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I'm a student and I started my first portfolio. I'm doing some "fake jobs." I can do 3D and 2D (I'm not so good at drawing [yet]). In the future I hope to work with designing album covers, posters, and such.

What are some good projects for my portfolio?

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    Do what you do best. Do more of that. Then do something you are not good at, and do it well... – benteh Jul 14 '15 at 18:05
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Most 'fake' jobs in portfolios are often student work. That doesn't mean you can't come up with your own projects, of course. You just want to try and keep to the same methods that are used in student work--which is to say that even though the project is 'fake' in that there is no real, paying client, the project is treated as if there were a real, paying client.

This is what makes for good design: a good problem. Design is a solution to a problem. That problem first has to be defined.

Before making a fake design you first need to make a fake client and a fake problem.

This is usually handled as a form of creative brief. There are many examples of creative briefs out there. Here's just one from a quick google search.

At the simplest level, though you'll want to define a few things:

  • who is the client?
  • who is the clients' target audience?
  • what is their objectives they hope to achieve with this design?

By having a few of these figured out, your design can then be seen as an answer to a problem. People looking at portfolios want to see solutions.

Of course, you can do this backwards. Maybe you came up with a really cool logo. You could just slap that into your portfolio and say "I made this because it's cool" but it'd be better to take the time to come up with a back story for it. Then you can say "I came up with this particular solution to meet the client's needs of x, y, and z and I met these needs via..."

PS: The number of people that make a living designing album covers is pretty small. So keep that in perspective.

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I think there are 2 basic type kinds of portfolios.

  1. The artist type. The main example is deviantart.com. You see it in photography sites also. The main objective is to develop your technique at max.

Expose your work. Be prepared to recive some harsh critics too. Make another version of a previous work, experiment.

You say that you can do 3D images. In several forums of the render engines you can post your work and recive feedback. Do that.

  1. The client portfolio. Of course this could be an issue. But you can invent some brands, probably you can do it a safe way, like a "Happy Cow" milk brand. But as DA01 say, put some background on your project. George Lucas once said. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.

Make posters, invent a phrase, use a royalty free one, from classic writers, invent a new movie.


Just be careful on using copyrighted material. Of course you can make some "fan art" related images, but it is better if you start from scrach.

One aditional thing. Be a gentleman. If you use some free resource, like photos, reference it to the author.

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I somewhat disagree with the other answers because of what your goals are.

I think in this instance its very acceptable to create fan art in your portfolio, as long as you label it as such.

Say you create a Poster for a Post Modern Jukebox's concert or even just some fan art. As long as you label it as an unpublished piece in your portfolio I think it carries just as much weight.

And with Fan Art you can use Instagram / Twitter to try and get it in front of the artist. If they like it they might even repost it.

Some won't agree with this mind you, and it could be viewed as free work. But its a lot easier to say these things than do them. Particularly when you want to be working in album and poster art you have to start somewhere.

I don't know what country you're in but if USA at least there's ALWAYS posts on Craigslist looking for people to make posters / CD covers and stuff. Will it pay? Maybe. Will it pay well? Doubt it. But it'll give you something real to work on and add to your book.

For example a quick search found this (screenshotting so it doesn't become a dead link):

enter image description here

TL;DR:

As long as you don't pass off a Poster for a musician / movie you like as being a commissioned piece in your portfolio there's nothing wrong with it.


Additional questions to read:

  • I disagree about seeking out free work ala Craigslist. Not because of the devaluation of the industry (though that's an issue) but mainly because those aren't 'real' projects meaning the type of client looking for free work isn't going to be a good client, period. Anyone that doesn't value their needs enough to pay a professional isn't going to be the kind of client that you can do good work for. – DA01 Jul 9 '15 at 15:56
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    @DA01 valid concern but when first starting out I'm less interested in "good client" than "any client." Maybe if I lived in a bigger city or was better at networking I'd go through those channels but I don't and am awful at networking. When starting out I took whatever I could get. Now I can be selective about what clients and projects I take on. – Ryan Jul 9 '15 at 16:08
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    I have the same issues (I suck at networking!) but I guess my point was that it's better to be your own client and come up with a project on your own than to deal with non-paying clients. Granted, if you can work for family or the likely, that can work, but generally speaking, clients that aren't willing to pay for work also tend to be clients that don't help you in any way produce good solutions. – DA01 Jul 9 '15 at 16:11
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    @DA01 true but can focus on the low paying ones. I've never done entirely free except volunteer. But I'd take a low paying job off craigslist over a free job or even paid job from a family member. And again this is also because of the type of work the OP wants to be involved in. If they were looking to do packaging design for example I wouldn't be saying to look for young artists wanting CD artwork on craigslist. – Ryan Jul 9 '15 at 16:15
  • (+1) Doing that kind of work or fan projects is the same as doing school projects. It's way better to show these in a portfolio than showing "real" client's project the designer is not 100% proud of. Plus it is a way to grow a network. Plus it can be fun too. – go-junta Jul 10 '15 at 1:31
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You don't need "client" work, fake or real, so much as you need to show your skill set with of art "basics." Perspective, Foreshortening, Depth, Lighting/Values, Color, and Texture. If you can combine this with a strong compositional eye as regards typesetting, it really doesn't matter that you are a student. The creative talent will shine through, and the technical skills will support the creativity.

You can very easily turn any good image into an album cover for any band, real or imagined. Or a greeting card, or a calendar. Or...

Check out the portfolio requirements for some of the Art Schools and Art Programs of National Colleges and Universities. You will see them asking for Interior renderings, possibly a Still Life, and various examples showing the "basics" as I described above, some with specifications to provide examples of human and/or animal anatomy, action, and other categories. Many of these can likewise be turned into album covers, or other uses. Showcase your skills, and don't worry about imaginary or real client work. An imaginary Hot Sauce company is no less effective a portfolio piece if the graphic works, than if it was a real submission to a real company.

Best of success to you!

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When I was a student and I needed to create portfolio work, I found D&AD New Blood briefs to be extremely useful. They are all World wide brands and are vaired to all types of design.

The D&AD New Blood Awards: 17 mind-blowing real world briefs just waiting for your creative magic. As usual, all are set by killer clients and judged by the top superstar creatives of your dreams.

You candownload their briefs here

Thesebriefs are used in an annunal compitetion and change each year, although even if you don't plan to enter, they will help you create varied work for recognisable brands.

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