Monthly Archives: October 2011


5 Ways Your Online Portfolio Can Suck

You may be a brilliant graphic designer. So why is your online portfolio anything less than brilliant? There are many common pitfalls that designers typically fall into when designing their online portfolio, all of which are avoidable. The trick is to identify these problems whenever they arise and beat them into submission. Kind of like “Whack-a-Mole” for the digital age. Here are some things to watch out for:

1. Too much information

There’s an old adage that says “leave ‘em wanting more.” Including every single assignment from design school is overkill.
Quick Fix: Identify your best 10-15 pieces. Ask others for their first impressions when you’re trying to decide, if you find it hard to choose.

2. Distracting Site Design

While its true that your site should in some ways function as a portfolio piece in and of itself, it doesn’t live up to its purpose if it distracts from the other work. Showing restraint and good taste in your designs is just as much a part of being a designer as being creative is. All the creativity in the world won’t save a design that is simply not appropriate to its mission. In this case, your mission is to highlight your work. So you should let your work be the star in your portfolio.

3. Confusing Navigation

So you have a visitor on your site. But if they don’t know where to go next, or how to find what they are looking for, they are just going to leave.
Quick Fix: When it comes to navigation, be crystal clear. Use plain language, this is not the place to be cute. Also, place your main navigation in a prominent spot on the page. Studies have shown that the top left is by far the best place to put it.

4. Clichéd Copy

Many designers put so much emphasis on the visuals on their site that they completely neglect the words. Remember, people will hire you based on the way you communicate. There are so many trends that I am seeing right now that waaay too many designers are using. How many designer pages have you seen lately that have some variation of this in very large type:

“My name is _____ and I like to Design Things”?

While that may have been considered cute a few years ago, we can safely say that it is officially played out. A few other over-used phrases that I have noticed include referring to yourself as a “rockstar,” “ninja,” or “guru.”
Not-so-quick fix: I recommend visiting many designer portfolios and take notice of what others aren’t doing, and do that. It pays to be an original.

5. Out of Date Content

Does your portfolio show your best work up to and including today? If you haven’t refreshed your online portfolio in a while it isn’t living up to its full potential. The whole idea here is that as your talent and your work gets better and better, so should your portfolio. If you didn’t design it to be easily updatable, adding new content, (and taking out the old) can be a cumbersome, tedious process, but you would be wise to take the time once a month or so, to make it as current as it can be. This doesn’t mean that everything must be brand new. God knows I have some pieces on my site that are several years old, but I keep them up because I like them, and they stand the test of time.
Not-so-quick fix: If you are planning a redesign, or planning on designing your first online portfolio, I highly recommend using a content management system, such as WordPress. It makes it super easy to switch pieces in and out as needed, keeping your site minty fresh at all times.


Use RightSignature to Get Your Graphic Design Contract Signed Online

Video By The Deep End Graphic Design

Part 4: Get Your Contract Signed Online Using RightSignature

Watch Part 1: The Graphic Design Proposal
Watch Part 2: The Graphic Design Contract
Watch Part 3: BidSketch to Streamline Your Design Proposal
Download my sample contract

Welcome to the fourth and final video in my series about graphic design proposals and contracts. So far, we have covered a lot of information on these topics, and I have even shown you a great way of writing and sending your proposal electronically using BidSketch.

In this video, we will build on what we have already learned and do the same for your contract. But a contract has to be signed by you and your client, right? Yes, and that can be done online as well. The trick is that we have to use another online application called RightSignature in conjunction with BidSketch. This easy last step allows you to email the contract to your client, and all they have to do is simply “sign” on the dotted line with their mouse.

This method is every bit as legally binding as if they signed by hand, (you can read documentation on that here) and once its signed, you can print out a pdf of the document (signature and all!) for your records. Another benefit of doing it this way is that it makes it easy on your client as well. And one thing I’ve learned is that the easier you make it for your client to sign the contract, the better the chances that they will actually do it.

Now that we are finished with this series on graphic design proposals and contracts, do you have any tips or tricks about how you handle them?


Using BidSketch to Streamline Your Design Proposal – Video Tutorial


Part 3: Using BidSketch to Streamline Your Proposal

Watch Part 1: The Graphic Design Proposal
Watch Part 2: The Graphic Design Contract
Download my sample proposal

Welcome to the third video in my series about graphic design proposals and contracts. In this video, we will take what we’ve learned about writing an effective graphic or web design proposal, and kick it up a notch. This technique, which uses an online proposal software program called BidSketch, guides you through the proposal writing process, is fully customizable and allows you to digitally send your proposal to your client. They can then approve it, decline it, or offer notes on it. BidSketch has an attractive, intuitive interface that will have you up and running in a matter of minutes.

If you have watched my previous videos, then you already know the sections that I personally recommend to include in your proposal. This format has worked very well for me, and I do swear by it. However, if you don’t wish to use it, BidSketch offers eight section modules that you can choose from to customize your own proposal.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for the last video in the series, which will take things even further, and show you how to use BidSketch in conjunction with another online program to write, assemble and digitally send your contract to your client and have them sign it electronically. It’s kind of the grand finale, so you won’t want to miss it!


Graphic Design Contracts Made Simple – Video Tutorial

Video By The Deep End Graphic Design

Part 2: The Graphic Design Contract

Watch Part 1: The Graphic Design Proposal here
Download my sample contract here

Welcome to the second video in my series about graphic design proposals and contracts. In this video, we will dive into what I consider the most important part: the graphic design contract. Contracts are important for so many reasons. They set the ground rules for the relationship between you and your client, they stipulate payment terms and deadlines for milestones. But most importantly, they protect you and your business. It works for logo design, print design and web design clients. If you have not yet watched the first video about proposals, you should go back and watch that first, since we will be building on steps that I already covered in it.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for my next video which will show you a cool way to streamline your proposal process online. Its a real time-saver, you don’t want to miss it!


Graphic Design Proposals Made Simple – Video Tutorial

Video By The Deep End Graphic Design

Part 1: The Graphic Design Proposal

Download my sample proposal here

When I was getting started as a graphic designer, there were two things that confused the hell out of me. I didn’t know how to handle them, and to be honest, I really didn’t even know the difference between them. I am of course talking about proposals and contracts. I would search online for resources, and everything I found only served to confuse me more. I couldn’t find any clear-cut examples to look to for guidance. Remembering my initial struggle, I am going to try to change that for new designers, by putting out this 4 part video series showing you exactly what you should include, and providing lots of examples along the way. I have even included a downloadable PDF of the proposal I use for The Deep End. I use it for logo design clients, web design clients, and everything in between, and it has worked extremely well for me so far.

In short, the proposal is your sales pitch to a prospective client. You will usually write a proposal after you have had your initial consultation with the client, where hopefully you have asked all the right questions, and done a little digging. In your graphic design proposal, you will demonstrate your knowledge about what the client’s needs are, and you will lay out an action plan for how you will address those needs. You will also give some background information on yourself or your company to make the client feel like you are the right choice for the project. You will include a project timeline, and a line item estimate or quote, so they know how much they should expect to pay you, and when.

A proposal is not a contract. In my next blog post, I will continue with Part 2 of the video series, which will cover contracts fully, so you can see the difference between the two. Stay tuned!