As creative directors whose job duties include hiring, we thought it might be nice to put together a little guide as to what we need to see in a portfolio before we can see someone in a job.

So, you’ve designed some pretty things. Maybe you’ve written some clever lines. Great. But if you don’t show us that you can string a single-minded thought or big idea through several pieces of work, we’ll show you the door. Actually, we won’t even let you in the door.* Campaigns usually consist of three ads each. They could be print, they could be banners, they could be outdoor boards. Feeling ambitious?** Show your campaign in a variety of mediums. Digital, guerrilla tactics, social posts. Job winning books*** usually consist of at least five campaigns, three pieces deep. Oh, and they don’t have to have actually run. Mock-ups are fine. They just have to be incredible.

What is a “I wish I had come up with that” idea? Well, we can’t exactly tell you what it is, but we know it when we see it. In the real world it’s stuff like Post-it Notes or Velcro. Something so obvious yet brilliant that you wonder why no one thought of it before. Think of the best comedians. They say the things we’re thinking, but craft their thoughts in ways that make them look like geniuses. Share ideas that we wish we had in our own portfolios and we’ll soon be sharing office space.

Art Directors: We want to see a variety of design styles throughout your book. Some pure design in the form of logos, letterhead, etc.**** Writers: We’ll want to see a variety of brand voices and lengths of copy, styles of headlines, etc.***** If you’re looking to get into the pictures side of the business, don’t be afraid to show an appreciation for words. If you’re a word slinger, show us you can solve things visually. But please, if you’re interviewing at an ad agency, make sure you have ads.

This isn’t a knock against colleges, but the stuff you do for grades isn’t often what you’ll need to get a job. Most schools just don’t have the type of curriculum that will get you the level of ideas and volume of campaigns to build a book. It’s nice that you did a font exploration. Congratulations on that well-written press release. We don’t care. We need to see ads. Ads, ads, ads and ads.******

Granted, these things won’t necessarily show up in a portfolio, but they’d better damn well show up in you as a person. This is a fast-paced, all brains on deck type of industry where we put in a lot of hours. A lot. In fact, during heavy workloads, we probably spend more time with coworkers than friends or family.******* If we hire you we will be spending a lot of time together. We want to work with people who are not jerks. Are fun. Are talented. Are hungry. And are willing to work as hard as we do.

Hopefully this helps. Creating a job winning portfolio is a job in itself. Far too many students think that their degree and a few samples entitles them to a job. It doesn’t. Put in the effort, sweat the details and let your problem-solving skills shine. If you’re still unsure about the type of work that gets people employed, visit our website for some examples. If you think your stuff is worthy, we even have a place to submit your portfolio for a free review. Visit And if you don’t think your stuff is worthy, then we can help with that too.

Jeff & Scott

* Pretty much no one gets an interview without having been prescreened via an online portfolio. Once you’ve got worthy work, get it up on a personal site or one of many free hosting platforms.

** The competition is fierce, so you better damn well be.

*** Portfolios are often called books.

**** If you’re also a great oil painter or cartoonist, good for you. We don’t need to see it.

***** If you’re also a great poet or songwriter, good for you. We don’t need to hear it.

****** And ads and ads and ads…

******* If you land a gig at a good shop, your coworkers will become friends and family.