is not to make your website unforgettable but to present work that is unforgettable.

A perfect portfolio to me is a single page with thumbnails to your art, a short description of what you do and who you are and contact information as well as a link to your resume. That is all. I don't want to click through 10 pages just to get to the 3D section. Also a problem with flash is that you cannot right-click and save elements.

I have eye-witnessed people's reactions about several portfolio sites and I can honestly say from a professional perspective that it DOES INDEED MATTER.

So once again, I advise you to keep your folios simple and to the point and to leave out unnecessary things.

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this was like reading jacob nielsen's book all over again :D

guys, also make sure this works in all web browsers, quite some websites designed to work perfectly in one browers can look completely fucked in another

i agree with him over the entire thing, eventhough i too would secretly really like to use flash. But flash is really something you can totally pimp out with if you are looking for a webdesign job, but for a game development job it's of no real relevance. What i'm personally doing is creating 2 seperate portfolios, one html for my game art and one kickass flash site for web and interface design

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I personally don't see the point of a portfolio site made in Flash to be honest.

there's a point if you use your portfolio to not just break into the game industry, but other multimedia industries as well, ala web development. Flash is a growing market and the user stats are rising, and Lurker's estimate was not far off.

I get more and more clients wanting to switch from html to flash. And these are wholesaler and end user distribution clients, not game companies or movies. After flash 6 and actionscript 2 were released, flash has the ability to directally connect with databases and server side scripting, making it just as functional as any html/php/asp/cgi/etc site (still need the asp or php though, cuz we use that to pass information to and from the db), but the ability to add animation and life to the site. Before long, flash will be integrated automatically in every browser.

The point of a portfolio is not to make your website unforgettable but to present work that is unforgettable.

whats wrong with a healthy hybrid of both?

DivX and Flash are completely different monsters.

100% true. Any decent browser will prompt you to install flash when it detects you dont have it. There is also a very easy script you can write in javascript that auto detects if flash in installed (although no one uses these anymore due to the aformentioned browser prompt). All you have to do is click "Yes, I want to install" and you're done. It boggles my mind how so many people can have trouble installing flash when the browser does everything for you.

Divx has no auto detect, as it is played through the wmp plugin. I can understand the frustration of divx, but you simply cannot compair flash with divx.

There is a reason every large company launches uses Flash at least a tiny bit.

true. When I first started out doing web development, it was a rare occasion that a client wanted a site with the littlest bit of flash. That was four years ago. Today, a current client of mine, midwest copier exchange is the largest wholesaler of copiers in the US (quite possibly the world). Their original site, designed by my brother who is a db programmer and not a flash programmer/artist had no flash in it at all. Now I'm being paid to turn everything into flash. Why is that? Why on earth would a copier wholesaler whose primary viewer on that page would be a business owner who probably still uses ie and dell machines?

Answer: Its where the market is heading. More and more people are getting a kick out of flash sites because they are different. Flash can either make or break your site. If you have a carefully designed site that makes logical sense and is not confusing for a user, you will get people that see it to say "Wow, that was a cool site. Hey, Jimmy, did you see this?". If you have a poorly designed flash site (est 80% of flash sites out there, maybe and most definitly more. If this weren't the case, I would not be getting paid large quantities of cash to make flash site), you repulse people to stay away from your site.

Dont condem flash. Flash is an interesting entity. As I just stated, it can either make or break your site. If a site is designed well enough, it will do far more than any html site could ever do for you.

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Section_Ei8ht, I realize that but in case you didn't notice... this is a game art community. So of course I am talking about portfolios for game art jobs.

And yes, there's nothing wrong with a 'healthy hybrid of both' ... the sad part is only that most people don't know how to create a healthy hybrid and "overflashify" their portfolios. I've seen it so many times.

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Section_Ei8ht, I realize that but in case you didn't notice... this is a game art community.

yes, klein, i realize that. No disrepect to you or anything. All I'm trying to point out is that you shouldn't say that flash are a turn off. Maybe for you. Maybe for the HR people you know. Not everyone likes flash sites, but not everyone hates them.

This is a game design community with some of the greatest talent I have ever seen, so it shouldn't be too hard for anyone that frequents this board to learn a thing or two about flash and use their pre-existing knowledge about good design to churn out a flash site that would make you change your mind.

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yes, klein, i realize that. No disrepect to you or anything. All I'm trying to point out is that you shouldn't say that flash are a turn off. Maybe for you. Maybe for the HR people you know. Not everyone likes flash sites, but not everyone hates them.

yes that's why i said

Personally for me Flash sites are a turn-off.

i don't know what the big fuss is about. i just suggested people avoid it and gave valid reasons. its up to you what you do with your portfolio.

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Lurker's estimate was not far off.

Wasn't an estimate, its a figure straight off http://www.macromedia.com

As far as Flash portfolios go, I'm in complete agreement that the majority of them are useless and should be in HTML. That being said, what I've tried to point out is that WHEN Flash is used correctly, it WILL enhance, not detract, from the user's experience.

When you're posting a portfolio, you're selling a product (yourself). Your site is the packaging.

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My 2 (or more) cents:

They are not hiring you for your flash skills (unless you're applying for a job as their webmaster). They're hiring you for your level design, texturing, modeling, skinning, designing, etc. Anything on your portfolio that isn't that needs to go away.

There is a difference between a portfolio site and a personal site. Put flash on your personal site all day long. That's for you to advertise yourself to the general public. Be splashy all you can. Your portfolio site is just a digital resume. Your skills are going to have to sell yourself. On my paper resume I don't put down half the jobs I've had, because a politcal party doesn't care I worked retail. They do care about my political jobs though. Same thing here. You want a job moddeling, don't show them your flash skills. If it comes up in an interview if you have any other skills, feel free to drop it in there.

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