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Show case: Developing, Maintaining, and Presenting a Design-tech Portfolio for Theatre and Allied Fields.

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Show case: Developing, Maintaining, and Presenting a Design-tech Portfolio for Theatre and Allied Fields, Second Edition

by Rafael Jaen. Waltham, MA, Focal Press, 2011. 248pp. Paper, $40.

As a veteran of scores of U/RTA and freelance interviews, I kept wondering as I read Rafael Jaen's Show Case, "Why didn't I have this book five (or ten or twenty) years ago?" Jaen, who teaches at Emerson College in Boston, has taken this vast topic and broken it down into five easily digestible sections. He has pulled together an exceptional collection of tips for the creation of design/tech portfolios, graphic identities, resumes, CVs, electronic portfolios, and websites. The book also delves into marketing, job interview techniques, and keeping portfolio materials current.

Show Case is an outstanding resource for instructors polishing their documents as they prepare for tenure reviews, MFA students and early professionals looking for design gigs, and especially for undergraduate students looking to interview for graduate training. Students preparing for U/RTA interviews, please read this book and adapt your portfolios accordingly.

First Impressions

We all want to believe that we do a good job presenting our portfolios. We have passion about the quality of the projects we have created and are certain that confidence will show through in an interview. I heard years ago that employers often accepted or discarded resumes within ten seconds. Is it true? Is that an urban legend? How does that relate to inter views? In the section entitled "Presenting and Marketing Your Portfolio," Jaen starts with research from Johns Hopkins, Ohio University, and UCLA.

Quoting the image consultant Stephanie Deitzer, Jaen says, "We each have between seven and seventeen seconds to make a first impression, and it takes an additional eighteen encounters to change that impression. What you say accounts for only seven percent of an overall first impression you make on someone; the tone and sound of your voice, thirty-eight percent; and how you look, including facial expression, accounts for fifty-five percent."

Jaen suggests a clear three-step approach: "being present, present, and leave a present." Designers must represent themselves in a professional yet personalized manner and engage in a confident rapport during the interview: "being present." Designers need to be able to speak with well-organized confidence about their process: "present." After the interview, how will the designers be remembered? How have they set themselves apart? That the designer has been able to communicate his or her abilities goes a long way toward making a lasting, positive impression: "leave a present."

Electronic portfolios

The first edition of this book was published in 2006. With the necessity of designers having an online presence, a second edition was inevitable. The section entitled "What is an Electronic Portfolio?" is filled with ideas about using the web and social media to their utmost effect, from websites to Flickr image sets to Facebook pages.

To illustrate one point, Jaen uses examples of his design for David Mamet's Boston Marriage. He takes all of his character-specific design documents (research, swatches, and renderings) and uses PowerPoint to collage them together. After adding text, he exports them as JPGs and creates a Flickr slide show for his fellow collaborators to discuss. He highlights that digital portfolios, whether for a single rendering or a collection of work, are effective tools to enhance ongoing collaborations. Digital portfolios can expand designers' efficiency and quality of communication and dramatically increase exposure of their brand--themselves.

Jaen discusses how the use of an electronic portfolio, or e-portfolio, may not only mean a design website, but a PowerPoint or PDF on a CD that the designer leaves with an interviewer at the end of a meeting. E-portfolios can also be a hyperlink to a Flickr slideshow of research or sketches or a PDF that is created to show collaborators. He gives sound advice that digital e-portfolios should not be used in place of hardcopy portfolios. We all have heard horror stories of a candidate showing up for the interview with only a digital portfolio having to face some terminal failure in the technology. A designer must have both weapons in his or her arsenal.

Fifty-five collaborators

"Contributors" contains the biographies of fifty-five artists who have added their point-of-view and design materials, portfolios, and/or web pages to the book. The addition of so many voices creates a sense of community to the work. These collaborators range from titans of our field (e.g., John Iacovelli and Carrie Robbins) to students finishing their undergraduate training (with envy-worthy portfolios). They are briefly introduced throughout the book, but in this section their biographical information is expanded and in many cases their URLs provided. The reader can visit artists' websites and gain further inspiration about alternate ways of presenting work. I bookmarked several of the sites and will return with frequency.

Other good sections include a discussion on branding, James Michael Garner's comments about choosing an internet server, Brendan F. Doyle's comments on sound design portfolios (yes, an actual resource for sound designers), and Carrie Robbins's piece, "Theatre Designers and Computers," reprinted from TD&T, Vol. 38, No. 4.

In each part of Show Case, there are suggestions of best practices, questions for the designer to consider about his or her own work, lists of dos and don'ts, and dozens of photos. The frequency, size, and clarity of these images are greatly appreciated. Jaen encourages designers to treat their portfolio as they would a design, with clarity and precision, paying attention to every detail.

Jaen helps readers assess the success of their portfolios and interview abilities, in order to further refine their materials, a great reminder that our portfolios are never done. I will return to this book with frequency as I update my own portfolio, encourage my students to own a copy, and use it in my classes. Show Case is an outstanding resource.

R. Eric Stone, director of graduate studies and associate professor in scenic design for the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Iowa, was the associate designer for the 2011 and 2007 USITT USA Exhibits at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. www.rericstone.com
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Author:Stone, R. Eric
Publication:TD&T (Theatre Design & Technology)
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2012
Words:1023
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