How to get into the board game design industry

This post has been written to answer how to get into the board game design industry and what you can do to potentially get through those elusive hidden board game industry doors.

Getting into the board game industry is both simple yet difficult. When you know how and where to look, it Is simple.

When you do not know where to begin, getting into the board game industry is difficult, or at least finding the hidden doors is hard.

Boardgame design is experiencing a creative renaissance and there is no better time to join this growing fun and creative business. Nobody could blame you for wanting to work for a board game company at this time.

Getting involved in the industry is fun, creative, and rewarding!

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What does it really mean to be In the board game industry?

Many board game designers are individuals and small teams with board game design being their passion. Their companies and side projects may run secondary to another main source of income.

In other words, their board game companies are paid hobbies that may bring them additional income and fulfilment.

These are all people who have got into the industry and make up for a large portion of the creators behind board games and the creative board game development.

Many of these smaller independent games design companies might be friends, partners, husband and wife teams etc which make up the board game ‘in’ crowd.

To get into the board game design industry, these smaller teams started to create games for the love of making games and published their own.

The smaller studios and tabletop game developers often grow their companies from a side passion to something that can earn money and allow them to continue to make board games.

Of how to get into the board game design industry and get involved with the big publisher to sell your game – that’s a battle in itself and are 2 very different doors into the industry.

Details below, if you are looking at working in the tabletop gaming industry, want to work for a game publisher or sell your game, idea or product then this helpful post is for you.

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how to get into the board game design industry and work with smaller publishers and designers

If you are just starting out, looking to change career, or launch a passion project you can start creating your board game now.

There is no harm in starting small on a hobby project and working your way up to the bigger companies later if that is what you want to do.

There is also no shame in working with smaller companies and staying with little studios. By being part of a small team or going solo, you can get hands on experience with game design and development on many levels and in many “departments”.

As with various creative roles in the smaller outfits, it is a great way of being shown the ropes when you are part of a small unit.

But, even getting involved with smaller studios can be a challenge if you don’t want to go solo or you are just starting out.

Here are some tips on how to get into the board game industry and work with smaller developers and publishers.

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Steps on how to get involved with (smaller businesses) in the board games industry

1 ) Have an interest in board games! This should be a given, but if you want to create some games, great! If you just want to make quick money, consider other careers.

2 ) Start creating games. Make it all about the game and the enjoyment of creating games. If you are stuck for ideas consider making a personal game project with a pencil and paper. You can make a fan game to, like this website shows – how to create a HeroQuest style game.

3 ) Take an interest in other games that have been created. Ideas rarely come from nowhere! Show interest in what types of games you like to play.

4 ) Sign up to board game forums and become an active member

5 ) Hang around with board game creators! You can attend various meetups and casual board game events

6 ) Network work extensively

Network with games companies - into the board game design

That list of steps is a simplified way of what you can do to get into the tabletop gaming business and work with the smaller studios and independent makers.

There are many ways of accessing the industry and at varying levels.

And to be involved – is to be involved!

Enjoy games and meet people that also enjoy creating games, make connections In the gaming field.

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how to access the board game industry and sell your game (small scale)

If you want to get serious and commercialise your game, meeting the right people is both important to this goal and challenging.

But how do you make these all-important contacts?

It is a case of where to be and where to look.

The most simple first step to making some initial contact in the industry is by going onto forums, looking at board game directories, and seeing what companies you find on Google.

This is the most straightforward, but in my opinion – not the most effective solution for making contacts in the board game industry.

Meeting face-to-face and showing what you can do is better. You can build up a rapport and discuss board games there and then. Be it at a show or a networking event.

So ‘where’ to meet these contacts and get into the board game design industry.

Get involved with the board game industry by attending shows and conventions

One of the best ways of getting involved with the board game industry is by showing up to conventions and shows and saying “hi”. Go to the boardgame stands, say hello and talk about your passion and see where it may lead!

Going to conventions and shows will also broaden your view on the industry as a whole. You get to meet companies that focus on party games, board games for the family, adult games, card games, poker games, RPG’s, science fiction, fantasy, games for young children!

There are too many to list.

Going to shows is a big way to build those all-important contacts.

Another way of getting into the industry, is through self-proclamation!

how to get into board game design industry - publish your own!

Self-publish your board game! “I am a board game developer”

I am a board game designer! Therefore, I am part of the board game industry!.

Another way to get into the board game design industry is by creating your own games and products. You may have already created your own game or aspire to create a game. By actually creating a game or products around gaming you can say –

“You are part of the board game industry”

To what capacity? That can be left to interpretation.

Creating a game and building a board game design career

The main focus of this article is on how to get into the board game design industry and creating your own games is early access to this.

I do not wish to deviate too much into the intricacies of creating a board game in this article. Creating board games is a skill in itself that deserves more than just a few sentences.

You can read more on creating a retail-ready game here if you want to focus on board game creation and selling your own products.

If you would like help with creating your game, you may also wish to look at the board game design services page or get in touch via my contact form.

Creating your first game or board game product is a great way of getting into board game creation. You can learn a lot from even just making a prototype. You can either pitch your prototype to a company or look at selling it yourself.

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Getting involved with the big board game publishers (selling to and working with)

Getting into the board game design industry is challenge number 1. Eg create a game or fan game) and show what you can do. Set up a business.

But.

Working ‘with’ or ‘in’ the BIG board game companies is a separate challenge in itself, and tough inner circle to break into.

Because it is hard to get into, it certainly doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth it. Especially from a financial or publicity standpoint.

Here are few listed benefits as to why getting your board game into a larger board game can help your and your board game development career.

The benefits of getting your game in with a big company (selling your game)

  • Larger market penetration and industry coverage. The larger board game companies – publishers and distributors are more likely to have the retail and business channels to sell more copies of your board game in higher volumes. They might be good to approach after you have also (potentially) created a Kickstarter, if crowdfunding is a path you take.
  • Great marketing for your board game. At first, getting your name out there can be a huge advantage for the future and for growing your board game design business.
  • More revenue – Having more revenue isn’t the same as having a higher margin (making more money per individual unit) The the big retailers are likely to shift larger volumes of your game than just you on your own.

More on the example below.

Selling your game through a larger board game company vs do it yourself – rough example

Although “do it yourself” is a great way of getting into the board game industry, you will have to out a lot of energy into multiple avenues of the business. As opposed to the bigger business may be able to sell your game in larger volumes.

Do it yourself method

You sell 100 units, throw all of your time and energy into distribution and logistics – earn £3 (profit) unit for example per game. You take away £300

Selling your game through a large publisher or distributor (getting involved with the companies)

As an example, you sell 10,000 units through a board game publisher or distribution company and earn £2 per unit. (rough example – NEVER a guarantee)

Per unit, that is less.

The publishers will take a larger cut – BUT – you earn £2 x 10,000 = £20,000. The bigger companies have access and possibly bigger selling power.

Not only will you be more likely to sell higher volumes through a board game distributor or publisher. It will allow you to focus more on board game development and design. If that is what you want to do.

To get involved with the large publishers can be difficult if you are starting out in your career. The next section focuses on how to get into the board game design industry and work with the big board game companies.

“The easier you make it for the businesses to sell your game and increase ‘their’ revenue. The easier you will make it for yourself.”

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How to get your board game into the big companies, publishers and retailers

If you are board game designer and developer or an aspiring creator! You may have ambitions to get your game into the big publishers and distributors.

As with any businesses, and contrary to popular belief, most companies and buyers are risk-averse. If working with you and your game proves to be a potential risk with weak financial returns, they won’t sell your game.

To get involved with the big companies in the board game industry, make your game retail-ready and full or promise.

The easier you make it for the businesses to sell your game and increase ‘their’ revenue. The easier you will make it for yourself.

In other words, earn more revenue for them and earn more revenue yourself.

Sell your game - into the board game design

Getting yourself and your board game ready for retail

In order to get into the board game industry, I have written a couple of design-focused entrepreneurial tips that will help you in creating a game for retail in mind.

Creating your game and playing it is one thing but creating game that gets the attention of the bigger businesses is another.

Ways you can pitch a retail-ready game.

* it should be noted that reading posts and saying “is that all” it takes is not the best mindset to start on. Creating games and creating games ready to be sold is a big time consuming effort and can be a labour of love many.

Tick boxing alone, will not guarantee the success of a game. Use your initiative, use critical thinking, and be prepared to try and try again to crack that industry!

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How to work for a board game company (in house, freelance)

To work for a board game company you need to prove that you can work in a relevant field in the board game industry and also work as part of a team!

There are various skills, roles and departments for budding games designers to consider :

  • Boardgame designer
  • – Graphic designer and artists
  • – Illustrator and artists
  • – Concept artist
  • – Writers and board game editors
  • – Story writing
  • – 3D modellers
  • – Sculptors (traditional and 3D)
  • – Moulders and casters
  • – 3D printing services
  • – Prototype makers
  • – Card designers and printers
  • – Logistics and warehouses
  • – E-tailers and retailers
  • – Play testers
  • – Sales
  • – Administrative positions!
  • – Translators

Also, being a creative director, producer or MD.

To answer “how to work for a board game company“, be it freelance, contract, or in-house, you should consider working on skills that will lend itself to the game company you wish to work for or with.

As with the list of skills and roles above, this is a glance at some or the roles and departments available that you can work in. If you wish to work in a more permanent position at a company or a board game publisher you should network and look on job boards to find the ideal position for you.

You may also need to be prepared to move location for most jobs if you wish to work in-house.

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What is the ‘best’ way of getting work in the board game industry?

There isn’t a single and clear cut path of how to get into the board game industry, each journey and career will be unique to the individual.

To choose which is the best way, as based on opinion, experience, and observations on how to get into the board games business. I would say the following are some of the best and most prominent ways of getting into the tabletop gaming industry.

1) Have a passion for tabletop games or/and creating games

2) Meet the right people for your game niche and share passion, knowledge, and skills with games and creating games.

3) Attend trade shows and make contacts. Network with other board game creators * ( personnel and favourite/ best method)

4) Look on jobs boards in the creative industries and dedicated board game communities. Facebook and Board game geek

5) ‘Niche’ on a certain skills and keep scouring the communities equipped with a portfolio or examples of what you can do!

6 ) And above all else – the best way on getting into the board games is to keep trying if you are passionate about board games!

We found these contacts mostly through trade shows and events.

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How to get into board game design industry | A firsthand account

I wanted to discuss my first-hand account of how I became involved in the board game industry and how you may find my story interesting or helpful in your creative journey!

Game example - into the board game design

I was involved In creating a party game at my previous job. It was created as part of “Product Development – innovation engine” which was a weekly process that was rolled out from 2016.

I and the team at the time realised that a game might be popular. It was inspired by something a colleague had seen on TV. I was sceptical initially but I was won around. (good job!)

We spent a few months designing and developing a party game.

The game was a commercial success and we went on to develop more products and expansion at the request of a large board game retailer. This opened a very wide door to more investment.

From there other retailers also requested the game. It grew in popularity in the UK.

We found these contacts mostly through trade shows and events. They were a mixture of board game distribution companies, smaller retailers, and high-street shops.

That was my first-hand experience in working commercially in board games and 1 first-hand example of how to get into the board games industry.

Off my own back.

I then started to find more contacts at conventions and shows. Many of the these people I networked with were a mixture of small independent game designers to larger-scale board game developers.

And to this day, I am always looking for ways of building new contacts and ways I can help independent board game developers create their game.

That was an (‘is’) part of my professional journey.

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An example of how to start early – get your children to start making games!

This is an example of somebody that has the will and drive to create something they love! This person was undeterred by pessimism, cynicism, and the knowledge of money!

Just the want and the like of creating their own game. I think there is a lesson us adults we can learn here.

* For confidentially, I cannot mention in detail about the parties involved.

I wanted to draw your attention to this prototype by a budding game designer. ( my part was in the visual and creative design + getting it ready to look at )

The client started first by drawing a rough game on post-it notes and mapping out the game.

Self-publish game - into the board game design

They had already playtested and worked out the mechanics before contacting me. They just wanted to figure out “how to make it”.

From the rough prototype. I came up with visuals, character vectors and ideas how it would look and what was going on.

I had the joy of designing the box art, the game cards, conceptualising and creating the dinosaurs, the caveman, tokens, and the board!

This is an example of what you can do if you decide to go down the self-publish route.

Create a pitch ready prototype!

how to get into board game design industry printed!

Having something physical to show looks both professional and that you are serious and passionate about the board game industry. This will be your early steps of how to get into the board game design industry

People are often tactile and like to look by touch also.

Design services

How to get into the board game design industry – The final answer

To consolidate and simplify the answer, there are a couple of main routes on how to work in the board games industry.

The main path is by making the right contacts at shows, conventions, and events – meeting the right people in senior positions at board game companies will put you at a strong advantage.

Another alternative way of getting into the board game industry is by creating and publishing your own game and making yourself part of the industry.

The final point for you to get into the industry is by looking at niche board game job boards or job boards in creative industries. Look on Facebook and Board Game Geek also

With many creative businesses – a big part of it is, who you know, what you can do.

Love (or like) what you do!

that is how you can get into the board game industry. Persistence, passion, and having a lot of good relevant business contacts in the business. And trial and error, luck and determination.

If you have found this post helpful, feel free to share. All the best in your board game creation career.

In your journey into getting into the Boardgame design business you may also find some of the following articles helpful.

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Other helpful topics to help you get into the industry

How to commercialise and sell your board game

Steps on creating a successful retail-ready party game

Getting to grips with drawing on a computer with a graphics tablet (creating digital artwork)

Product design – Stem cardboard products

Packaging projects for the high-street

How to create STEM or learning product you can sell

Creative board game services (Design website)
into the board game design

Freelance vector illustration and character design for your board game

– Table top, card and board game design services

External Website for getting into tabletop board game development

How to create your own private of fan type game for yourself (inspired by HeroQuest)

The games and images in this article are all copyrighted, please do not use or distribute. Handy tips – how to get into the board game design industry and how to work for a board game company.

“NETWORK!”

30 tips for creating a graphic design portfolio

Tips for creating a graphic design portfolio. Getting noticed can be difficult in the design field. Whether you are a freelancer, junior or somebody that is looking at changing their career. This post is a list of 30 portfolio ideas that will help you with your design journey. – tips for Graphic Design portfolio

tips graphic design portfolio

This will (hopefully) offer some ideas to create an interview-ready graphic design portfolio.

“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”

– Milton Glaser

Tips for a graphic design portfolio that may get you noticed

I will answer quickly the question that I was asked recently before going into the detailed list of tips on making a compelling graphic design portfolio. But before going further into these tips for graduate graphic designers, I want to share some of my knowledge and experience when recruiting for graphic design internsships.

Please bear in mind that I am not a recruiter. I’m a designer with over 14 years of experience. I was also a Senior Designer and Head of Department when I used to recruit somebody to help me and the company.

I was a Senior Designer, who hired graduates for junior ‘traditional design roles’, 3 month internships, and freelance positions. And when I say traditional graphic design – mostly print.

Myself and my former colleague, looked through a range of portfolios when trying to find a good fit for the company. Sometimes a job posting would get 100’s of applications in less than a week.

Another interesting piece of information you may like to know – I used to look at portfolios before looking at CV’s. I could write a post about the process but that is something for another day.

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How can I make my Graphic Design portfolio stand out? tips

To get employers, agencies, and or anyone to hire you for a project or job. You need to have a portfolio that helps you shine, resonates with the employer and potentially be on brand with the person hiring. Look at who is hiring and ask yourself whether your portfolio is a match. What benefit can you and the portfolio bring to the role?

Take note, you, the designer will need to put your best foot forward if you want to win that job. You need to show that you can do what is asked of you and that you can offer value to the next role.

What you did yesterday is nice – what you are going to do tomorrow will be what gets you the job.

Not everyone will love you or your portfolio, but you want to give it your best shot until something eventually sticks.

Onwards for 30 tips for creating a graphic design portfolio – list of ideas

1 ) Have a portfolio

In short, yes you need a portfolio to get graphic design roles. Be it in digital or print form. People, designer managers, and recruiters need to see what you can do. This is the first tip. Without a design portfolio, there is no way of ‘showing’ what you can do. Without any examples of work, you are relying on an employer, agency or client to just take your word for it. I cannot emphasise this enough.

Yes, you need to show that you are a graphic designer and you at least have some idea of what you can do. Don’t tell them – show them.

2) Include your best, finished pieces

This is not as common as you might think. Graduates, in particular, tend to can put much process stages and fluff into their portfolios. Although this offers a good insight into how you work, too much can be counter-productive. This can be better shown in asked.

Many employers are in a hurry and want to see ‘results’ but not all.

And, I may burst a bubble here and go as far as to say that you may be working as a creative junior artwork / designer if this is your first role – even if the position is sold differently on the jobs board.

Hopefully, this won’t be forever. But be prepared to see a lot of this when applying for work – especially in the early stages.

Many artworking roles are dressed as creative design work when in fact a manager or client may be telling you what to do, and… you may be pushing pixels around to begin with as a junior designer.

When you also include you best pieces of work, consider making your portfolio like a sandwich. Really great stuff at the start. Less good stuff in the middle, great stuff again at the end.

3 ) Show your technical proficiency

If you have managed to find a job that is more ‘art and design’ or ‘illustrative’ then great! But if you are looking for more mainstream graphic design roles you will need to show that you can create the artwork in common industry standards. Programs such as, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Indesign are common at the time of writing this.

I would no longer assume that all design graduates come out with these software skills as a standard – not after recruiting interns and junior graphic designers for creative positions. I was surprised some establishments were churning out graduates without any software skills mentioned above at all, and I felt truly sorry for the graduates who sold these design ‘courses’. If that is what you can call them.

4 ) Design notes & annotations in the portfolio

Believe it or not, whether you are going to a meeting as a freelancer, junior or senior designer. People will read your notes and they will want to understand more of what is going on in your project.

You may know what your project is about but others will not, it is often best to spell it out in short sentences. It doesn’t have to be an essay. Just a paragraph with some annotations saying what is going on in a few words.

5 ) Make it relevant and appealing

This is one of the most important points in this list so make sure to pay attention. Make sure whatever is in your portfolio – is as relevant to the job as possible if you want the position.

Employers will want to see what you have done and also what you will do for them should they hire you for the role.

For example, if you are going for a packaging role at gifting company, try to emulate that you can do packaging and that you have past experience in the relevant market. If you have no commercial experience in this and you want to work in packaging and print, create some of your own initiated projects and show what you can do!

6 ) Your portfolio says one thing, your CV says another

Saying that you have x y z is one thing. But if your portfolio tells a very different story to what comes out of your mouth or what is written on your CV it will be evident by the end of the meeting.

Don’t bluff too much as you will waste your time and hiring managers’ time. And managers and directors really don’t have a lot of time to waste.

7 ) Woefully terrible portfolio

Subjective but…

I recall reading a CV and thinking to myself how epic a candidate was. I jumped over to their portfolio and they had just 2 pieces of dubious graphic design work in their portfolio. There was a dinky little piece of advertorial tucked up into a corner of the page promoting a grave-digging business, the other I cannot recall. But it made an impression..!

It was pretty evident that this individual was not a trained graphic designer and that some people in the industry may have been outraged by what was trying to be passed off as a portfolio. In a word – they were bluffing it and their portfolio showed it.

Perhaps they wanted to change their career.

If you are looking at changing career then study design, or at the very least have a portfolio with work that shows you are capable.

Don’t tell hiring managers how good you are, show them!

Also, don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim to be the best designer in the universe but you know… come on. I was hiring! My reputation is on the line and anyone who would put even a basic new fresh out of university or course graduate next to this would probably giggle.

So what to do with your graphic design portfolio – Let other eyes see

So, make your portfolio as awesome as you can! Do your best, look at other designers, and ask yourself some frank and critical questions. This would be a strong tip on how to create a design portfolio. Make it as best as you can! even this will get some brutal remarks most likely. Trust me, I both seen it and felt it.

8 ) Varied but relevant

The closer you can keep your portfolio to the job match, the better. If you have any relevant or applicable pieces that you believe can help land you the desired position – include them.

You want to show projects that are transferable to the position and present you in a good light.

9 ) Not enough work

It can be frustrating even as a senior designer to hear, “Have you worked for anyone else?” or when I was a graduate “is that all?” from a recruiter. As a graduate, the chances are you may only have a few good pieces of work and a final major project that takes up a large portion of your portfolio.

Don’t be disheartened.

Create more work that will draw attention. Sounds easy, but the fact is, your portfolio shouldn’t stop once you leave university or college. If you can try to keep your work up to date and keep adding new and exciting pieces, this will carry you in good stead in the future.

tips graphic design portfolio - encouragement

tips Graphic Design portfolio

10 ) Personal projects

As long as they are good, polished, and relevant, include a couple of these projects in your portfolio. It shows that you are continuously trying to develop and some of these projects are on occasion, more interesting than your commercial projects.

11 ) ‘Discuss’ projects

With your printed portfolio, be ready to discuss not just what you did in the project, but for what purpose. For example, if your aim was to sell a product, mention this in notes and be prepared to elaborate if you are asked questions.

Keep the notes small and to the point but, try to write it in a way that will invite questions and open discussion.

12 ) Real-life examples

If you have created any real-life examples of your work be it packaging, stationery, or retail displays take photos of these and add them to your portfolio too.

Aside from breaking up your portfolio and keeping it interesting, having real-life examples adds a tangible authenticity to the project that a render of a flat image cannot replace.

tips graphic design portfolio - packaging example
tips graphic design portfolio - real life examples
More packaging this way

13 ) If you don’t have real examples

If you don’t have photos or real-life examples then create your own renders and visual mock-ups to show your work in action! And if you can’t create visualisations, you could always consider using a website such as Graphic Burger for freebie mockups.

Websites, such as Graphic Burger have a ton of free mockup kits.

tips graphic design portfolio way of displaying your website design work
UI design

14 ) Have real products and samples for your meeting

Another thing to accompany your graphic design portfolio is to have physical samples of what you have made. So, for example, if you have created a piece of packaging and you have the box – take it with you to the meeting.

People like to touch things – we are tactile creatures.

You can always show some of the work in progress in your portfolio too and then pull out a “Here is one I made earlier”. It can also help to shake up dull meetings.

15 ) A ‘bit’ of the design process

Showing some of how you work can offer a little extra insight into you as a designer, as mentioned before. For me, I will often keep completed visuals alongside some of the rough drawings and processes.

It holds true for both print and digital design.

I have a link here visualising my creative journey

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Tips for a graphic design portfolio – Section 2

This is a small break in the list! 30 Tips Graphic Design portfolio.

Hopefully, this has given you some ideas on how to create an interview-ready portfolio. As a designer, your portfolio is important at any stage of your career, whether you are a graduate or a senior designer.

If you are a graphic design graduate, I have written a post that may help you out.

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16 ) Type of physical portfolio

It should be noted right here and now, that a nice display book for your portfolio is never a replacement for good work and eye-catching design. It is just tidy a professional vessel to show your best pieces.

Since University, I have used a tidy A3 mapac portfolio to display my work.

Your portfolio needs to look professional. No stickers, No A-level ring binders with cloudy sleeves… slick and professional.

tips graphic design portfolio A3 portfolio book.
A3 Mapac

My personal favourite that is affordable is the A3 design book or if you have some cash for the sleeves too, archival cases.

Don’t use the cheaper-looking A2 ring binder portfolio that you probably went to a college interview with. You are a design professional now and you need to look the part, I would also like to remind you that you are in competition with other designers – with slick portfolios.

17 ) Art vs Design

I’m going to say something controversial to some – art & design, in most commercial settings, are not the same…

So, by all means, feel free to include some of your ‘artwork’ if it is relevant to the job.

But most agencies, unless you are an illustrator, are looking for a Graphic Designer – not an artist, and there is a difference, and more so in real commercial settings.

If you look too much like an artist as opposed to a design professional when you are applying for a professional graphic design role, this can work against you in a couple of ways:

  • Secretly, you want to be an artist and your portfolio shows this. Therefore do you have intentions to make this dream a reality? (leave the role in 5 minutes)
  • They are not hiring an artist (unless they are) they are looking for a graphic design professional for the position. You have sold yourself as more artist than a graphic designer
  • You will be frustrated as you probably won’t get to paint. (Who doesn’t love to paint!)

Make sure your skills and portfolio are in line with the job requirements. What you have in your portfolio will reveal more than you realise. Sell yourself to the position.

Then create all CVs and portfolio and reflect this.

tips graphic design portfolio

18 ) ‘Artwork’ in your graphic design portfolio

As lovely as some artwork can be, these more often than not offer an irrelevant distraction sadly. They may look beautiful, but unless relevant to a job or project it is best left out.

Or added to an alternative dedicated artwork portfolio.

If you have provided artwork for ad campaigns, an app, or something similar, include it if you feel it offers something to the job. But only if it offers something to the role. Make your portfolio about the job and what you can offer to the job that will be applicable.

19 ) How much work should I include in my design portfolio?

This question has been around for years and for as long as I have been designing – and in truth. I would struggle to say how much is too little for your printed design portfolio.

– For my printed portfolio, I try to hover around 14 pieces without it getting boring.

– I would say no more than 20 pieces in your portfolio. Recruiters would try to steer you toward around the 14 or 16 number.

Too much ‘okay’ work can dilute the great work. Be ruthless with what you include. it is a delicate balance of best foot forward and not selling yourself short. Or, if speaking to a recruiter for a role, ask them. Include work that will sing to the person hiring.

20 ) Stand out with your print portfolio

The tips and ideas listed in this post are elements of a much bigger goal – what can you do to make your portfolio stand out and get you a job?

Recruiters, HR, and businesses are busy and the chances are if you applied for a position at a company in a big city they will have received literally hundreds of applications. This is especially more likely if you are applying for work in the summer holidays.

How do I know this? Because I have been in the position of hiring for junior design roles.

So, this brings it back round to this point. What can you do to stand out in a roaring sea of busy inboxes?

Create real-world examples of how the project came out, If it is a piece of packaging then try to mock up the packaging. There are websites online that allow you to put together mock-ups if you can’t do this yourself.

If you have designed a kiosk, stand signage – take ‘in situ’ pictures that make a recruiter say “you actually made this”.

Other ‘wow’ factors for your graphic design portfolio

If it is digital design also, use web links to live websites if at all possible, however, it can be the case that website change – some make sure to take screen grabs.

If the website has changed and you only have a UI, create mock-ups of the design inside a computer screen or a Smartphone.

Assume that people will only spend around 60 seconds glancing at your portfolio. What can you do to hold their attention for longer? Also ‘show’ what something is as much as possible.

21 ) Make your design portfolio snappy

Did I mention that business owners are busy (or impatient)? Or both. I’m (and have been) guilty of this. I would advise making it so that your portfolio can be read easily and skimmed.

There may only be a couple of projects that actually catch the employers’ attention so make it easy for them to spot what they are looking for.

22 ) Compartmentalise and structure

Keep your portfolio in some sort of sensible order. Whether this is by project or by a medium such as print and then digital is down to you. Don’t jump between projects.

It will help any recruiter stay on track with what they are reading and make it look like you can apply some order to your projects. Being an organized designer is a huge plus too.

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Do I need a ‘digital’ portfolio?

Yes, in a very short answer. A quick step out here.

I have been asked “do I need a digital portfolio?” or specifically a PDF portfolio. 100% yes. You do need a digital portfolio saved as PDF. Get this sorted first as with the digital age, this will be your first port of call.

When I was recruiting for internships ( you can read tips here on getting an inhouse graphic design internship) and hiring for a junior role, I would also need to see a PDF of work along with a CV. And shall offer a little inside sub-tip right here, right now.

Subtip – After a time I stopped reading a design CV’s first

Think that is an odd thing to add?

It was not uncommon for me to read a great CV from top to bottom and say – “Wow this person sounds great! Let us hire them now.“

Then I would look a the portfolio…

I can recall looking at some of these portfolios and asking myself whether they were even Graphic Designers, it made me feel genuine pity for Graphic designers trying to struggle through and find work in the industry when these ‘have a goes’ were trying their luck.

Secondly. I had wasted 5 minutes of my time reading a CV of somebody who clearly wasn’t a Graphic Designer. From then on I took a portfolio-first approach.

Make both your CV and portfolio as good as it can be. It will help you secure the opportunity you want.

And to answer again – yes you will need a graphic design portfolio / PDF version. It is very important. Which leads to the next point.

23 ) Create PDF or online version of your portfolio

Moving on from physical hard copy of your print portfolio. I will now offer some ideas and insights on creating digital versions of your portfolio with this being the first digital tip.

Create a digital PDF version of your portfolio so that it can fit inside a recruiter’s inbox.

Make it eye-catching and don’t make the recruiter or the person having to hire need to work for it.

Make it as easy for them as humanly possible.

If you are struggling to know which program to use to create a digital PDF portfolio you can use Indesign and Adobe Acrobat and ‘save as’ or ‘export’ from there.

24 ) Keep the PDF small

Don’t send a MASSIVE portfolio to the recruiter’s inbox. This will either take too long to download or may even get caught in a firewall.

So with this I mind, and knowing that you should send a concise version of your PDF portfolio this will probably mean that you may have to trim the fat.

Cull the stuff that won’t help land you the job – next point!

25 ) Create A ‘light’ version of your PDF portfolio

One of the obvious ways of shrinking your portfolio is by losing some of the pages which makes it so bloated and heavy.

Lose projects and be brutal with what you want to include.

If needs be, strip it back to the bare essentials. And then decide what matters to you and what you should include. I can be worth doing this every year. We can call this maintenance.

26 ) Don’t bother sending Wetransfer links to download your WHOPPING great PDF

Please don’t.

Remember when I said ‘make it easy for them’ sending a link or a ‘Wetransfer’ isn’t making it easier for the recruiter to see your work. Don’t make ‘them’ (people hiring) have to wait to download your 2 GB portfolio as this takes time and invites more problems for you.

I tend to strive to try and keep my PDF portfolio under 3 / 4 MB tops so that I can attach it and get it inside an inbox.

From a recruitment standpoint making me have to download a PDF from 100 plus applications makes it time-consuming and more difficult than it needs to be.

So, don’t make a hiring manager download anything. Don’t waste their time.

It will be met with an inner groan. You don’t want to make the person hiring burst a blood vessel!

tips graphic design portfolio - dont do this...
Don’t cause this | tips graphic design portfolio

27 ) Make it easy for the hiring manager

Make it simple. Don’t send dozens of links to various locations. Have all of the big content in a single PDF or keep it all together as much as possible.

The more actions you ask the recruiter to take, the more likely they are to get bored or move on.

And you don’t want that. They are people behind the jobs, after all.

28 ) Links to online presence

In addition to your PDF portfolio, you should have some of your artwork online. And when I say online, I mean on platforms such as Behance, Creativepool, etc.

Putting additional work on websites such as Behance can be a great way of showing off additional work and sending follow-up links. The bits of the process you can’t fit into a portfolio or the bit of a project that didn’t quite make the final cut.

As a freelancer, it is especially important for you to have your work visible online but that is another topic for another day.

29 ) Deciding on ‘not’ having an online graphic design presence

Mixed opinions on this.

If this was for a job for a classic print house then I could let it go – maybe. But in this day and age with so much information, projects, and work being online I would have found it strange not to see any of your work online.

Even as a pure print designer. I would advise that you have your print work online also.

Here are a few reasons: It will most likely be the first thing people will look at when they want to see samples of your work – in particular as a freelancer.

Not having work online will age you – in a negative way (too much of a senior designer?). It may also be perceived that you may not have an interest in design trends etc.

I’m not mentioning that to be mean. Even a senior designer myself. I have found this to be an issue in the past.

30 ) Website Portfolio

You may not ‘need’ a dedicated online portfolio if you are just going to focus on print design. But, if you are gearing towards working in the digital fields then I would say yes – you should have some form of a website or at the very least an online presence as a bare minimum.

If you are thinking of creating a website I have written some tips here on how to start with some very affordable web creation options – keeping in mind, that the post mentioned is geared toward small business owners as opposed to how to create a killer graphic design portfolio.

A website allows you to sell yourself and sell yourself the way you want to.

Having online a Behance profile means that you are in a sea of designers and you have to structure portfolio according to their rules and format.

Don’t get me wrong, Behance is great. And I believe you should set up a profile today but not at the expense of a website – more true if you are a freelancer.

So… do you need a Website? Is it compulsory to have one?

No.

But having one may help you to stand out and possibly look more professional. You need to give yourself an edge.

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Summary | 30 tips for creating a graphic design portfolio

I hope these suggestions will help you in creating a graphic design portfolio that turns heads. If you also have tips for a graphic design portfolio feel free to share.

I have over 14+ years of commercial experience in graphic design – both digital design and print. I have also recruited quite a few graduate designers that I see falling at similar hurdles and I wanted to help you – as a graduate graphic designer (and maybe another professional designer) get to the design job you want.

Here are a couple of inspiring quotes:

“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.” – Milton Glaser

“No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist.” – Salvador Dalí

Graduate tips | graphic design portfolio
Graduate design tips

If you are a graduate looking for some design tips read this.

Additional Resources | tips for a graphic design portfolio

Getting a job in graphic design as a graduate – help me!

Ways to create a website for free … or very cheap

I want to make a party game

Photoshop – how to get the black you want in print!

The graphic design journey – my process

External Resources

Behance – create an online portfolio

Creative Pool – Look for jobs and create an online portfolio

Design Quotes

Thank you for reading, if you felt that this article was helpful please share. All the best with your portfolio. tips graphic design portfolio

How to get your packaging printed in China | 9 insights for Designers, Entrepreneurs & Startups

How to get your packaging printed in China in simple steps. This topic covers how to get your packaging printed in China from the concept to sending your design to a Chinese factory and getting printed proofs!

This post has been written based on past experience, in working with factories from overseas. My packaging design and artwork has featured on boxes in the UK and across the globe. If you would like to see some more samples of my packaging feel free to have a look!

Getting your packaging made in China
Getting your idea made!

General information about this post :

– The pitfalls
– What to expect when working with the factories.
– The typical stages
– Other details experiences

This article discusses my professional experience in getting packaging artwork printed with Chinese suppliers – all experience told from a design perspective.

I hope that this post will help you make an informed decision and how to go about getting the results you want from your suppliers.

You can get your artwork printed in China from a reputable factory or supplier. The challenge is finding a reputable factory and supplier and when you can’t speak the language, it can be difficult.

1 ) How to get your packaging made for your product (Chinese Factory)

If you are a business, an entrepreneur or someone looking to get a product manufactured for the retail market you will need packaging for your product, unless you are intending to sell only online using brown boxes. If you would like to read or see some of my eCommerce design you can view it here.

To be taken seriously, you will need to have professional packaging made.

Working with Chinese suppliers can be a great cost saving measure but you will need make sure you select the right one.

Mass production packaging
Mass production packaging

2 ) Why do companies get packaging for their products manufactured in China?

There are many reasons for a why a company may want to get a product or a piece of the packaging made in China if you are from a western country such as the USA or United Kingdom.

By far most common reason for getting products manufactured in China is to save money on production, printing or manufacturing fees. From a business perspective, this is great news – but it isn’t always as ideal or as cheap as it actually sounds. If you pick the wrong supplier it can cost you time and money and can even lead to trouble further down the line.

3 ) How to supply your packaging design to a Chinese factory

This isn’t as tricky as it sounds from the designers’ perspective but be prepared to teach the factory how to suck eggs. DO NOT Assume they will understand what you want. And DO NOT assume that things will be created ‘as is’, on occasions factories may ‘help’ and tinker with your work without your consent.

Stay vigilant on the process

Very vigilant…

Frustrated Designer… Frustrated factory, Frustrated business… etc

When you create a design you will need to annotate and make it as clear to follow as possible, be it using spot UV or any extra features this will need to be told in FULL.

I would also strongly advise on sending rough mock ups or drawings to help communicate what it is you are setting out to achieve. Visuals often make one of the best lines of communication when having your sample made with a Chinese supplier or factory.

Getting angry at the factory won’t accomplish anything.

It won’t fix the problem.

And it wont make you wealthier and it wont speed up the process. The ball is in your court in the end and it just needs to be right.

Send them visuals and explain EVERYTHING.

4 ) How to find a Chinese packaging a supplier

There are hundreds, possibly 1000’s of businesses online that are looking to print your packaging in China alone. You could go onto a website such as Alibaba to find a supplier or through Linkedin.

I still hear from suppliers coming through my Linkedin account.

By the far, the most effective (not cheapest) way is by hiring or contracting someone to work as a middleman or woman to work between you and the suppliers.

Communication is key in getting your design correct otherwise you will get something you didn’t want from the factories.

I would argue that getting a good supplier from one of the factories should be a top priority. A bad supplier will result in bad results – funnily enough!

Here are some key points when finding a factory or supplier to work with:

– *Find someone you can trust*
– Work with a factory that offers a quality service
– Get as much written down in the beginning as possible
– *Try to get prototypes or samples from factory supplier before mass production.

5 ) What to expect when having your packaging or product made in China

It all comes down to your supplier, communication and how you supply the artwork. It’s best to have everything ‘exactly’ as is when supplying artwork to factory and also be prepared for a bit of randomness when it comes to how they may produce the work.

Be vigilant and make sure to get ‘proofs’ from the factory.

I have written a couple of quick steps for you to follow when producing your packing:

– Find a reputable supplier, if you have somebody that is fluent in Chinese this can help tremendously

– See if you can get proofs or past evidence of packaging and material samples. What they sometimes say you will get and what you actually get is not uncommon in my experience.

– Getting digital proofs of your artwork through photos, and flat-screen image is a must.

– Delays can happen due to miscommunication from either or both parties.

Don’t let the factories take the initiative.

– The factories are generally better at giving you want you want if you send a 3D mock up or illustration.

– They are often very good at the cardboard engineering stage but not so much on the creative side.

– The factories can improve as with any working relationship with the more work you send them.

Weather can affect how and when your packaging may arrive.

– The Chinese factories can damage the packaging during ‘packing’ if they are rushed. Try not to rush them if you can help it.

– When supplying artwork, leave nothing to the imagination.

6 ) How long will it take to see your design once it is printed and shipped from a Chinese factory?

When having packaging printed In China, I have often seen a sample come back within one month, they can be very quick! Occasionally 3 months, depending on the weather, suppliers workload and method of transportation.

Shipping from China!
Shipping from China!

7 ) How to get packaging printed in China | The realities

When it is good it’s great and you will generally save money. When it isn’t great, as with some things in life, it can be a complete nightmare!

Working with new suppliers can be the most problematic as neither of you are familiar with working with each other, you don’t know each others strengths, habits, communication etc.

One of my mistakes when working with a new Chinese supplier is ‘assuming’ – assume NOTHING. Below are some assumptions to avoid based on past experience.

– Point 1 – Don’t assume that they know what is in your head.
– Neither should you assume that a single colour should go all the way around the packaging eg – if you leave white bits on the fold … they will print it as is.
– Don’t assume that they will offer the same level of service twice, they may be busy or rushed – or just – won’t offer it for some unknown reason.
– And don’t assume that the factory understands what is to be made when you supply the artwork. You need to make sure what you want is as clear and as transparent as possible – in the end, if you are the designer, or manufacturer, the buck ends with you.

Make it easy and clear, and talk about everything you can. Don’t assume their knowledge.

Get it right you will have a great piece of packaging. Get the communications wrong and you will be in for a whole load of pain.

8) Great reasons for having your work made In China

I feel that I have covered many of the perks scattered through the post but it may be easier to bullet point why it is a good idea to have your packaging and product created in China in a quick to scan list.

– Getting work printed In China or overseas is often cheaper than getting work printed in western countries such as the UK or United States
– There is an abundance of suppliers of products and packaging manufactures on websites such as Alibaba
– It’s easy and quick to get wholesale and bulk quotes for your product
– Using a factory in China will help you save money if you are looking to reduce overheads.

9 ) The ‘challenges’ with getting things printed in China

For its many perks and plus points for getting packaging and products printed in China it also comes with its shortcomings and challenges. I have listed a couple of points below based on first-hand experience and industry observations.

Copyright theft: the factories are notorious for stealing and selling your product ideas as their own. Not every factory is like this, but it is not uncommon. I have witnessed Chinese factories use my previous employer’s artwork and pass onto a competitor. There are other random knock off’s I have stumbled upon ranging from copies of renown books, bad copies of Hollywood films etc.

Stealing Kickstarter’s: I have seen factories steal Kickstarter campaigns and undercut the creators. Worse, the factories release their copy to the retail market before true creators have made it themselves. Sad stories really.

The decrease in quality: This isn’t something that always happens but on occasions, the suppliers I have worked with would do little things like: use less glue, ship scuffed or damaged work, rush on the packaging if you have blisters inside your box etc.

I also think this was a case of reducing expenses and overheads, but that is only my opinion.

As with anything, there are always challenges that can come when producing products. I have also worked with printers in the UK which have ignored specifics such as bleed and just printed it as is. Although one bonus as with most things online, is that you can check reviews

Getting packaging and artwork printed in China

Thank you for reading this post on how to get packaging and artwork printed in China. If you would like to know more about getting your work printed feel free to get in touch or view this post about packaging design

I have over 10 years commercial design experience and over 8.4/5 years working with retail design and producing packing through the Chinese factories.

You may wish to read more on :

How I designed a novelty flash drive product
Packaging Design
Creating a Killer Kickstarter Page
How to have your brand tell a story

Speed tips for Photoshop layers!

Speed tips and shortcuts for Photoshop layers!

If like me you need work layers in Photoshop any time saving measure is a bonus. I have a compiled a short list of shortcuts for making the best use of Photoshop’s layers for both the Mac and PC – Enjoy!

(Swap CMD for CTRL on Windows)

Photoshop Layer Icons
Photoshop Layer icons
Photoshop Layer UI
Layer Graphics

Change the layer order,
move it up and down :

  • Cmd+[ Move Down
  • Cmd+] Move Up 
  • Cmd+Shift+] = to move it to the bottom of the stack
  • Cmd+Shift+[ = Move it to the top of the stack

Direct select a layer

With move tool selected (V) hold Cmd to highlight the layers directly from the art board. This will also highlight groups.

Duplicate a layer 

Ideal for copying a layer! Cmd + J to copy a selected layer! Or you can drag the selected onto the ‘New” icon! OR right click and duplicate – A personal fave.

Colour Coordinated

In addition to organizing you layers into folder and groups, why not colour coordinate the layers so you glance at groups? Brown for dirt, green for sea etc. Right click and select a colour.

New Layer Cmd+Shift + N brings up the new layer dialogue.

Cycle Through Blend Modes

Need to see what a multiply, saturation, or overlay will look like on the fly?

Shift + (Minus or plus, top right of the keyboard)

Layer Opacity
With the layer selected you can quickly change its opacity by pressing >

Shift + (Minus or plus, top right of the keyboard)
Shift + 22, 30, 23 (a number from the top row) typing the number in quick succession will change the layers opacity percentage. Hold shift and then press “22” the layer will be 22% “30” = 30 %.

Very handy for digital painting or retouching.

Group Layers

Select your layers and press Cmd + G to group them together. If you are not grouping your numerous layers… you should start. For sanity’s sake.

The original text for this was created and added to blogger in 2016 (Jimm Odell Blog). This has since been tweaked and added to this blog – the professional blog.

Tips For Creative Brief : suggestions on writing a simple brief | Client to Designer

Vector icon for writing a simple design brief.
No fuss, suggestions for writing a brief.

Designer to Client

Hey, maybe you are looking for some ideas on writing a creative brief and dont know where to start? Maybe you need ideas for writing the details for the next website some early pointers for a rebrand? This post has been written to give you, ‘the client’ some rough guidelines for setting a brief. Imagine answering the following…

Purpose & Plan

What is the purpose of the project? Is it to expand the business, launch a new product range or to promote something that you are already offering?

You will need to have some sort of a plan and end goal in mind for the project. If you don’t know what it is that you business needs, that’s OK… maybe you would prefer an initial chat first? Do take into account, without a plan or and end goal, even a loose one, you will end up going around in circles and costing yourself time. Maybe ask yourself some of these questions :-

  • What do I want to get out of it? Profits, more followers, leads etc
  • What will my return on investment be? (RIO)
  • Can this be achieved for the budget?
  • Should I do this now or should work on something else first?
  • What is the competition doing? 
  • How can do it differently/better?

Listed a above are some general open ended questions. If you are stuck and would like some initial design consultation and help with project planning get in touch.

Budget

The budget is important to consider as this will affect the amount of time that will be allocated to your project – factoring in deployment, build/design, concept and whether anything else needs to be considered. Below, are 2 methods to factor in – there are many others but for the sake of the article and to give you and idea I have picked 2.

Cascading, fluid, rolling. This method, is far more open-ended financially but allows for plenty of creative and innovative freedom, a designers dream more often than not as this can offer up great results. A draw back with this free flowing approach is that money can keep on going into a project, regular checks on the amount spent so far are a good approach and ball park figure should be offered in the beginning, especially with smaller business with tighter purse strings. So the pros and cons of this.
Pros :
– Offers great results, project continues until a project is at its best
– You dont pay for surplus time in case the project was over estimated on a fixed rate.

Cons
– Can be scary for start ups or businesses that have a very tight budget

Fixed price, this method usually suits both parties, or so I have found, a draw back with this is that sometime contracts and prices need to sometimes be re-evaluated should there be substantial changes to a project specification. In the beginning, a ‘fixed estimate’ will be discussed. beginning, factoring in changes (or tweaks) additional requests will increase the price as more time will be required. But you will also need to have an idea of what you need for a project for a budget.
Pros :
– Allows for more careful budgeting and price conscious projects
– Avoids ‘surprises’ when the bill comes.
– Stipulates clear objectives.

Cons :
– Projects can be underestimated and will need to be reevaluated for the time required.
– If additional features (feature packing) are added part way through it will can unsettle expectations on both parties.

Time Frame

Take into account when you need a project to be completed, things can take time to finish, the designer may be working on several projects at once and they may not all be yours. Also, waiting to hand over all relevant information at the last minute will end in disappointment eg, sending all the photo’s over for flyer an hour before a production deadline or as the designer needs to leave will not make the best of it… Get the relevant information such as, text, photo’s, FTP details etc over in decent time. It is neither fair and shouldn’t be expected that designer will drop everything including free time, family life and other projects to do your work. The earlier, the better! Besides, doing everything last minute just increases risk of failure for a projects.

Target Market

If this is a design project that is yet to have a brand established have you considered who the target market will be? Is this for children, adults, professionals, tourist, artists, trade and so on.

Branding

Do you have an existing brand guidelines for your company? If you have any existing logo, colours, fonts, do’s and don’ts this may be required for the project to be completed.

Deployment

Depending on the desired project, how do you intend to deploy the project? Will this be a small web banner, a flyer, will you be using a printer, will this be a for screen, will it be for print? It is worth considering how this may evolve in the future be it for print or screen. It is easier to scale a large file down or resize a vector than it is to resize a 60 px 60 px logo onto a bricks and mortar shop.

Limitations

Is there anything in the that the designer can’t do? Will it be for a certain target demographic, politically sensitive, have to fit on some something small, needs fit x y z etc etc

I hope this gives some food for thought, if this all looks a bit scary. It isn’t! Its fun and can be a great journey. If you would like to ask a question please feel free to do so.