2010 Portfolio Site Trends

By The Denver Egotist / / Written by Jason Siciliano for The San Francisco Egotist I made my first professional advertising portfolio in 1995 and still have it. Each ad is mounted on its own laminated two-foot by six-foot black board, unless it’s a spread, then it’s six-foot by two-foot. The portfolio case weighs 48 pounds and won’t fit in the trunk of a Honda Civic. Each laminated board is coated with six layers of hand-applied Portfolio Laminatory Wax, which my art director and I purchased together at a snooty art supply store for $150 per tin. Fast forward 15 years and wow have things changed. (Thank God.) I’ve visited hundreds of portfolio sites as editor of ModernCopywriter.com, and going online has definitely altered the show – from the work we present, to how we present it, to how we present ourselves. I thought it might be useful to write-up some of the portfolio site trends I’ve been seeing now that the economy’s coming back to life, recruiters are sniffing the air and everyone is questioning their book. By Campaign vs. By Media Before the Internet, a portfolio consisted of a flipbook for print, reel for TV, and audio reel for radio. We were forced to show work by media. Online portfolios allow us to show work by campaign or case study. While many of us still choose to show work by media and include a case study or two, the trend is integrated campaigns. Greatest Hits vs. Blogs Creative portfolios have traditionally been a career’s Greatest Hits. The blog format offers an alternative. While Greatest Hits is still most popular for junior and mid-level creatives who add Hits on a regular basis, there’s a trend among senior creative/CDs toward blogs that show what their teams and agencies are doing now. Best to Worst The work on Greatest Hits sites is generally ordered best to worst. In the old days, common wisdom was to show best to worst with one exception, and that was to save your second best campaign for last to leave your audience with a bang. This isn’t the case for online portfolios, because they aren’t read front to back. Visitors scan, pick and choose what looks interesting. Burying your second best campaign at the end of your site greatly increases the odds it won’t be seen. If you’re going best to worst, you should actually go best to worst. The Spread In the old days, you had one physical book. Maybe two. If they were out at agencies – that was it. They were out. Today, it’s as easy as emailing a link. The trend is to have one portfolio site that’s home base. Name and discipline are in the URL or site title, for recruiters who bookmark. You choose a few of your best pieces and spread them around to The San Francisco Egotist, Creative Hotlist, and Please Feed The Animals as teasers. Then Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter act like calling cards. The object is to be found everywhere, but drive back to your site. Thumbnails Because portfolio sites are scanned and clicked, thumbnails are incredibly important. Instead of creating thumbnails that represent concepts, the trend is to create thumbnails that grab attention. Boring thumbnails probably won’t get clicked, and the work they represent probably won’t be seen. Recognizing Creative Partners With sites like joelapompe.net on the prowl, plagiarizing work is becoming virtually impossible. Cheaters will be found and called out. To completely avoid any suspicion of impropriety, some creatives are beginning to credit their partners and teams in captions like awards shows. While this is still rare, the future isn’t hard to see. Full team documentation will be the norm. Flash vs. Fast Let there be no question. Flash intros to portfolio sites are dead. Forcing someone to sit through an intro longer than three seconds to get to your work is considered rude these days, and most people won’t sit through it twice no matter what’s on the other side. Awards A wise creative director once told me, “Awards are only important if you don’t have them.” That used to be the industry philosophy. We took credit for awards by simply listing the shows we’ve been in under a heading like Awards or Recognition. Today, the trend is to fully document awards by doing one of the following: • Captions with creative (show, award, year) • Complete awards list, organized by year, noting creative that won Creative Direction More CDs are specifying their role in each project, CW/AD or CD. I’ve seen this done a variety of ways, from literally dividing a site into two parts to adding a caption under each project. Résumé vs. Curriculum Vitae vs. LinkedIn When résumés were paper, we kept them to one sheet: work history, notable clients, education, awards and contact. Online, there’s a little more room to play. Over the past year, the trend has been comprehensive CVs that include, in addition to traditional résumé contents, a bio, creative philosophy, and … (gasp) … a photo. The new-new trend is to abandon both résumés and CVs for LinkedIn profiles. The Big Themes Integration. Storytelling. Credit where credit is due. No waxing needed. —– Jason Siciliano is a Managing Copywriter at inHouse, Target’s Creative Studio in Minneapolis. He’s also Founder/Editor of ModernCopywriter.com.


  1. Justin Thornton June 4, 2010

    Regarding the “greatest hit’s
    Regarding the “greatest hit’s vs. blog,” I feel that is the wrong way to approach it. I think it should be greatest hits and blog. The “greatest hits” lets an AD quickly look at your work if they don’t have a lot of time and a blog lets them more leisurely go through your work to give them a clearer picture about you. I say give them both choices.

  2. Jordan June 4, 2010

    I read your blog


    I read your blog daily, and I’m interested to hear your thoughts about team portfolios. You’ve shown maybe one (?) in the past couple of months, and you were extremely positive about it. I’ve always thought it to be a liability in an industry that rewards flexibility and the ability to move around.

    What’s the deal?

  3. Siciliano June 5, 2010

    Hey, Justin. Thanks so much
    Hey, Justin. Thanks so much for reading MC. (Still freaks me out that anyone reads it.) Awesome.

    To me, the old copywriter/art director combo started by Bill Bernbach back in 1735 is still the best way to get the best creative. And the longer the team is together, the better. When I was in school, Janet Champ and Charlotte Moore were it. These days it’s Craig Allen and Eric Kallman.

    You’re absolutely right–in today’s industry it’s hard to be a team. It’s hard in life to be a team. Which, to me, makes it even more impressive. I was one-half of a dedicated team for the first 10 years of my career. We had to split up when I moved for family. It’s very, very hard.

    Being on a team takes so much sacrifice. You sacrifice options. You sacrifice freedom. You sacrifice the ability to be a creative dictator, which we all want to do on projects from time to time. And you do it for one reason: great creative. That’s noble, and humbling, and beautiful.

    Thanks again,


  4. Siciliano June 5, 2010

    Sorry. That was for Jordan,
    Sorry. That was for Jordan, not Justin.

  5. Anonymous June 7, 2010

    Thanks. I get that Justin
    Thanks. I get that Justin thing all the time. It’s only weird coming from my grandma.

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