Arrest All Mimics: Modern Portfolio

arrest all mimics

Arrest All Mimics Podcast

This week I was on Episode 49 of Arrest All Mimics – ‘the original thinking and creative innovation Podcast’ hosted by Ben Tallon. We discuss design portfolios, building personal brand and getting yourself out there.

I met Ben at London Design Festival this year, where we were both asked to deliver a talk at the V&A Museum on the subject of marketing yourself in the creative industries, as well as sharing our career journey up to now. Ben thought I shared some good insights and stories that were relevant for his audience, and in turn invited me to come on his podcast; Arrest All Mimics. It’s a fairly informal chat, and you can check it out FREE at the SoundCloud link HERE, or it’s also available on iTunes:

arrest all mimics

The Modern Portfolio & Self-Promotion

Here’s a few notes from the chat that you might be able to draw something from:


Pro-actively build your network (like a Sniper).

Don’t network for networking sake. There are no points for collecting business cards. Get specific. Figure out who you want to work with, outline your goals, and work backwards from there. Make an effort to meet the right people that help you achieve YOUR goals. If you want to work for Puma and the Creative Director is giving a talk – act on it. Go to the event. Write them beforehand. Tweet them. Email them. Be resourceful. Go up after the talk and tell them why you’re such a big fan and how you would love the opportunity to chat or Skype some time. Be persistent. Ask who else at the company would be worth speaking to. Don’t be annoying, but enthusiasm and drive are attractive qualities. Show it. Get the meeting. Maybe politely ask for a portfolio review. This level of pro-activeness done with even 3 or 4 key people of influence will have serious impact.

Directors know Directors. Assuming your work is remarkable, building your network and getting your work known by Directors through portfolio reviews is a great way for your name to spread. If Puma don’t have a job going, the CD probably knows the top dog at a few other brands. Portfolio reviews are like free interviews. Get on it.


Your portfolio is much more than your portfolio.

You need presence online. This goes without saying. However, you need to realise that your portfolio isn’t just this thing you email to HR teams and Design Directors. It’s not just the slide deck you have on your iPad or the big leather book you store under your bed. It’s EVERYTHING. Every single touch point. Every piece of content that someone can stumble across that leads back to you.

Your Instagram feed IS your portfolio. Your LinkedIn profile IS your portfolio. Your latest Tweet. YouTube channel. Pinterest boards. Website. Personal blog. Business card. I would adopt the mindset that anything someone can find online, IS a piece of your portfolio. It’s all contributing to someone’s opinion of you and your work. You’ll always be judged by the weakest one – so make sure the quality is consistent. You could even take this further and say the CONVERSATIONS you have with the people you meet IS your portfolio. It’s all about HOW and WHAT you are communicating, and to WHO. Whether face-to-face, or a blog post found by someone you’ll never meet.

Treat yourself as a business and learn more about marketing. Get your own website and learn how to manage it. Learn SEO. If you do this, you’ll have a main place to direct the people you meet. This way, you can capture details through sign-up forms and have the ability to market to them forevermore.

A great mentor of mine, James Ashford, says there are two assumptions you have to make with a website:

  1. The visitor has arrived. They WILL be leaving.
  2. They will NEVER be coming back.

Because the second point is true for so many sites, capturing details to allow you to engage with them through email marketing is crucial. Do it. If you can get key people of influence engaging here, they are continuously seeing your latest work. If you don’t have your own site and are not using MailChimp, you’re missing a HUGE opportunity to promote yourself to the people you want to engage with most.

Everything mentioned here – being active on all these platforms. This is Level 1.


Portfolio: Digital vs Print

I see two elements. One which I call the Application Portfolio (a portfolio that you apply with to get you an interview) and the other that I call the Interview Portfolio (a portfolio you take to interview, to get you the job). In both cases, I would go digital.

Print portfolios can be expensive – but that’s not my real reason. The main reason is that a digital portfolio remains fluid. It’s adaptable. If you create a beautiful print portfolio that you’ve spent close to £100 on, you won’t want to change it. With a digital portfolio, it’s much easier to make modifications and tailor it to EVERY new company. That goes for Application and Interview. Whether you’re changing 8 pages or 6 words, you’re more likely to make the change if you go with a PDF.

For specific tips to developing the portfolio itself, check out THIS POST. You can also get in touch about my One-to-One Portfolio Improvement Program.


Show the work you LOVE doing.

Include the work you LOVE doing and WANT to do. You’re more likely to attract the type of work that you amplify the most. I review student portfolios with Arts Thread each year at New Designers Exhibition, and each year I hear students say “I thought I should include X, Y and Z – just in case the company want to see it”. A) You should KNOW from your research into the business and their job spec which skills are most appropriate, and which ones are not. B) The stuff you’re putting in there as a ‘just in case’ will probably be the shittest thing in your portfolio – and you’re gonna be judged on the worst! For example, someone who is totally committed to being a Mechanical Design Engineer, yet puts brand identity work in their initial portfolio. Show you’re the best guy around at Mechanical Engineering, and then maybe show your logo design work briefly at interview if it’s appropriate (not in your initial portfolio).


Add value to others.

Can you bring value to others? Can you invest in others? When someone is on the receiving end of the value you can offer, they’re more likely to engage, follow and share with others (promoting you to a wider audience). If all you ever write/Tweet/post about is YOU YOU YOU, and constantly go in for the instant sell, it can be less engaging. In my own blog, and Facebook page, I’ll sometimes just share things like a design-related show on BBC iPlayer that I think my audience would enjoy or learn something from. There’s no sell. Just a genuine will to bring value to others. On the back of Posts like this, I’ve had people message me and tell others about my Blog who have since subscribed. Not every piece of content will change the world. The smallest of interactions can draw new people to you and your work. Only after bringing value over time and building trust can you drop an honest sell. If you’re not familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk, get familiar HERE and buy his book – ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook’.


arrest all mimics

Thanks to Ben Tallon for inviting me onto the Podcast. I had a top laugh recording it!

If you’re interested in hiring me to speak at an event, University or design school on this subject – get in touch.

I hope this is of some value and you enjoy the episode. You can check out other Arrest All Mimics episodes by hitting the image above. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.



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