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Let's talk about portfolios, UAL advise on things to remember

Published date
13 Jan 2020
Author
Megan St Clair Morgan

With UCAS applications due in January - if you’re in the midst of your final year of college, we’ve got some advice direct from UAL’s teams on what you should think about for inclusion in your portfolios this coming year. Whether you’re planning to apply for next year or in the future, it’s great to know what the teams selecting students look for, and it’s probably not what you’d expect!

Portfolios are a vital part of the application process for some courses at UAL, upon viewing your ideal course it’ll state whether you’ll need to submit a portfolio. So UAL have put together a great PDF guide which you can download and keep for reference – we've brought the key pieces of advice to you, below.

Alongside these fantastic tips, we offer specific portfolio preparation courses for various subjects – from filmmaking, to animation you'll have a guided week of preparations for creating your portfolio. Learn how to showcase your process whilst building your skillset via techniques taught in workshops on the course. When you finish your course, you’ll have a finalised portfolio and all the skills you need to continue adding to it prior to interviews as your work continues to progress.

So, what is a portfolio?

We like to think of a portfolio as a window into your own unique world through which we can see your skills, personality and potential. It’s a collection of your work demonstrating how your creativity has developed over a period of time. It shows your ability to work with different materials, themes and techniques, as well as how you research, develop and plan your ideas. A portfolio should be professional, yet human – we want to see you amongst the pages.

Personality is paramount

You’re applying to a specific undergraduate course, so we want to see your passion and enthusiasm for that area. It’s not always about how advanced your skill set is but what your potential is. As creatives we put a lot of ourselves into our work, so ensure that comes across in your portfolio.

Balance process and perfection

Don’t be embarrassed by imperfect drawings or unfinished plans, it’s all part of your process and is how we understand your ability to ideate. We always like to see research, development and final outcome.

However do be mindful of presentation

If you’ve got samples, ensure they’re mounted on same-sized clean card and always use high-res imagery. It’s your work, so give it the best possible chance of making a good impression. Feel free to include labels and indicators so we know what materials and creative methods were involved.

Consider your audience

Instead of chronological order we advise a strong narrative. Compare it to a piece of music or a good book: an impactful beginning, interesting middle and a punchy end. Some courses involve interviews or submitting a purely digital application so it’s imperative to consider your audience. Ensure work has room to breathe, is all the same orientation and can speak for itself.

Be decisive

While we love to see a variety of work within your portfolio we do want to see your ability to edit. It’s all about establishing a balance, don’t submit everything you’ve ever done but don’t pare it back to nothing at all. If you have lots of drawings, show us a few of your favourites. If you’re including film, edit it down and include stills to be efficient.

Show us what you love

Don’t assume what we want to see. It’s better to include what you want us to see. You can submit unfinished pieces, independent or group work – but do remember to indicate this so we know the origins of the project and the role you played in it. You may really excel at a certain technique but show variety, endeavour to keep the work on topic without it becoming repetitive. Show us your range, keep our attention.

Think about format

With format, opt for what best suits the creative area you’re working in. Consider practicality too – is a bulky folder going to hinder you in transit? Tailor the format of your portfolio to suit the situation. With content, keep it uncluttered and relevant. Have a reason for every single thing you include. Your portfolio should be clear and confident; if you can’t explain why something is in there – take it out.

What's next?

We offer a range of portfolio courses for various subjects – from filmmaking, to animation you'll have a guided week of preparations for creating your portfolio. Learn how to showcase your process whilst building your skillset via techniques taught in workshops on the course. When you finish your course, you’ll have a finalised portfolio and all the skills you need to continue adding to it prior to interviews as your work continues to progress.

Portfolio preparation courses

Portfolio preparation courses for 16-18 year olds