Digital vs Print When Presenting Your Portfolio

October 15, 2012
6 min read
6 min read

The ‘portfolio meeting’ is become a rare occurrence in the lives of today’s designer, with more and more clients finding you through your online portfolio it’s more often the case now that by the time you’re having your initial meeting with a client they’re already well versed in your back catalouge. However there are still cases where a client may well want you to present your work to them, perhaps you’ve been recommended by someone they trust or you’re the one who has approached them for work? In any case it pays to know what you’re doing when those meetings roll around.

Do you plonk your leather-bound A3 portfolio down on the table, bursting at the seams with all of your amazing artworks printed up and looking glorious?

Aside from the obvious questions of which parts of your work do you want to show off and what is your pitch going to entail, there is a much more basic question of just how are you going to present your portfolio to this client? Do you plonk your leather-bound A3 portfolio down on the table, bursting at the seams with all of your amazing artworks printed up and looking glorious? Do you crack out your laptop or that new iPad and offer up a targeted slidshow to the client safe in the knowledge that anything they may need is only a few clicks away? It’s a tough call, as each method has it’s advantages and disadvantages, so lets go over a few of them and hopefully by the end of it you’ll have a better idea of what might work for you.

Digital

There’s no doubting the fact that we’re living in a digital age and that if something doesn’t exist (in some way) digitally, then it’s probably the case that not a great many people are every going to know about it. It then makes a lot of sense to put some major effort into your online portfolio, and in doing so surely this is the portfolio that you want to be showing to prospective clients? Also there is the point that if you’re showing you’re work off on a laptop then you have access to your full catalogue of work- which may prove useful if a client is interested in learning about your design process, step by step (this can be especially beneficial for web designers). Also there is the simple fact that if you have something like an iPad, it’s a pretty cool toy that your client will no doubt either enjoy playing with, or be impressed that you’re up to date (and affluent) enough to own one.

When you’re talking to your potential client about the possibility of a bill board campaign or the intricacies of your illustrations the magnitude of it all may fall flat

On the flip side of the coin however, digital does have some pitfalls. The main one of course being the size, laptops are small and iPads are smaller still. Whilst this may not matter too much for showing off website designs, when you’re talking to your potential client about the possibility of a bill board campaign or the intricacies of your illustrations the magnitude of it all may fall flat. Sure you can zoom in to show off the details, but in my opinion, you loose something when you’re not taking in those details as a part of the whole. I suppose the main downfall here is that whilst digital in itself is very impressive, a digital representation of your designs can be a little lacklustre. (Click to Tweet this!)

Print

You run down to the printers with your USB stick in hand and stand there diligently as that Goliath of a printer chugs and churns

The greatest asset of print by far, is that it’s print. Or to put it another way, think about all that time you spend on your designs, slogging away at the computer for days on end until it’s pixel perfect. You run down to the printers with your USB stick in hand and stand there diligently as that Goliath of a printer chugs and churns. Finally you get your design placed in your hands, still warm, it’s looks huge compared to what you’ve been looking at over the past few days and you quickly scan through all those little details you’ve spent so long perfecting. Now I don’t know if this is just me, but I always feel that my designs look better when they’re printed, being able to touch an feel them just makes them seem more real somehow. Clients may well too feel this way, and be more impressed with what you’ve made rather than what you’ve designed if that makes sense? Plus your print portfolio is just bigger than a digital one and bigger is better (or at least more impressive) to a lot of people.

Of course you have to weigh up the negatives of having a printed portfolio as well, the fact that it’s bigger means that it’s real pain to lug around everywhere and for me at least, it’s constantly getting a battering as I catch it on corners or get in trapped in a Manchester tram door. The result of all this is that over time you’re portfolio is going to end up looking pretty knackered and in turn make you look like a bit of a shabby operation when you present it to a client. Another downside is that you’re limited to what you have with you, if a client wants to see your design process and all you have is finished works then you’re stuck trying to describe things without any form of example.

Neither print nor digital is 100% perfect for every scenario, but you can weight things in your favour by looking at what kind of work you do the most

So in the end, what’s the best decision to make? Well I suppose it really depends on you. Neither print nor digital is 100% perfect for every scenario, but you can weight things in your favour by looking at what kind of work you do the most. For web designs, it makes sense to show off your works digitally so that clients have the option of playing with them. At Hunting Town we specialise in illustration so I always try to make sure that my portfolio is printed and up to date, however as Hunting Town grows we’re doing more and more web work, so it may be the case that things will have to change at some point. Currently I’m looking at investing in a company iPad so that we have a lightweight ‘backup’ option to show off our digital designs if needed (-and play Angry Birds on the train), but that’s still a ways down the road.

What way do you prefer to present your portfolio to a client? If you have any questions about the best way to present your portfolio, or if you present your work in a unique way that I haven’t covered here then I’d really like to hear about it in the comments below.

Photo Credit to stickwithjosh

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is owner of Hunting Town Design, a small design house based in Manchester UK specialising in Graphic Design and Illustration. Alex is also the founder and editor of The Design Range. Find out more about Alex on his website or follow him on twitter.


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