Posted 23 May 2018
Written by Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson’s handy checklist for creating and emailing your portfolio

Michael Johnson, creative director and principal at branding agency Johnson Banks, which he founded in 1992, outlines a handy checklist of dos and don’ts for prepping a coherent, emailable PDF portfolio that demonstrates your potential and unmissable details to cross-check before you press send.

Step One
Prepare a short PDF of your work.

Don’t send a 56-page magnum opus – you’ll have nothing for the next stage. Downloadable zip files? Dropbox links? No. That’s a crashed computer waiting to happen.

Do include a link to your site – as long as it doesn’t look like every other designer’s website. Your site’s navigation shouldn’t overpower or undermine the work.

Do take care. You’d be amazed how many emails johnson banks receive asking to work at Wolff Olins or how much someone’s looking forward to meet Michael Banks. True.

Do spellcheck. It’s already painfully obvious that most designers cannot spell. You don’t need to hammer it home.

Your Cycling Proficiency badge, killer GCSE results, that logo for your Uncle’s wine bar? Lovely. But what matters most is [including essential information such as] where you studied, where you’ve worked and what you’ve done.

Don’t show work that isn’t up to scratch. Never apologise for dodgy ideas: take them out or redo them.

Don’t pass off other people’s work as yours. It will come out in the wash, believe me.

Do study your targets. Take johnson banks – we don’t do packaging. So, please don’t send us packaging projects, unless they are unlike any other piece of packaging we’ve ever seen before.

Do demonstrate potential. Don’t grumble about the lack of opportunities on your course or in your job for making decent work. Develop killer ideas at the weekends and show that you’ll shine if given the chance.

Step Two
Email your short PDF, crammed with fantastic ideas that demonstrate unique thinking and doing. Then in real life, projects can be expanded, personal work shown, stories shared and it all ends happily ever after.

Mention Michael Johnson
Mention Johnson Banks
Written by Michael Johnson