Data #13: The Evolution of Portfolios

In the last decade or so, portfolios have evolved in format and delivery. Years ago, artworks or documents would be organized in a folder or a briefcase. That was the physical portfolio. As the digital format became more efficient, online portfolios appeared all across the Internet. The is no right or wrong answer in which format is better to present a portfolio. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Yet even now, portfolios can be presented in a new and creative way.

Past: The Physical Portfolio
The physical portfolio, which was called a “book,” gave more power and control to the artist. Employers or clients had little say about what they did not like in the artist’s portfolio. In addition, the portfolio was organized in a linear, straightforward fashion.[1]

Printed portfolios can give a good impression to the employer or client. However, there is a disadvantage in the printed portfolio: creating a printed portfolio can be costly and impractical if you had to reprint a page (or the entire book) every time you created a new work.

Without the Internet, it was also much more difficult to network with others. In addition, it cost money to print portfolios, business cards, and other materials. Basically, printing a portfolio was expensive.[2]

Present: The Online Portfolio
With the birth of the Internet, everybody has access to all the tools and resources to create an online portfolio. Now, the employer or client’s opinions matter much more because they have more freedom to choose whether they like the artist’s work or not. Accessing an online portfolio becomes more organic instead of a linear process.

These are the advantages of building an online portfolio:

  • It is less costly than printing a portfolio.
  • It is also more convenient for the artist to edit or update the website.
  • Artists now have more potential to make themselves a brand and promote themselves to the online community.

With the Internet, networking with people becomes much easier. Anybody can communicate with anybody in the entire globe. Nowadays, there is a stronger push for artists to present their works online to attract the audience’s attention.[3]

However, artists will also need to put effort and careful considerations in how to draw attention. If the artists’ online portfolios have poor web design or navigation, their audience will likely grow disinterested and leave the website.

Artists will also need to be cautious of people stealing their online works. It is harder to track down an art thief who steals from an online portfolio than an art thief who steals a printed portfolio.

Use Apple iPads? What’s Next?
I never expected the Apple iPad to be used as a way to present a portfolio! Mike Tittel, a photographer, talks about the pros and cons in using the iPad as a tool to present portfolios using applications such as FolioBook:

“Now that I’ve used the iPad in numerous portfolio reviews I thought I would share some pros and cons based on my experiences and feedback from real-world, in-person meetings.


  • Portability – nothing beats having a portfolio with you at all times for those chance encounters.
  • Ease of updating/customizing presentations.
  • Cost is minimal when compared to the traditional custom print portfolio.


  • In my mind, an iPad will never come close to the wow factor of a custom-built portfolio with high-quality prints. There is something to be said for the tactile feel of fine art paper and beautiful prints.
  • Surprisingly intimidating for many users. Some had never used one and were unsure how to navigate
  • Liability for the viewer. Most art buyers I met enjoyed reviewing work this way, but commented they wouldn’t want someone to ship them an iPad for fear of theft, damage etc. I found this interesting since my printed portfolio cost 3 times that of the iPad, but understood their point given the universal appeal of an iPad.”[4]

It is interesting how the iPad is used as a tool that fuses the physical and digital aspects of a portfolio. So, what is next in building the next creative portfolio? Only time will tell what new possibilities will come forth in the art of building portfolios. Maybe you can be the person who can start the next trend…


  1. Bharadwaj, S. (2010, March 9). Chatty Digital Portfolios for the Creative Animal | Samir Bharadwaj. Samir Bharadwaj – Creative Generalist. Retrieved April 22, 2011, from
  2. Onken, N. (2010, January 11). New School vs. Old School. Adapt & Change or Get Left Behind : nick onken shoptalk. Nick Onken Shoptalk. Retrieved April 22, 2011, from
  3. Osborne, T. (2010, May 6). Put Your Portfolio Online | Viget Inspire. Viget Labs | We Build Web Business | Washington, DC & Durham, NC. Retrieved April 22, 2011, from
  4. Tittel, M. (2010, October 21). Mike Tittel Photography – iPad as a Portfolio? | The blog of Mike Tittel, a commercial, advertising and editorial photographer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The blog of Mike Tittel, a commercial, advertising and editorial photographer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved April 22, 2011, from

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