Show’Em What You Got: Tips from SCC’s Portfolio Show Advisor

By Coral Nafziger

School is where students learn stuff and do a bunch of assignments.

Graduates often fall into two categories — those who have their coursework saved in all kinds of unfindable files across several flash drives, devices and accounts; and those who have their projects organized and can show when asked.

When students leave SCC, they need to be able to communicate to employers, or the admissions departments of schools where they would like to transfer, what they have learned and can do. For students in many creative disciplines, this means putting together a portfolio. Claire Fant, who teaches in SCC’s Visual Communications Technology (VCT) program and advises the VCT club as they prepare to host SCC’s annual portfolio show, has some tips.

Show your thought process

Fant says a portfolio should show how the artist created their work. It should take the viewer from initial ideas, such as thoughts, brainstorms and word lists, all the way to the finished product.

Tailor your portfolio for who will see it

Fant recommends that students make work that is similar to what they want to do. For job seekers, she suggests researching agencies or companies where they would like to work and creating work that is along the lines of what is already being produced there.

Students who plan to transfer to another school should create work similar to what they want to study — someone who wants to study concept art at DigiPen, for example, should include examples of concept art in their portfolio, says Fant.

The VCT program includes “Specialization” courses, which are kind of like group independent study classes. Each Specialization student considers what they would like to add to their portfolio, and spends the quarter working on their own projects with assistance from a teacher and feedback from classmates.

Fant says that the Specialization classes give students the opportunity to customize portfolios. For students who are at SCC to develop a portfolio so they can transfer to another school, Fant says these classes can be particularly valuable.

Spend time on your portfolio

Although students leave SCC with finished work, it may not necessarily be portfolio-ready. The VCT club, which Fant advises, will be hosting a portfolio show in the spring. She says one of the biggest benefits of participating in the portfolio show is that it forces students to look critically at their work and bring it to the next level.

Networking and soft skills

Portfolios are important for showing work, but Fant says people are also looking for clues about the person behind the projects. She says that joining clubs and participating in activities can help chances of being hired or admitted to a program.

Fant, a former SCC student who went into business with a classmate after graduating, refers to the people students meet at school, along with family and friends, as their “first network.” These people, she says, can look out for opportunities and give recommendations.

Attending meetups, gatherings and conventions are ways Fant suggests that students expand their networks and get to know people in the field who may throw an opportunity their way.

Create an online presence

Dennis Bishop, a teacher in the VCT program, requires the students in his Specialization classes to create online portfolios. He says that designers cannot simply explain what they do — they have to be able to show it, and these days the way to do that is often online.

LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and blogs can also be helpful to creatives, says Fant. These platforms allow the opportunity to describe process, share tips and links and display projects, all of which, Fant says, adds value to a person’s work.

Take advantage of school

“Students tend to want to get through things as quickly as possible,” says Fant. She recommends, though, that they slow down and take time to absorb what they are learning before they leave.
Fant says that when she was at SCC, she didn’t take all the classes she should have and ended up regretting it when she went to work.

The VCT Club will begin accepting submissions for their portfolio show soon. Fant encourages students to submit work even if it is not portfolio-ready because all participants will have access to assistance.

To see examples of work from last year’s portfolio show, visit