Student Portfolios

Student Portfolios

When teaching a portfolio course, I stress the importance of concept and brand informing the direction of the portfolio book’s cover design, website branding and promotional piece – all as one cohesive package. There’s so much competition out there that students (and professionals) can’t waste any opportunity just being generic. The whole point of “no plastic sleeves” is to move away from a generic portfolio case (with plastic sleeves) and create a unique creative statement that communicates something about oneself and one’s work. It’s an opportunity to show off one’s talent and skills right from the get go before the book is even opened. Hopefully it will entice the recipient, create interest and enthusiasm in the body of work inside. A portfolio book cover should set the stage and provide context.

Students in my class first undergo an evaluative process to discover their direction and develop a concept.

Below are some good examples from the most recent portfolio course I’ve taught at Endicott College in Beverly, MA where I am a professor of graphic design. The students were a mix of graphic design and photography juniors and seniors. They were asked to come up with a strong concept that captured their personality and the direction of their work. In some of the pics below you can also see the promotional piece the student came up with based on the same concept/theme.

Juliana McDermott went the extra mile and hand crafted her own book. In doing so she was able to be much more creative in her approach – not only in terms of the design of imagery but also in the book form and materials used. Juliana utilized a cut out of her own silhouette on the book cover. One can then see through to a typographic design underneath that is made up of words describing Juliana and her work. The book has a slip cover painted with chalk adhering paint so that Juliana can personalize a message to the recipient. This is a great example of a unique and personalized concept carried through on multiple levels.

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Parker Fish’s logo (that he designed himself) and his book cover design capture the spirit of his work as a sports photographer.


Photography student, Taylor Drake brought us on an adventure!


Here’s a fun concept from design student, Melanie Campbell, who got to show off her illustration skills. Note the attention paid to both the front and back cover design. The back cover offers one an opportunity to continue the concept and design. Don’t just leave it a generic blank space.


Here’s another fun concept from design student, Marjan Solomon who shows us a bit of his personality utilizing both the front and back cover.


Lastly, I really enjoyed the concept for this portfolio book from design student Kendra Pembroke. She has an interest in pursuing ux (interactive) design work and let’s one know immediately from the cover design. It’s a smart and witty idea carried through with some humor. Kendra also demonstrates that she knows some code!


For a detailed step-by-step guide on this process from concept to brand, book, website, promotional and professional materials, check out our book, No Plastic Sleeves: Portfolio and Self-Promotion Guide for Photographers and Designers now in its 2nd Edition.