Q: I am currently developing a couple of different portfolios to shop around to different companies. Each portfolio I am working on basically “caters” to that specific company I am going to send it to. I have done some freelance work in the past, as a matter of fact, as I speak, I am developing and illustrating characters for a board game expansion due out in September, but, as I develop my portfolio and ready myself to send it out to the different companies I am targeting, what advice can you give me to make a better impression on the companies I am sending them to? Who should I target, an Editor, or the Art Directors. Or is there actually another person whom I should send the work to within that company?
A: Your efforts to cater specific portfolios for specific clients is a exactly what I advise people to do when they send their work out to potential clients. It is important to show art directors the specific kind of work or subject matter they deal with and want to use. No matter how good your illustrations of teddy bears may be, it’s useless to send them to a sports magazine. Art directors want to see work they could envision applying directly to the pages of their publication. So, stock up your portfolio with images of athletes for the sports magazines, or of political illustrations for news magazines and so on.
Sending the work in a well organized and neat package is important. It demonstrates professionalism and inspires confidence in your ability to follow through and meet the business end of things well. The artwork is only part of the job… the world is littered with exceptionally talented artists who can’t meet deadlines, take art direction or criticism, or cannot be relied on to follow through on a commitment. The most brilliant illustration art in the world is no good to an art director if the artist is unreliable and blows deadlines or is hard to work with. That’s why art directors tend to use the same small group of illustrators for jobs… they know what to expect when it comes to those important points. Using a new artist is always a risk, so the more professional and organized you present yourself, the better the chance they will take a risk on you for a job. Simple and neat is best, with all samples trimmed cleanly and centered within the portfolio pages. Big, bulky portfolios are a pain for art directors. I use presentation books from places like Office Max or Office Depot, made for reports and visual presentations for business. They have removable plastic sleeve pages you can add or take out easily. The pages can hold up to 8 1/2 x 11 inch tearsheets or prints of your work. No need to show them bigger samples. Stick with between 12 and 20 total samples, no more. The books lay flat and are easy to mail or Fed Ex out. I mount my images centered onto black paper and add a label to the bottom with the name of the client and/or publication the piece was for. Simple and neat.
Finally, the main art director of a publication or company is always the best place to send your work. They are the visual editors. If they like your work and others in the office have final word, they will bring it to that person’s attention. Sending your work to multiple people within the same company is counterproductive… it can actually turn them off because it sends a message that the art director isn’t in charge of visuals in your eyes.
Thanks to Eric Merced for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!
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